Having lived on Vancouver Island for several years, we look at the best locations for bear viewing on Vancouver Island, the best way to get there from Vancouver, the best time of year to travel for bear viewing and why you should include this very special wildlife destination as part of your Canada Wildlife Holiday. Talk to Allan on Whatsapp about the amazing variety of wildlife safaris available in Canada to suit all budgets. We don't just sell wildlife holidays - it's our passion!
Although there are several wildlife operators offering grizzly bear day tours who operate from Vancouver Island they are not actually viewing the brown bears on the island itself, but inlets on the west coast of mainland British Colombia. So world famous grizzly bear locations such as Knight Inlet and Bute inlet are accessed by boat safari or floatplane from towns such as Campbell River and Telegraph Cove. These are amazing scenic journeys in their own right, with the chance (if you travel by motor cruiser) to see Orcas, Humpback Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. However the jewel in the ground is to see large brown bears feasting on salmon as they bulk up for hibernation.
Vancouver Island is definitly one of the best places to see bears in Canada, because as well as seeing grizzly or brown bears in the inlet off the east coast of the island, there are also some fabulous black bear viewing opportunities off the west coast of the island in towns such as Tofino and Zeballos. Grizzly Bear viewing off the east coast of Vancouver Island is mainly centred on two coastal towns. The first is the larger and busier Campbell River, from which you can fly into Knight Inlet for bear viewing at Grizzly Bear Lodge or take boat safaris to Bute Inlet, where you can watch brown bears fishing for salmon from multiple observation platforms located a manmade spawing channels for the returning clients. The number of brown bears fishing will depend on the intensity of the salmon run, river levels, the time of year you travel and other environmental factors. During the salmon season expect to see multiple bears fighting over this important food resource; whereas for spring bear viewing it is a more relaxed affair with female brown bears and their cubs eating huge quantities of sedge grasses in the beautiful estuaries.
In recent years the grizzly bear viewing at Bute Inlet has become a lot more popular and it is important to note that the visitor numbers are not controlled in the same way as Knight Inlet. At Knight Inlet, they limit the number of people at the bear viewing stands to a pretty small group size of 12, whereas at Bute you can certainly have more than 4 times this number. However, by choosing a bear viewing operator from Campbell River who has a smaller group size for their boat tours, you can certainly make your bear safari in Bute a special wildlife experience. We work with some of the best bear viewing operators out of Campbell River and can sometimes arrange for them to pick you up from the private jetty of your Canadian wilderness lodge.
We have been organizing bear viewing on Vancouver Island since 2003 and have noticed a definite trend for the largest salmon runs to be later and later. On a practical basis this means that the month of September on Vancouver Island has become the prime month for viewing grizzly bears and this does bring with it some considerable advantages. Firstly, in Canada generally and on Vancouver Island the peak months for tourists are July and August, so by delaying your Canada wildlife holiday until September, you not only avoid the crowds and keep accommodation costs down, you also maximize your wildlife viewing and opportunities to see bears and whales.
If you would like to follow in our footsteps and view grizzly bears in the wild then we would love to organize a custom Canada wildlife holiday for you to a country we have a deep passion for. As a starting point take a look at the following tours – bear viewing at Grizzly Bear Lodge and grizzly bear viewing Bute Inlet. Or you can contact us at northamerica(at)wildlifetrails.co.uk and we will create a bespoke Canada wildlife tour just for you.