Last year, I visited Knight Inlet in Glendale Cove – a remote floating lodge 80 kms north of Campbell River, British Columbia, accessible by boat or floatplane. The purpose of my visit was to see Grizzly Bears in their natural habitat. This is what I discovered…
I was lucky enough to be sat with the pilot on the 10-seater floatplane which is where my adventure began. This incredibly scenic, floatplane flight took 30 minutes from Campbell River to Glendale Cove and was breathtakingly wonderful! We landed on the crystal-clear waters and chugged our way to be greeted by a couple of the friendly staff at the lodge.
After a quick familiarisation tour and a delicious lunch, we were kitted out in suitable attire and I was soon off on a small boat with Marie, our bear expert and two other eager passengers, all of us excited in anticipation of what we might see on our first journey through the crystal glacier-fed waters of the Inlet. Within minutes, two young male bears were playing in the grass around 200 metres away which we viewed through binoculars for closer observation. I was fascinated. Further on, we saw seals who popped their heads up at the side of the boat.
As we continued along the estuary, there in front of us was a bear swimming in the water – her cub was on the shore! Mum was trying to entice her cub into the water to catch salmon, but the cub appeared to not want to get her feet wet! It was truly mind-blowing, and the bear appeared not to notice we were there.
The following day we viewed bears from platforms well-positioned over the river and again, it was a wonderful experience. Two young males jostled in the water for an hour or so. A female bear swam with her two cubs and caught salmon with her paws. A bald Eagle fed on the leftovers.
In addition to bear viewing, I took an early morning single kayak with an instructor and saw seals. This was a new experience for me – the majestic scenery felt incredibly special. I also managed to fit in a hike through the Great Bear Rainforest, with a knowledgeable guide – that too was fabulous. The lodge provided delicious food and wine, a friendly atmosphere as well as comfortable en-suite accommodation.
When to go?
This was an incredible experience and I can definitely recommend visiting in September/October when the salmon are plentiful, and the bears are in the river. However, the season runs from late May to mid-October and each season has different attractions – Early season, seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins and the occasional Minke whale will travel through the Inlet. In the summer, Orca (killer) Whales are plentiful and in September, the Humpback Whales are making their way from Alaska to Hawaii. It also depends what else you would like to do whilst you are in Canada because the Rocky Mountaineer Train which runs up to the Rockies from Vancouver is a spectacular trip and an Alaska Cruise option is a popular add-on. In fact, the bear-watching trip will represent a portion of your itinerary and whilst a bit pricey, is definitely worth it.
My package was £1460 per person based on a twin share accommodation and included a two-night package at Knight Inlet, a pre-night in Campbell River (so three nights in total), floatplane flight transfers. All meals at the lodge, wine with dinner, all activities such as boat ride, bear & whale-watching, kayaking as well as an interpretive guide throughout. As this does not include flights to Canada it can be combined with a stay in Vancouver or part of a longer itinerary.
If a lodge experience blows your budget, visit Tofino on Vancouver Island where you can take bear (Black Bear not Grizzlies) and whale watching trips excursions from the town.
Take mosquito spray as you may see some bugs in the evenings.
Take gloves and a hat as the boat trips can be chilly.
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