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Destination British Columbia

A guide to British Columbia’s exciting wildlife

Lush, ancient, mystical and alive: Go on an adventure in British Columbia’s temperate rain forest where you’ll reconnect with the earth and stand in awe of Mother Nature in all her glory. Majestic fjords, towering mountaintops and wildlife in its natural habitat including orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, grizzly bears and the mythical and rare Kermode bear, are just a few of the reason’s the area is tops on every nature lover’s bucket list.

Bear spotting

From day trips to a full week at a remote lodge, you can craft your own trip into bear country.

As the logging industry threatened the existence of the native grizzly bears, the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary was founded in 1994. Today, it’s home to the highest concentration of grizzly bears in North America. On a six-hour cruise with Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, you’ll have the opportunity to view porpoises, seals, sea lions, bald eagles and blue herons as you head north on the Chatham Sound. Once the 100-person capacity boat enters the Khutzeymateen Valley, you may see a grizzly bear cub frolicking with its mother or spot one foraging for lunch along the water’s edge.

If you have the time, there’s nothing like going to sleep and waking up next to the bears’ natural habitat, and the good news is you don’t have to give up the comfort of a bed, running water and hot food to do so, even in British Columbia’s most remote areas. At Knight Inlet Lodge, a fly-in only, floating resort, tours ranging from two to six days offer the opportunity to spot grizzly bears during spring, summer and fall. The lodge has 18 guest rooms and in addition to grizzly viewing, offers whale watching tours, rain forest hikes and sea kayaking. The eight-room Great Bear Lodge is another wonderful option. It hosts three-day grizzly tours throughout the May through October season. The wind- and solar-powered eco-friendly resort is only accessible by seaplane from Port Hardy. In spring, you’ll see bears fresh from hibernation when cubs stay close their mother’s side. A favorite ursine activity in the summer months is foraging for berries. Fall is salmon-spawning season and your best chance to view bears along the river as they fish regularly to prepare for hibernation.

Kermode bear spotting

The Kermode bear holds a special place in the legends of the First Nations. Known as “spirit bears” it is said that the Raven turned the bear white to remind people of the glaciers that used to cover the land. A cousin of the brown bear, there are only about 400 Kermode bears in existence with an estimated 40 having the gene that turns their coat creamy white. The best place to spot one is at the Spirit Bear Lodge, owned and operated by the First Nations. The waterside, 12-room hotel is built in the traditional long house style with walls of windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean and natural touches that include cedar furniture. Each day of the four- to seven-day tours, you’ll travel by boat into the Great Bear Rainforest with a First Nations guide.

Whale watching

Though there are no guarantees when it comes to animals, your chances of seeing whales off Telegraph Cove are high. The tiny, picturesque village on Northern Vancouver Island has a unique vantage point as different waterways, including the Pacific Ocean, wind into each other not far off its coastline. This means there’s a wide variety of aquatic life — and lots for orca and humpback whales to eat. Stubbs Island Whale Watching offers 3½-hour boat tours and you may also see sea lions, porpoises and bald eagles.

If you’re athletic in addition to being adventurous and eco-minded, consider a sea kayaking tour. North Island Kayak offers everything from half-day to eight-day tours. You’ll overnight in tents, some in base camps, some you pitch yourself. There’s no better way to get eye to eye with sea life and it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

  

--Anne Fritz for Destination BC

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