Photo courtesy Sonora Resort
Contributor Maureen Littlejohn pays a visit to the spectacular Sonora Resort in the beautiful wilderness of British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. Her verdict? Read on to find out…
Sonora Resort is a Relais & Chateaux all-inclusive 5-star luxury wilderness resort located in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands where viewing wildlife is a priority. If seeing seals and sea lions at your front doorstep appeals to you, this is the place. On a recent visit, I spotted Dall’s porpoises, a black bear, river otters, Steller sea lions, bald eagles and, on a special expedition, one of nature’s most magnificent creatures… grizzly bears.
Situated on Sonora Island, guests reach the resort via a 50-minute helicopter ride from Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal. Another option is to take a two-hour boat ride from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.
After touching down at the resort’s helipad, our group was escorted to the spacious lobby where a dancing fire threw a warm light on the décor of polished pale wood and comfy chairs. My eye was caught by the humongous salmon trophy fish encased in glass, caught in the surrounding waters.
Plenty of Fun Things to do at Sonora Resort
Activities that can be arranged by the resort include guided salmon fishing, helicopter fly fishing, and trout pond fly fishing. Eco adventure tours in Zodiacs, grizzly bear tours, kayaking and hiking around the island can also be arranged (most activities come with extra charges).
The 88-unit resort has nine lodges with a variety of accommodation, a conference centre, spa with outdoor mineral pools, tennis pavilion, nine-hole putting green, botanical conservatory and more than 20km of hiking trails. Checking into my room in the Gillard Lodge I was awestruck with the view of water and forest through my floor-to-ceiling windows.
When the temperature dropped later that night, I was happy to turn on my gas fireplace and raid the mini bar stocked with complimentary snacks and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Looking for Grizzlies at Sonora Resort
September and October are peak grizzly bear months on the Orford River where they feast on spawning Chinook salmon, so I opted for a five-hour tour. We suited up in the gear room with warm jackets and gloves and boarded a covered boat for the hour-long ride to the Orford River.
Considered one of the best places to visit in BC for grizzly bear spotting, this particular site was on Homalco First Nation land and the tours are run by the Homalco. Our guide, Jesse Recalma, met us at the dock, gave us a “do and don’t” briefing and drove us to the first of many viewing towers overlooking the river. The no-nos included making noise, moving around too quickly, bringing food, and straying from the group.
We all followed the rules to the letter and were rewarded with sightings of nine bears, including a mother and her loud cub that groaned and moaned as she nudged him towards the river. Jesse told us the guides had nicknamed him “Noisy.”
“He’s like one of those kids that is always saying ‘Aw, mom, do I have to?’” she said.
Fresh Foraged Forest Food
A Relais & Chateaux review is incomplete without mentioning the food. Executive Chef Lukas Gurtner, from Vancouver Island and son of a Swiss chef, prepared a variety of spectacular dishes.
“I love to forage, especially for mushrooms at this time of year,” he told us, saying his forest delights were sprinkled throughout the menu.
Candied, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs was my favourite meal in the morning while at lunch and dinner the soups, salads and main dishes were made with local ingredients and reflected the season. Delicately spiced and herbed, they were paired with fine, British Columbia wines.
Sonora Resort delivers wilderness wrapped in luxury. For wildlife buffs, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing nature up close and personal. And for those of us who like to throw in a tad of pampering, there’s nothing quite like coming back from an invigorating adventure to nosh on cuisine fit for a queen (or king) and nod off on deluxe thread-count sheets.
Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is executive director of Culture Magazin (no e!).