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That Time We Paid $600 to See a Grizzly in Canada

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That Time We Paid $600 to See a Grizzly in Canada

You have to want to do it! We got up at 5 AM for our bear excursion to Knight Inlet. This is the place where grizzlies live. Far away from the living world, in the middle of Canadian wilderness, a place with no roads leading to it, no people, no mobile phone reception, nothing… Nothing, but bears.

It was mid-June, the perfect season to spot the bears in that particular place as they leave the forest in search of food. So it was worth getting out of bed before dawn. Or so we thought…

This is how my husband summarized our bear excursion in the evening (this comes from our trip diary): ‘We paid a fortune to spend the whole bloody day in the rain, on a small boat (actually two boats, the second of them didn’t even have a roof) to find one soaking wet grizzly bear playing with rocks along the shore… In the evening, on our way to the hotel in Port Hardy, we saw a lot of black bears next to the road. For free!!!’

Telegraph Cove Grizzly Bear Tours

The boat was waiting for us at Telegraph Cove, a small colorful village built on the water with all the houses standing on poles. The weather was not too bad, so we hoped for a nice day.

Telegraph Cove Canada
Telegraph Cove

Our bear watching experience in Canada

So what happened? Well, first the weather got really bad and our boat was going up and down as it stormed in the inlet. We were all wearing life jackets as we were constantly trying to assess which coast was closer to swim to in case the boat capsized…

And second, there were no bears when we arrived. Ok, this is not exactly true. There was one. One wet grizzly that looked more like a drowned rat than a bear…

We did get to see beautiful untouched nature and there were quite some animals as well. We saw an eagle, a couple of seals, and a group of dolphins that followed our boat for a while. Oh yes, and that one grizzly. Completely oblivious to our presence and looking for food under the rocks on the seashore.

Grizzly bear at Knight Inlet Canada
Our $600 bear

Cold and soaking wet we were glad we survived the boat ride back. We took the car and headed to our hotel for the evening. And you know what? We saw a bunch of bears next to the road. They were everywhere…

Black bear next to the road in BC Canada
Black bear next to the road, just meters from our car

Bear watching in Canada at its best and completely free

Indeed, bears do come out of the forest looking for food before the berries are ripe, but you don’t have to pay a fortune and risk your life to go and see them. The bears come to you.

Black bear crossing the road in Canada
Black bear crossing the road

These were black bears, not grizzlies, but they were there, extremely close to us, and completely for free.

Black bear cubs sitting in a tree Canada
Black bear cubs sitting in a tree

Over the next days we saw many more bears as we drove through British Columbia. Black bears sitting in the trees, bear cubs playing, bears on the road, next to the road – bears everywhere…

Black brown bear in Canada
Black brown bear
Bear cub in a tree in Canada
Bear cub in a tree
Black bear cubs in the forest in BC Canada
Black bear cubs in the forest

Is it worth taking a bear tour in Canada?

Seeing wild bears is a big part of any trip to Canada. I won’t tell you not to take a bear watching tour. Sometimes you get lucky and it’s an experience of a lifetime and it’s worth every cent. And otherwise, it’s a great story you’ll remember for years to come. “Remember that time we paid 600 USD to see that one wet grizzly in Canada?

My advice? Go on a bear watching tour in Canada, but don’t put your expectations too high. That way it can only get better!

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That time we paid a fortune to go on a bear tour in Canada and got to see this one wet grizzly
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Wednesday 8th of April 2020

By some miracle (low level of human intervention and a lot of surface in the Carpathian Mountains covered by forests), Romania still shelters about 50-60% of Europe's population of brown bears (ursus arctos arctos). Next time you go to Romania skip Bucharest, since you have already seen it, and head North to Brasov where you can see the brown bears from a specially designed hide, from as close as 2-3 meters. And for much less than $600 :)


Friday 10th of April 2020

Thanks, Radu, will keep it mind when/if we go back to Romania.

Kirsten Tait

Sunday 16th of June 2019

When you saw the bears on the roads and in the trees, where about were you? Thank you


Sunday 16th of June 2019

Hi Kirsten, we saw quite some bears in the north of Vancouver Island and also around Jasper and Banff National Parks. I think it depends on the season - some places are known to attract bears during the salmon rush, while others - in the beginning of the summer when they just start to come out of the forest looking for food, etc. So you should do some research, based on when and where you travel. Good luck!


Saturday 6th of August 2016

Absolutely amazing! I lived in Canada for 6 years and only saw 1 bear. It looks like you had a wonderful time - your photos are incredible. The black bear cubs in the tree are so cute!


Saturday 6th of August 2016

Thanks, Soraya! It's funny indeed how we travel to the other side of the world to explore and discover while missing some things in the country we live in. I'm sure there are things and places that I haven't seen in Belgium that many tourists visit... As for the bears, it's a matter of luck I suppose - right season, right time of the day and the right place. I don't suppose you'd see many bears around bigger towns or cities...


Friday 5th of August 2016

OMG! I want to see bears after reading this post! Will put Canada on my list.


Friday 5th of August 2016

Canada is beautiful even without the bears, Elly! Just do some research when is the best time to see the bears in the places you're planning to go to, so that your chances of seeing them are bigger. We're just back from Yellowstone in the US and didn't see any bears there because they have plenty of food in the forest this time of the year and have no reason to come out. We were lucky to see two bears at the end of our trip in Grand Teton though, so it's also a matter of luck, not just the season I suppose.


Saturday 23rd of July 2016

Thanks, Alex! Yes, indeed, these things happen - it's part of traveling, isn't it? As I write this, we just booked a rafting trip on Colorado river for tomorrow - I hope it turns out better than the bear trip ;)

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