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Lower Mainland BC

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The southern section of the Great Bear Rainforest begins just 125 miles north of Vancouver, and boasts some of British Columbia's most popular Grizzly Bear destinations. It is a mountainous and densely forested area with little or no human habitation and an almost total absence of roads, so despite its relative proximity to the major urban areas to the south, the most convenient access is by boat or floatplane from northern Vancouver Island where the towns of Campbell River, Port McNeill and Port Hardy are much closer than any on the mainland. The journey across to the mainland is a particularly scenic one, and travelling by floatplane is a quintessential Canadian experience evoking the spirit of the pioneer bush pilots of a bygone era, and the Canadian wilderness of childhood imagination.

On the mainland a number of deep inlets or fjords run as much as 100 miles inland, and it is in these major watersheds with their network of converging rivers and streams that Coastal Grizzly Bears are found. The best time to observe them is during the autumn salmon run from mid to late August through to mid October when they gorge themselves on spawning salmon in preparation for their long winter hibernation. The spring months of May and June also offer excellent viewing opportunities as the bears emerge hungry from their winter dens to graze on sedge grasses or forage for crustaceans close to the shoreline. In July and early August the bears disperse deeper into the forest to feed on roots and berries and are a lot less conspicuous, though a small number continue to patrol the shoreline.

In an inlet east of Campbell River, a Coastal Salish band have erected a series of viewing platforms on the banks of a salmon spawning river on their traditional tribal lands. In the autumn they offer bear viewing day trips from Campbell River by boat or floatplane. This tour features a strong cultural element as the First Nations guides take time to give you an insight into the history and culture of their people, and show you historic village sites and a newly erected totem pole.

Just to the north, Knight Inlet is perhaps the best known Grizzly Bear Location in Canada having featured in National Geographic and a number of documentaries. During the autumn salmon run bear viewing is conducted from two secure viewing stands overlooking a spawning channel, and it isn't uncommon to see half a dozen bears competing for the best fishing spots. While viewing sessions are limited to 6 people per viewing platform and 2 hours to minimise disturbance to the bears, it's an action packed 2 hours with a rarely a moment when there isn't at least a couple of bears in close proximity to the platform. Knight Inlet is one of the few places in North America where these normally solitary animals congregate in large numbers, and interaction you see here between multiple bears competing for the best fishing spots is rarely seen elsewhere. Outside of salmon season the bears are found feeding on the shores of the estuary and viewed from a boat sitting just offshore. We offer lodge based stays in Knight Inlet inclusive of return floatplane transfers from Campbell River, a varied program of bear and whale watching, and all meals, as well as day trips by boat from the McNeill area.

Further north again, in another inlet with a thriving Grizzly Bear population a wilderness lodge offers an excellent bear viewing program with two 3-4 hour viewing sessions per day. Autumn viewing is conducted from a series of concealed hides overlooking a salmon spawning river, or from a vehicle on a stretch of old logging road the runs beside it. Spring and summer viewing is by boat in the estuary. Optional activities like guided nature walks and sea kayak expeditions are offered between bear viewing sessions, and return transportation from Port Hardy is included, by boat in one direction, and by floatplane the other. This enables guests to enjoy some whale watching, with Humpback or Gray Whales the most common sightings, as well as enjoy the wonderful scenery from the air.

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