Our Canada expert Jenny is a big fan of Great Bear Lodge and wildlife-spotting in this beautiful country's bear-filled rainforest. She tells us about her recent stay and just some of the reasons she thinks this part of the world is so amazing…
Great Bear Lodge is a remote lodge floating on a deck nestled at the mouth of a salmon river in a picturesque valley in the Great Bear Rainforest, which lies north of Vancouver Island. It has an idyllic setting – so idyllic that the BBC chose it as their base while filming Secrets of Our Living Planet, a series which showcases the amazing ecosystems around the world which made life on Earth possible.
Even getting there is an experience, as you fly by floatplane over the dramatic forest and mountain scenery. It is a short and scenic flight, with amazing views over the Pacific Ocean and small inlets and islands.
In addition to a remote and spectacular setting, there are only eight bedrooms here, so you are guaranteed privacy and seclusion, and the lodge is ideal for both couples and families with older children (15 years old or more).
All meals, drinks and activities are included in your stay. Meals are eaten around a communal table and are delicious, including freshly caught salmon roasted on a cedar plank and served with a maple syrup marinade. Enjoy homemade cookies and local craft beers in the lovely sitting room overlooking the water.
However, the undoubted highlight of a stay here is the chance to see bears. The guides at the lodge are truly amazing and really knowledgeable, and will ensure you have the best bear watching experience possible. You are provided with everything you need – hats, rain gear, wellies, scarves, gloves, etc – and there is also a pair of binoculars provided in each room to take with you.
There are two three-hour wildlife experiences a day, all year round, which take place in the early morning and after supper. Additional daily activities include a guided walk to spot bear tracks, a minibus ride to a viewing platform on the river, and boat rides to waterfalls or into the estuary - so there are plenty of opportunities to explore the area.
The Bear Facts
Grizzly bears are usually brown, but their fur can appear to be white-tipped, or 'grizzled', which is where they get their name from
Grizzlies differ from black bears due to a pronounced shoulder hump, smaller ears and much larger claws
They weigh up to 360kg (800lbs), and can reach up to 8 feet tall when they are standing on their hind legs
75% of their diet is comprised of berries, nuts and leaves. The rest is made up of fish, moose and rodents. Their daily food intake can be up to 40kg (90lbs)
Grizzlies dig dens to hibernate in the winter, and pregnant bears even give birth in their sleep. Baby bears usually arrive in pairs, and are born blind, hairless and toothless
They are highly intelligent, have excellent memories, and an acute sense of smell, allowing them to detect food from a great distance
They are also good swimmers and fast runners, reaching speeds of up to 50km/h (35mph)
When to go
Spring: This is a lovely time to go, particularly for photography. The mountaintops will still be snow-covered and the valley floor is blanketed in fresh spring flowers and berries. You’ll do most of your bear watching from small boats in the estuary, using a quiet motor for longer stretches and then rowing quietly up to the bears when there is a sighting. At this time of year the bears will be heading out of hibernation and feeding on the shrubbery and berries on the banks of the river with their cubs. You won’t see them catching salmon but you will get to see the cubs. It is also the mating season, which means your chance of seeing the large male grizzlies is high, and you can spot both brown and black bears.
Autumn: This is the most famous time of the year for bear watching because this is when the salmon arrives in significant numbers. You will mainly spot bears from wooden platforms on the river banks, facing stretches of river where the salmon accumulate. The salmon run peaks in September, and this also attracts lots of fish-eating birds such as gulls, bald eagles and ravens. You will see cubs during this time too, as they feed in the river. The bears then move into hibernation at the end of October – so see them while you can!
It’s not just about bears here though: there are several birds and wildlife you can see at Great Bear Lodge, depending on what time of year you go. Birds commonly seen include bald eagles, waterfowl and warblers. You may also come across deer, while wolves are being reintroduced into the valley and their population is growing, and sea lions and sea otters often potter in the water around the lodge.
See grizzly bears and more on our Great Bear Rainforest holiday, which also takes in Vancouver and the beautiful bay town of Port Hardy.