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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read