A grizzly, like this one spotted on a recent Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures tour, can be distinguished from a black bear by its noticeable shoulder hump, a more dish-shaped face and its longer claws. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com.

A grizzly, like this one spotted on a recent Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures tour, can be distinguished from a black bear by its noticeable shoulder hump, a more dish-shaped face and its longer claws. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com.

Bear tales: A grizzly adventure of a lifetime!

Journey to the Great Bear Rainforest

By Andrew Franklin

Few wildlife experiences compare with seeing a grizzly bear in its natural environment.

So to also witness massive humpbacks, beautiful orcas, soaring eagles and so many more of the West Coast’s storied wildlife in a single journey, well, this really is the trip of a lifetime.

Our adventure begins in the small, picturesque Telegraph Cove, just south of the fishing town of Port McNeill on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

A colourful collection of buildings along a waterfront boardwalk, the community’s humble origins reach back to 1912, when Telegraph Cove was founded as a one-man telegraph station. It later became a fish saltery, sawmill village and today, a tourism destination.

The sheltered waters of the Broughton Archipelago feature an abundance of marine life. Named by George Vancouver in 1792 after then Capt. William Robert Broughton, the Archipelago is a maze of largely uninhabited islands, islets, rocks and reefs that effectively choke off the mouth of mighty Knight Inlet. Two hundred years later it was designated as BC’s largest marine park.

The inlet’s opening lies east of Malcolm Island and Port McNeill, and just north of the opening of the upper end of Johnstone Strait, which separates Vancouver Island from the archipelago between it and the mainland.

Part of the world-famous Great Bear Rainforest, Knight Inlet is one of the longest on the BC coast, stretching 125 kilometres inland and 2.5 km wide.

Boarding the Grizzly Girl

Deciding to take this trip with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures was easy. From the start, the staff was friendly, enthusiastic and professional – a must if you’re embarking on an off-the-beaten-track adventure. With “staycations” the vacation of choice this season, this out-of-the-ordinary excursion welcomed local tourists from both Vancouver Island and the BC Lower Mainland.

Adding to the excitement, award-winning wildlife photographer Anthony Bucci joined us for the day, sharing his considerable knowledge!

With the safety meeting complete by 7 a.m. sharp, we boarded the Coast Guard-certified vessel Grizzly Girl for the journey along Knight Inlet to the hopeful viewing area at Glendale Cove.

With the trip to the Cove approximately two hours, followed by three to four hours of bear watching, we were looked after throughout the day by Captain James and tour guide/naturalist Laura.

But we didn’t have to wait long to catch our first glimpse of West Coast wildlife. Within the first five minutes an eagle flew overhead, followed by the first of many whale sightings – a massive humpback!

Hugging the coastline, we stopped at a few locations known to Tide Rip staff to catch our first look at grizzlies. The first view was brief – after checking us out, they quickly disappeared into the bush, but it set the scene for adventures to come.

This grizzly tour from Tire Rip Grizzly Tours, based in Telegraph Cove, was the trip of a lifetime for recent guests. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com

This grizzly tour from Tire Rip Grizzly Tours, based in Telegraph Cove, was the trip of a lifetime for recent guests. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com

Where wild grizzly bears roam

After spotting a number of black bears trolling the coastline for food, excitement continued to build as we approached our destination for viewing wild grizzly bears: Glendale Cove.

A now-uninhabited area originally the site of a cannery, here the water turns a deep emerald green as glacial waters flow from surrounding mountains.

This is where wild grizzly bears roam and we’ll get to watch them wander their natural environment. At least that’s the hope. Nothing is for certain.

Upon arriving at Glendale Cove, we transfer to a specially designed bear-viewing skiff, featuring raised platforms and unparalleled access to what could be the greatest show on earth.

Our small, flat-bottomed boat glides quietly along the inlet, and Captain James cuts the engine after seeing a mother and two cubs on the beach ahead.

Suited up in thick waterproof overalls, James slips into the waist-deep water to manoeuvre the skiff for perfect viewing, all without disturbing the bears. We’re now quite close and able to appreciate the natural environment and peaceful tranquility in silence. The grizzlies simply ate what seemed to be buckets of blue mussels, scraping them off with their long claws.

A grizzly can be distinguished from a black bear by its noticeable shoulder hump, a more dish-shaped face and its longer claws.

Approximately 80 bears are in the area, including 12 residents and others passing through. Two matriarchs, Lenore and Bella are well known to local guides and we have the privilege of seeing Lenore with her two male cubs. What a treat!

But this unforgettable adventure wasn’t over yet – on the return journey we had even more luck, seeing more humpback whales, orcas, dolphins and Dall’s porpoises were all spotted in their incredible natural habitat.

Mussels were the meal of choice for the grizzlies spotted on this recent Tide Rip Grizzly Tour trip to Glendale Cove. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com

Mussels were the meal of choice for the grizzlies spotted on this recent Tide Rip Grizzly Tour trip to Glendale Cove. Photo by Anthony Bucci / www.abucciphotography.com

The final tally for the trip:

  • Grizzly bears – 6
  • Black bears – 3
  • Dall’s porpoises – multiple
  • Pacific white-sided dolphins – multiple
  • Northern resident killer whales (orcas) – multiple
  • Humpback whales – 2

So, if you are thinking of a staycation trip of a lifetime, this is it!

CONTEST ALERT:

Now you can have the opportunity to enjoy your very own grizzly tour! Simply click on this link for a chance to win.

To plan your adventure:

Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures, Telegraph Cove, BC, grizzlycanada.com Due to COVID-19, a reduced number of seats are available and masks are mandated during the portion of the trip while seated under cover on the boat. Everyone obliged with apparent smiles on all faces.

TravelvancouverislandWildlife

Just Posted

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

Tara Martin, head of the UBC Faculty of Forestry Conservation Decisions Lab, checks out some of the wildflowers that grow on SISCENEM, also known as Halibut Island located east off Sidney Island. Martin had brought the island to the attention of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC), which subsequently bought the island, then transferred ownership to WSANEC Leadership Council under a historic first. (Alex Harris/Submitted)
An Island of reconcilation: conservancy turns $1.55 million over to First Nation

SISȻENEM (Halibut Island), off Sidney, transfers to W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council under historic deal

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

March 8 is International Women’s Day. (Stock photo)
Editorial: International Women’s Day can inspire us to recommit to equality

Let’s call out sexism, amplify feminism and keep working toward equality

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Office vacancy rates are rising in Greater Victoria while the supply of industrial land is shrinking. (Black Press Media File)
Report finds supply of industrial land in Greater Victoria shrinking

Office vacancy rates in Greater Victoria continue to rise

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

Nanaimo painter Shawnda Wilson hangs her exhibit Tropical Wallpaper at Jonny the Barber. The show runs until the end of March. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter battles pandemic blues with tropical exhibition

Shawnda Wilson presents ‘Tropical Wallpaper’ at Old City Quarter barbershop

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

Most Read