Alison braves the dark, chilly, Pacific Northwest waters of British Columbia and teams up with local wild woman and bear whisperer Nikki van Schyndel, who spent 18 months surviving on the coast of BC in a row boat with little but a feral cat! Together they embark on a new adventure for Alison – becoming one with the great grizzly bear.
How I Met Nikki The Bear Whisperer
There are four main elements of survival: shelter, water, fire and food. While prepping for Naked and Afraid I was confident that I could build/weave shelter, hopefully find fresh water or pick coconuts, and use primitive fishing and hunting skills. BUT I felt very rusty when it came to making fire by friction. Growing up global, we always prided ourselves on making sure matches, lighters or fire starters were handy as many of our adventures were high in Himalayas where fire leaps up the scale in survival importance.
A week before I set off to the Maldives to survive on the Island From Hell for almost a month, I was running around my home sweet treehouse in Hawaii rubbing together every stick I could find with hopes of creating fire – nothing was successful! My parents said I should go surf and clear my mind and it would “come to me.” Even though I was overwhelmed with frustration, they are usually right so I set off for a surf, and as I was paddling out a girl paddled near me and asked if I was ok – I must have looked pretty distraught – and, without thinking, I immediately blurted out
“No, I can’t make fire!”
And without even flinching or giving me a weird look she replied:
Watch the section of my film “Wild Child” where I met Nikki.
As it turned out, Nikki was a professional survivalist visiting Hawaii all the way from her tiny remote island in BC to learn how to surf. We became instant friends and ran around the forest behind her friend’s back yard gathering fire making sticks and she successfully taught me how to master the primitive method of fire by friction called the bow drill – and almost burned her friend’s house down!
British Columbia Adventure
Nikki then invited me to her island to learn about surviving the wild wilderness of British Columbia – and the Grizzly Bears. And thus the adventure began!
Although I didn’t really paddle all the way from Hawaii to BC it was a fun story element for my family oriented audience, and I did get to see places that only SUP would allow – it was magnificent and powerful.
The Great Bear Rainforest was just like Robin Hood’s sherwood forest! The words that come to mind to describe it are fresh, mysterious, eerie and sacred.
Nikki shared with me all the native edible plants and berries, and even made me her ‘bush stir fry’ – the main ingredients being wild mushrooms and onions.
And of course we caught fresh, melt in you mouth, salmon.
Nikki shared with me some of the last pristine watersheds where the grizzly bears come to fish for salmon.
I don’t want to ruin the film by telling you in written words about my unbelievable experience with the grizzly bears – but WOW – there is a reason they have been named king of the forest!
To learn more about Nikki and her incredible story surviving on the coast of BC for a year and a half, read her book Becoming Wild – it will blow your mind.
The Bruhwiler Family of Surf Legends
It was an extreme honor to slide down the silky, (freezing for me) Tofino waves with the incredible Bruhwiler family who are some of the nicest and most down to earth people I’ve met! (I almost fit in!)
Many of the best waves are accessed by boat and Raph’s sons are mini captains-in-training!
Visiting Tofino on my way to Nikki’s island was magical and changed my mind on cold water surfing – it’s actually refreshing and exhilarating!
The Bear Truth
Overcoming fear is perhaps the most important way to accomplish dreams and find happiness, although it’s important to note that a healthy level of fear is essential and honorable! Visiting the grizzly bears, or any potentially dangerous animal, is a very sacred and serious thing and must always be done with an expert and guide.
As an extreme adventurer and animal lover, I’ve had a deep seated fear of grizzlies. Although I have no plans to go and live with the bears, after my adventure in BC I have a deepened appreciation and understanding of how important it is that we stay connected with our natural world and not be afraid to step outside of our comfort zones to experience something new as it can be truly life changing. Facing challenges mentally, physically, and emotionally can expand our horizons and help you achieve your goals. We need to maintain a connection with nature in order to live a balanced life – and for the planet to survive. By experiencing the true beauty of nature, we will be inspired to protect it for our future generations to enjoy.
Live Life to the Fullest
Every day or week, step into the unknown. Even if it’s a walk around the block, a hike into nature, or diving into a cool stream.
What’s in My Bag?
Odina Eco Bikini