The fifth and final day of my Grizzly Bear Safari was easily the most rewarding and successful of the time I have spent up the spectacular part of British Columbia known as “Knight Inlet”. I say that even though the past 4 days have already been amazing, filled with opportunities to view up close an abundant and diverse range of North American wildlife ranging from Orca (Killer Whales) to Grizzly Bears.
Today, being a bonus second day of potential Grizzly viewing, I climbed aboard a boat with David and Valda for the last time, this time in the capable hands of “Cam”, our guide for the day and the son of the owner of the entire Grizzly Bear Lodge & Safari operation.
Once aboard, along with a second boat containing Ueli, Katja, Rob & guide Glenn, we all made haste to the same area that provided us with our first Grizzly encounters a few days ago – Glendale Cove.
The idea for the day was head out to the cove, ditch the boats and head inland to see if the rivers were running (flow is controlled by the Government in order to protect the salmon spawn each year), allowing for this year’s salmon spawn to begin meaning that the Grizzlies may be feeding on Salmon and therefore able to be observed from a number of the Lodge’s purpose-built viewing platforms.
Arriving at the cove, we were immediately met with a smorgasbord of wildlife options to photograph from deer, to bird life and even grizzlies off in the distance in the sedge grass fields.
Glenn (above) was still keen to take off for the viewing platforms just to see what was going on, so we all headed inland to a car park of old 4WD vehicles belonging to a number of the guiding companies that worked in the area, and after a bit of effort to get our “tank” started, we piled in and made our way up river.
It soon become pretty obvious that the river had not been opened again as was hoped. There were only small, still pools of water around the viewing towers which certainly weren’t the kind of conditions conducive to salmon desperately trying to wriggle and jump their way upstream.
We were all keen to get back on the water and go after the mother and three cubs we had spied in the distance earlier, so after some crafty, long-distance reversing by Glenn we were back on the inland road and heading back to the cove.
While transferring back to our boats, we noticed the guide boats from the “Knight Inlet” lodge tracking a bear on the far shoreline. Having no idea what we were about to find, we quickly got our act together and rushed off to join the gathering flotilla on the other side of the cove.
To our delight and Glenn & Cam’s surprise, we chanced across a large mother Grizzly and her two mature cubs. Nothing too out of the ordinary for this part of the world except for the fact that one of her cubs was WHITE! Although Cam hadn’t seen the cub with his own eyes before, he had heard stories of its existence from other guides and was able to tell us that it wasn’t an albino, but just a pretty rare white offspring.
Given that its sibling was an unusually dark colour, the three bears together presented a pretty sweet chocolate, caramel and vanilla treat! We tracked the bears as they ambled along the shoreline for a few hundred meters, eventually wandering out of site into an area too shallow for use to follow in the boats.
With our flight back to Campbell River scheduled in for mid afternoon, we only had about half a day to view Grizzlies, so Cam (below) started thinking about where to drop anchor for lunch before heading back to the lodge. After some discussions with Glenn via radio, the decision was made to scour the shorelines in the cove for some further bear activity for another half hour or so, before making our way back around to Siwash Bay for lunch.
Glenn had heard that one of the guide boats spotted a mother, “Bella” and her three cubs around in Siwash Bay earlier in the morning, so it made sense to head around there and check it out on the way back.
Now this is the part where my entire week took an amazing turn.
Heading around a couple of points en route to Siwash Bay, we stumbled across “Bella” and her cubs foraging for shell fish and other tasty seafood on a rocky outcrop right on the edge of the bay. We couldn’t believe our luck! To be this close, ALONE (as in no other tour operators knew about these guys being here) with these beautiful animals was simply breathtaking.
We spent over an hour with the family as they pottered around on the rocks. I can’t even begin to express in words how amazing the experience was. We took hundreds of photos, probably thousands between us all, ate lunch, chatted about the area and basically just bathed in the moment offered to us.
Photos simply don’t do the experience justice, but here’s a selection of shots from the time we spent with “Bella” and her family.
With one HUGE tick placed next to the “Photo grizzlies in the wild” bucket list item, we set course for the lodge one final time where we would complete a last bit of packing and then head for home. This was a moment when, by rights, I should have been feeling a little sad at the prospect of leaving such a magical place, but I still had adrenaline surging through me as a result of the earlier encounter.
I want to quickly thank a few people with whom I shared an amazing week. Firstly to David and Valda (below) for being such great “boat buddies”. It makes me really happy to know that every amazing thing I saw and witnessed over the past 5 or so days you were right there to enjoy with me! All the best for the rest of your trip around North America!
To Cam & Glenn (below) and all the other guides we’ve been lucky enough to have this week (George & Brook), a HUGE thank you for allowing me to fulfill a life-long dream.
And finally to the rest of the Grizzly Bear Lodge & Safari staff (Clint & Madelin), you guys have an amazing operation going up there that I have NO hesitation in recommending wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Only one thing left to do this afternoon, and that was to say goodbye to the lodge and its staff, board our much larger float plane bound for Campbell River, sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery roll out below us.
For anyone interested in booking a true Canadian experience that will take your breath away, contact John Reid and the crew at “Grizzly Bear Lodge & Safaris”. You WILL NOT be disappointed.
John will be happy, I am sure, to mail you their awesome information pack including a great DVD that gives you a great overview of the lodge and what you can expect to see in the surrounding pristine wilderness.