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

Nanaimo Airport. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Airport coping with low passenger counts, uncertain recovery

Airport CEO Dave Devana says it will take years to return to pre-pandemic passenger levels

Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design are showcasing their latest collection Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Photo courtesy Helena Lines)
Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum makes Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto debut

Clothing design company showing new collection, Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

Nurse Doreen Littlejohn takes a longterm approach in her outreach work with homelessness in Parksville Qualicum Beach, but says more needs to be done now. (Auren Ruvinsky photo)
‘Women face a much different experience on the street’

Vancouver Island nurse says community needs to be part of solution to homelessness

The Sepura is a garbage disposal system that separates solids from liquids and allows for stink and hassle-free composting. (Courtesy of Anvy Technologies)
Goodbye garburator, this Victoria company has a clean composting solution

Sepura has made Time Magazine’s ‘100 Best Inventions of 2020’ for its hassle-free functioning

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

The property at 113 and 161 Island Highway is currently being dismantled as the developer attempts to salvage ‘usable’ lumber for their development application to the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers application to staff for further improvements

Work is underway to bring a Nordic-themed Christmas display to Uptown Shopping Centre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Outdoor skating rink, road mural among holiday festivities at Saanich mall

Santa dons a clear mask for photos at Uptown this winter

Peninsula Panthers' owner and general manager Pete Zubersky questions the decision-making process leading to the suspension of play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL). (Black Press Media File)
Peninsula Panthers’ owner questions process behind suspension of Junior B hockey action

Pete Zubersky does not understand actions of provincial body administering amateur sports

Most Read