British Columbia: Grizzly Bears...need I say more?
|The first grizzly bear we encountered. The grizzly is a subspecies of brown bear and gets its name from the lighter, silvery tips on its fur.|
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The entire reason for me being in Campbell River was to go on Discovery Marine Safaris Grizzly Bear tour. This is a grand day adventure. If you are a serious photographer its not going to give you much time for shots but if you only have day its a great choice.
|An adult orca and baby just off the coast of Campbell River, BC.|
Grizzly bears do not live on Vancouver Island. You have to go to the mainland of British Columbia to see them. It's a two hour cruise up to Orford Bay to Holmalco First Nations land to see the bears.
|Mainland British Columbia. One of these ways leads to Orford Bay.|
As we boarded the boat I made friends with a very nice couple from England, a young couple from France, and two women from Vancouver Island, one who has scuba dived all over the world. If you ever need to break the ice with folks just pull a six pound Nikon 200-500 mm lens out of your backpack and then try not to lose your balance while standing on the deck of a swaying boat. It is a surefire instant conversation starter.
On the way out of Campbell River we observed a pod of orcas moving through the area. They were moving fast. Then we cruised at quite clip northeast past Quadra and Stewart Islands. I braved the cold wind on the bow watching water birds and passing mountains.
Lunch is provided and the rules of proper behavior once we reached grizzly country were explained to us. We had to remain silent, walk no farther than a shoulder's width from the next person, move as quietly as possible, and if our guides told us to move we had to move that second. We had six guides to help us find bears and keep us safe.
|Waiting for a bear to appear. You can see the dark outlines of salmon in the water.|
|A salmon skipping up the shallows.|
We reached Orford Bay. We were now on Holmalco ancestral lands where one of the greatest concentrations of grizzlies in British Columbia are found. There were two vehicles waiting for us. I ended up in the smaller van with just five passengers plus our three guides. One was the boat captain. As luck would have it our guides seemed the better at finding bears. We drove between two rivers, one glacier fed and the other spring fed. Eagles and gulls circled the area. Salmon were just beginning to swim up river. It was a remarkably beautiful afternoon. In all we would see seven bears. One a small female. Another one of the biggest bears the boat's captain had ever seen. This bear can slowly down the river and then went up the opposite bank. You could hear his progress through the bushes as branches and underbrush crunched and snapped as he moved closer to us. Crunch....crunch...crunch.
It was a glorious day.
|Watching, listening and taking in the scents in the area.|
|About to grab a salmon.|
|This was the last bear we saw. They own this land. We are just temporary visitors.|
|On the way back we saw hundreds and hundreds of gulls in flight over one of the many very serious rapids that characterize the channels around the islands in this area. When the captain tells you to hold on do it. It's a rough ride.|
Next stop: Goats on a Roof???