As introduced a couple of days ago, today marked the beginning of a small 4 and a half day excursion to British Columbia’s beautiful, central-west coast for me, from where I hope to realise a long-term dream of photographing Grizzly Bears in the wild.
Earlier this morning I headed out to YVR’s isolated “South Terminal” where I checked in with Pacific Coastal Airlines and boarded one of their twin-prop planes bound for the small city of Campbell River on the north-eastern coast of Vancouver Island.
With not even an hour passing between the time of take-off and landing, I was delivered at Campbell River in no time where I set about finding and devouring a decent brunch from the “alternative-less” airport diner. The idea was to kill a little time at the airport before seeking a ride across town to the “Aquadrome” where I would board my second flight for the morning.
While waiting outside of the airport for the sign of some kind of taxi or shuttle bus, I happened to hear some very distinctive Australian accents coming from a group of people not that far to the right of me. Turns out the voices belonged to David and Valda, two senior Aussies who, as it turned out, were heading in exactly the same ultimate direction as me with the same goal in mind – to see some Grizzlies!
With introductions out of the way and a shuttle bus complete with friendly driver arriving almost on cue, we were soon en route to the offices of the small water-based airline – Corilair. Here, we all had a bit of time up our sleeves to relax in the company lounge and learn a bit about one another. David and Valda, from Sydney, are on a few weeks tour of Canada and the USA and decided that a side trip to get some wildlife viewing in would be just the ticket as part of their time in British Columbia.
While “chewing the fat”, our only other companions for the flight out to the lodge arrived – Ueli and Katja, a young Swiss couple from just outside Zurich. With further introductions taken care of, we all headed down to the dock on the water where our float plane awaited.
Our jovial pilot, Bill (I think that was his name) introduced us to the aircraft and ran us through the safety procedures of the small 6-seater. With beautiful blue skies all around us, Bill predictably informed us that the short 45 minute flight was expected to be smooth and care-free – just the kind of news you want to hear climbing into something so small.
With the two couples taking up the seats in the rear, I was lucky enough to be able to join Bill up front where all the action happened. Surrounded by dials and buttons that all seemed to make sense the more I examined them, we took off with ease and the stunning island scenery below soon unfolded before us.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the small shape of Sailcone Lodge, perched on the south-eastern coast of Minstrel Island, suddenly came into view and we were soon touching down on the water and pulling into the tiny dock.
There to greet us were the friendly “Grizzly Bear Lodge & Safari” staff consisting of lodge staff Madelin and Clint (who reminds me a LOT of Rupert from Survivor), guides Glenn and Brook, and Glenn’s girlfriend Renee.
A quick tour of the grounds, living areas and our comfy rooms on the second level of the main lodge, we were all treated to some welcome drinks on the front deck, next to the jacuzzi (which I intend on making good use of at some point), along with cheeses, breads and a bowl of scrumptious fresh prawns. “Just how fresh are they?” I asked Glenn. He remained silent and pointed at an orange buoy about 30m offshore.
About an hour ago we headed out in a couple of the lodge boats to scour the shores looking for signs of Black Bear scrounging for food on the shores of the islands. The tide was pretty high and therefore water covered the areas our guide, Glenn, was hoping to find some critters.
Despite remaining empty-handed (photo-wise), it was still nice to get out on the water for a late afternoon cruise in such a stunning part of the country, and the outing has really spurred my anticipation for what’s to come tomorrow, to a whole new level!