Dream Design
The Reading Room

True grit

Words by Lauren Romano
7 min read

When do we ever feel truly confronted by nature? We’re never far from traffic, people, phones or planes overhead. That is, until you reach the west coast of Canada. Land, sea and sky are delivered in their rawest form, occupied only by bears, whales and orcas. And you. This is a place that puts the outside world on mute, replacing it with the wilderness in its purest form.

Stories for... The Heart

No roads lead to Sonora Resort. Nestled away in the remote Discovery Islands amid the churning roil of the Yuculta Rapids, the journey to this extended rustic lodge feels like travelling to the end of the earth. Arriving by helicopter, civilisation 190 kilometres in the distance, coniferous-spiked landmasses scattered like iron filings in a magnetic field swirl into view.

This is nature’s realm. A gateway to another world – one where steller sea lions cavort in the shallows, writhing fish clamped between their jaws, and majestic pods of orcas breach the blues. Overhead bald eagles soar, their two-metre wingspans outstretched, staking their claim as the undisputed rulers of the skies. Then there are the bears. In the autumn months, spawning salmon tempt grizzlies from their forest cathedrals to feast at the water’s bubbling edge.

Local-led tours of the land, sea and sky bring this glut of wildlife into even sharper focus. Deep in the moss-blanked woodlands of nearby Bute Inlet, for example, bear watching expeditions run by the indigenous Homalco First Nation evoke a palpable sense of the thrill. Anticipation hangs in the air as heavily as the scent of cedar, as the guides share stories of the bears and their significance through the ages. Having lived side-by-side for generations, their respect and mutual understanding for these notoriously elusive creatures makes the reward of seeing them in the wild even more satisfying.

The act of creating connections in the wilderness of Western Canada is all-consuming, particularly with the absence of phone signal and outside interference. The unforgiving nature of the great outdoors gives a new, invigorating energy to the body. The thwack of chinook against galoshes when fishing in a glacial lake perhaps, or being showered in the sea spray of a breaching humpback whale. Both of these scenarios are a possibility at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, a collection of forest cabins that cling to the shores of the mercurial Mackenzie Sound – a body of water that’s as reflective and motionless as a mirror.

One moment intrepid travellers might be gliding silently across the glassy surface in a kayak, an interloper in the daily lives of porpoises, seals and sea birds. The next, they could be raising the stakes and the altitude in a helicopter up to a 10,000-year-old glacier tarn to paddleboard through luminous waters a shade of cerulean blue. Different angles, different colours, different sights and sounds – these confrontational moments challenge perceptions at every turn.

Ditching the paddleboard altogether at Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge to plunge into the icy channels of the Bedwell River reveals its own rewards. Nothing is more invigorating for mind, body and spirit than being immersed in nature’s own bathtub, feeling shoals of fish weave between your limbs. Endorphins rise, racing thoughts slow, and mental clarity heightens with every second. Emerging feels like being reborn – and induces a restful night’s sleep in the tented suites. The evening holds more meaning when there’s just a canvas between you and some of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world.

It’s been said that nature is the purest portal to inner peace. Accessible only by seaplane, helicopter or boat, Canada’s untamed nature is a soothing departure from the everyday – physically and emotionally. Surrounded by unrelenting panoramas and surreal palettes of deep blues and halcyon greens, there’s nothing left to do but breathe.