Story Ideas

Spot grizzlies on the “bear highway”

Trip from Telegraph Cove reveals wildlife wonders of the BC coast

01 May 2013
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“I saw a beaver,” shouted eight-year-old Sean. We’re on a day trip from Telegraph Cove with Tide Rip Grizzly Adventures to spot grizzly bears in British Columbia’s Knight Inlet. We chuckle as our guide Lindsay explains that since there are no beavers in the ocean, he’s likely seen a seal or an otter.

We get lucky as we pass Hanson Island. Our guides have spotted the plumes of six or seven resident orcas. They breach in a sleek black and white parade. Next, someone’s sharp eyes spot a black bear foraging on the beach. Lindsay turns down the motor and chugs the boat so close to shore we can hear the placid-seeming bruin crunching on shellfish.

When we reach Glendale Cove, we’re transferred to a flat-bottomed viewing boat. It’s a brisk day. We’ve been warned to dress in layers “like onions” and I’m grateful for the gloves and tuque I brought along. We glide up the mouth of the inlet, and almost right away our group spots a female grizzly and her cub. We speak in whispers, as our hip-wader-wearing guides turn off the motor and drop into the water, quietly pulling our boat closer to the bears. Through binoculars, we can see them feeding on sedges (grass-like aquatic plants). The mother’s fur is mottled gold and charcoal; her cub looks like a giant teddy with his grey velveteen coat and rounded ears.

The bears are so relaxed in our hushed presence that the mother rolls onto her back to nurse. Then, alarmed by another approaching boat, the cub stands up and bellows. He and his mother dive into the river then amble off into the forested trails of the “bear highway.”

We putt upriver with the rising tide into an Amazonian-like wilderness of canopied trees and hanging moss. Slow-moving salmon meander upstream. Eagles perch in the branches of trees right above our heads. Suddenly, mother and cub emerge, surprising us as they bolt out of the brush and sprint upriver.  

Back in the Johnstone Straight (the channel between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the BC mainland), we spot humpback whales spouting, breaching and diving in the distance. We’re heading into a giant “bait ball.” Herring have been stirred to the surface by the currents and thousands of seagulls are descending to dine. Dall’s porpoises leap and plough through the feast.

Sean’s mom asks him, “Does life get better than this?” “No!” he says with a big grin. It really doesn’t. 

Tags: British Columbia, adventure, outdoors

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