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Why May is a great time to visit British Colombia for wildlife?

Posted in: Canada, Posted in: Best Time to Visit Canada


Why is May a great time to visit Canada for wildlife?

Well let’s get the obvious reasons out there first, less crowds, cheaper international flight deals, nice spring weather (maybe!), cheaper rates for hotels in Canada and visits to some of the best wildlife lodges in Canada – also, at a much more affordable price.

Then, if we look at travelling in May from a ‘best time of year to see wildlife in Canada’ point of view; we have the amazing spring bear viewing for grizzly bears, the chance to see both Gray and Humpback whales off the coast of Vancouver Island and western British Colombia and some great black bear and sea otter viewing at Zeballos and Tofino. So, let’s pack our bags and get on the first plane to Vancouver!

Best time of year to see bears in Canada?

This is a very common question from our clients and can be answered by thinking about ‘what bear want?’ when they wake up in April? So, after a long hibernation these bears – both grizzly and black bears – are seriously hungry and in particular, mothers with cubs, need to find a food resource ASAP. Not to worry, mother nature is there to provide and a rich banquet of berries and the bear will mainly stay in the forests during this month.

As May approaches we start to see the brown bears move into river estuaries and take advantage of the new growth sedge grasses which dominate the landscape. Although many people still think of bears as predominantly carnivores, when you see them at this time of year on a boat safari in Knight Inlet, you will be reminded more of domesticated cows, continuously grazing, in order to maximise the relatively low nutritional valley of the grass. What is amazing is how many bears at this time of year will congregate in these estuaries. Often our clients have seen 10+m bears, which is comparable to how many bears you will see in the peak month of the salmon run.

Best places to see bears in Canada during Spring?

So, with its significant population of both grizzly/brown bears and black bears, you don’t have to travel too far to enjoy some amazing bear photography in British Colombia. Since 2003 we have been sending our clients to Canada on bear safaris and they have been amazed at the quality of the bear viewing they have enjoyed. Whether it is viewing grizzly bears in Knight Inlet, watching bears at the world famous Great Bear Lodge, or in the beautiful Bella Coola Valley; spring bear viewing often exceeds expectations and delivers a great variety of amazing Canadian wildlife in the one trip. At this time of year the mode of wildlife viewing will often be boat based. You will take a small zodiac or ‘skiff’ and slowly approach the feeding bears from the water; not getting too close, so your actions will disturb them.

Best Canada wildlife holidays in Spring for those on a budget

One of the most wildlife rich locations in the whole of British Colombia is beautiful Vancouver Island, which is easily reached by ‘drive on’ ferry from the city of Vancouver. On the east coast between Nanaimo and Port Hardy you have some of the best grizzly bear viewing on the west coat of the mainland. You simply take a small boat safari from coastal towns such as Campbell River and Telegraph cove and head over to the inlets where bears gather to feed on the succulent sedge grasses. One of our most popular tours is bear viewing at Knight Inlet; where large numbers of bears gather each year to take advantage of the abundant food.

You can simply rent a vehicle from Vancouver, take the ferry between Tsawwassen and Nanaimo – a scenic journey which takes about 2 hours – and then drive 4 hours north to the charming community of Telegraph Cove. Over the years this picturesque cove has developed a sustainable wildlife industry focused on viewing whales and bears off the western coast of BC. This includes opportunities to kayak with Orcas, whale watching trips to see Killer Whales and Humpbacks and probably the most famous wildlife tours; bear viewing tours to Knight Inlet.

Luxury wildlife holidays in Canada during Spring

There is nothing which showcases the true wilderness and excitement of a wildlife safari in Canada, than arriving at a beautiful wilderness lodge by floatplane. We have worked with several companies in Canada since 2003, who include a ‘fly-in’ seaplane flight as part of the experience and it always leaves a lasting impression. Check out this very special bear safari to Grizzly Bear Lodge.

What clothes to wear in Vancouver in May?

When oceans meet coastal mountains, you end up with changeable weather, so my advice to UK clients is dress as if you are visiting the Lake district in spring - I should know, as I am from there – lots of layers, including warm fleeces and a quality waterproof. That said, with average temperatures of 18C and low of 9C in Vancouver, if your visit coincides with a warm spell, then you are likely to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and various wildlife excursions.

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