Bella Coola Valley -Grizzly Bears, glaciers and bald eagles!
Best Canada wildlife holidays
Bella Coola bear safari
If you are looking for the most natural nature holiday in Canada, where the bear viewing is not intrusive and you feel at one with nature, then there is a good chance that a wildlife trip to Canada which includes the beautiful Bella Coola valley will fit the bill. In Bella Coola the local wildlife tours have focused on bear watching by river drift (no engine) or walking with bears in the many beautiful trails close to the Atnarko and Bella Coola rivers. Although there is now a famous Bella Coola bear viewing platform at Belarko; this is a ‘relatively’ recent addition to bear watching holidays in Bella Coola and Wildlife Trails clients still prefer the river drifts and walking safaris to enjoy a more intimate bear safari in Canada. Most clients spend 4 to 5 days in the Bella Coola valley switching between the different wildlife trips and enjoying the stunning scenery while exploring the Bella Coola First Nation history. This is why bear watching in Bella Coola makes our top 5 Canada wildlife holidays.
How to get to Bella Coola?
Fortunately for wildlife enthusiasts enjoying a Canada bear watching holiday but a little short on time you have the option of direct flights with Pacific Coastal Airlines. These are scheduled departures from Vancouver and the last section as you approach Bella Coola is particularly scenic. From here your Bella Coola lodge accommodation can organise airport pick ups and you can being your grizzly bear tour in the valley.
For clients on a wildlife trip to Canada who have more time and enjoy a Canadian road trip, then it is a long but interesting drive from Vancouver (or Williams Lake/the Rockies) to reach the west coast of central BC where Bella Coola is located. One interesting stop en route is Riske Creek – just east of Williams Lake – which is located close to the Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park; which not only has a good population of Bighorn Sheep, but also inland grizzly bears.
Sadly, the more regular ferry service between Bella Coola and Port Hardy – which stopped off at several coastal communities – is not the same as in earlier years, so if you are trying to connect with a BC ferries service from Bella Coola, do your research carefully and check the dates when the ferry service is actually available. When we used this service back in 2008, it was only available until the first week in September. When you consider the best time to visit Bella Coola for bears is often mid-September to early October, you will find that no ferry services will be available and you will need to stick with either the car or plane option.
Bella Coola tours and activities
Since Bella Coola is one of the best places to see bears in Canada, you will certainly want to include some grizzly bear tours during your stay and if you stay at the best wildlife lodges in Bella Coola, you will find that as part of the package, they will include Bella Coola boat tours and hikes focused on viewing bears in their natural habitat. The Bella Coola guides are well respected for their knowledge and focus on respect for nature and pointing out the importance of bear safety. Brown bears or grizzly bears are part of the rich wildlife fabric of the Bella Coola valley and you will see them when walking or even close to your wildlife lodge; so knowing how to react to a close encounter with a bear is very important. As well as providing our clients with ‘Bear Safety’ notes based on Parks Canada guidance, we also encourage them to spend the first few days in Bella Coola with an expert local guide to learn about the bears in the area and understand how to behave.
As well as bear viewing in Bella Coola you have some wonderful opportunities for short and long hikes, fishing, learning about the rich first nations culture and taking a plane or helicopter ride up to the glacier valleys which surround Bella Coola; providing another unique perspective and showcasing the beauty of the valley.
Bella Coola accommodation
Wildlife Trails first visited Bella Coola way back in 2003 and at that time Tweedsmuir Lodge was just a ‘little’ lodge, run by the wonderful Carol and located in the perfect location for bear viewing by river drift or nature walk. A stay at Tweedsmuir Lodge, Bella Coola was one of our most popular Canada bear watching holidays and many clients returned multiple times. Since the take over off the lodge by Bella Coola Heli Sports it is fair to say it has become more commercial and prices have certainly shot up; but it remains one of the best wildlife lodges in Canada and if you have the money, you will not regret spending it here.
For a more affordable bear tour and safari in Bella Coola, you should check out Bella Coola Mountain Lodge, recently taken over by Pete and Jayme – who have 30 years of experience in the tourism industry – and closely linked with the former owners, Fraser and Holly, who are the owners of Kynoch Adventures and a great contact for the bear viewing river drifts and walking safaris in the valley.
Finally, a more intimate home from home wildlife lodge in Bella Coola has become a firm favourite of Wildlife Trails clients and with only 2 rooms in the property, you can be assured that the owner and your wildlife guide during the stay – Jefferson Bray – will give you his full undivided attention and show you the most beautiful and interesting corners of the Bella Coola valley. His wildlife lodge in Bella Coola is called the Great Bear Chalet and is a great choice for couples or families who would like to book the entire property.
Bella Coola and its bears are waiting for you so why not take a look at one of our Bella Coola bear watching holidays and plan a Canada wildlife holiday which will live long in the memory.