The grizzly details…
Our excursions begin in picturesque Telegraph Cove, British Columbia on northern Vancouver Island. At 0700 a.m. sharp we board one of our comfortable, Canadian Coast Guard-certified vessels, equipped with the latest navigation equipment as well as an onboard toilet.
After a quick safety briefing and orientation of the boat, we throw the lines and begin the magical two hour journey into beautiful Knight Inlet, the longest inlet on the west coast of North America. Along the way, sit back, relax and enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast. Meanwhile our qualified Guides navigate the sheltered waters of the Broughton Archipelago in search of coastal critters and other terrestrial life forms.
So named by George Vancouver in 1792 after then Capt. William Robert Broughton, the Archipelago is a maze of largely uninhabited islands and islets, rocks and reefs that effectively choke off the mouth of mighty Knight Inlet. 200 years later in 1992, it was designated as BC’s largest marine park.
In early spring as the winter snow begins to melt, both black and grizzly bears emerge from their hibernation dens high on the mountain slopes in a desperate search for food.
The famished bears actively seek out estuarys where they graze nearly every waking hour on nutrient-rich spring sedge grasses. These sedges provide more than 20% vegetable protein, just enough to sustain the hungry omnivores.
When the tide permits, the grizzly bears seize the opportunity to feed along the exposed inlet beaches turning over rocks in search of crabs, mussels and small eels. At this time of the year, the grizzlys are still sporting their winter coat which is often lighter in colour and matted with five months of accumulated bed head.
Although relatively high in protein, the sedge grasses provide little in the way of calories. Grizzly bears are forced to conserve energy at this time of the year, often draping themselves over anything and everything in the most photogenic way.
During the early spring love is in the air! May and June is breeding season and offers the opporunity to see otherwise large elusive males reluctantly reveal themselves in their pursuit of love. Courtship rituals, mating behaviour and defence of love interests are definitely a spectator’s sport.
Although no one can predict with any degree of accuracy exactly when or how big the salmon run will be for any given year, generally the fish will arrive sometime in early to mid-August. The low tide exposes expansive tidal flats over which the fish must migrate through shallow channels where the hungry mouths of Ursus horribilus await them! This can be a very exciting time of the year because under certain circumstances we can position our viewing skiffs in such a way as to provide front row seats for one of the greatest shows on Earth!
By September the fish have largely entered the river and spawning has commenced. The bears will strategically place themselves at shallow riffle zones or simply patrol the river, looking for foraging opportunities in still deep pools or log jams where salmon carcasses will come to rest.
To answer your question: there is no good time to visit. Each and every season offers it’s own amazing viewing experience!
We view the grizzly bears from the safety and comfort of our specially-designed bear-viewing skiffs. These boats have an elevated viewing platform on the bow as well as a crow’s nest up above. Most importantly however, they have a very shallow draft that allows our certified bear Guides to raise the engine and physically pull the boat into the shallow river and inner estuarine waters for a more intimate experience with any coastal critters we may encounter.
Our Guides are some of the most experienced on the coast. Countless hours of observation and an allegiance to guidelines established for the protection of both our guests and the animals has offered full certification as recognized by the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC.
In addition, our Guides are licensed Captains with years of experience navigating the coastal waters of BC. Licensing ensures up-to-date 1st Aid and other pertinent qualifications including Marine Emergency Duties.
Rest assured you are in very good hands!
This all day (06:45 am – 16:00 pm) excursion includes:
- coastal exploration in a comfortable, Coast Guard-certified vessel
- small intimate groups (max. 12)
- a complimentary continental breakfast while en route
- onboard binoculars for your use
- a healthy, buffet-style lunch amidst the splendour of Knight Inlet
- relevant reference materials for your perusal
- knowledgable, experienced, Naturalist/certified bear Guides
- All tours require a minimum 4 persons in order to operate.
- Due to the unpredictable nature of Knight Inlet and her surrounding waters, we do not take pregnant women nor people with back or neck problems. Although all of our Guides are 1st Aid trained, we operate in a remote wilderness area without readily available medical attention.
- These are wild animals. Although we can not guarantee bear sightings, our experience will ensure the best probability of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. In 2011 we had a 95% success rate, in 2012 94% and in 2013 an incredible 99%.
- As a courtesy to the bears and to ensure the longevity of safe viewing for years to come, we recommend dressing warmly in dark layers with a waterproof shell. The use of strong scents including deodorants, perfumes and colognes is prohibited.
- Minimum age is ten (10) years
“As the Grizzly teaches us; a lack of love, understanding and compassion creates a creature to be feared, but a shift in our emotional response creates a creature to be enjoyed.”
~Charlie Russell (Author, Naturalist, Grizzly Bear Crusader)
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