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

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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Michelle

Monday 21st of February 2022

Your bear photos are breath-taking! You were so very fortunate to see all those bears. I have lived on the west coast BC all my life and have seen a bear only three times. Now the about the eagle population...the eagles are thriving and are everywhere. lol

Jurga

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

Wow, that's crazy - I thought you would see bears all the time in that part of Canada! I think it was just really good timing - we were there in late May - early June when bears were emerging from their winter sleep and coming out to the roads in search of food since it was still too wintery and cold in the mountains... But we only saw an eagle once if I recall well. :) It's a trip we have longed to redo again one day. A very beautiful area you live in. Happy travels!

Benedikt

Wednesday 5th of January 2022

Hi Jurga,

Do you recommend hiring a car in Western Canada? And spots we shouldn't miss? I'm planning a trip for next summer, but the price to hire a car is quite high.

Greetings,

Benedikt

Benedikt

Thursday 6th of January 2022

@Jurga,

Thanks Jurga for your info!!! I'm looking into car rental asap! Yes, Jasper and Banff are 2 priority spots. We have 5 weeks and are thinking of driving into Yukon to hike Kluane NP after visiting Jasper.

Happy travels in 2022!

Jurga

Thursday 6th of January 2022

Hi Benedkit, yes, absolutely, the best way to explore Western Canada is by making a road trip. For rental cars, check this website and try various pick-up locations as that can influence the price quite greatly. Also, book asap. There was a huge rental car shortage all over the world last year, and prices have skyrocketed. It won't get any better by the summer. As for what not to miss, it really depends on how much time you have and what your interests are. Unfortunately, our trip was so long ago that I never got to posting our itinerary, but here is some info based on our experience. We started in Vancouver and did a road trip ending in Calgary. We went for a bit over 3 weeks. The main must-sees are Jasper and Banff National Parks, plus Icefields Parkway between these two parks. So if you only have a week or 10 days, you could just focus on those. But there are so many other amazing places. We absolutely loved Vancouver Island, especially Tofino. Also Victoria town was great and orca-watching tour we did there. Vancouver is nice too, although we preferred nature destinations. Another thing we really enjoyed was the boat trip on the Inside Passage between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert. We took a car on the ferry and the idea was to continue the trip further, but there were serious floods there at that time and we had to disembark in Bella Coola and continue by car from there. That road was at that time quite adventurous, but maybe they paved it now, you'd have to check if going there. But the 'standard' route if doing this kind of trip is via Prince Rupert. One thing - book EVERYTHING soon. July-August are the peak months in that region and it won't get any cheaper. Also, try alternative airports for the flights too. Calgary is usually cheaper to fly to/from than Vancouver, so it can be that car hire prices are lower there too. If you can, go in June, it might be a bit cheaper and a bit quieter, and you may also get to see more bears (they come looking for food close to the roads in the early summer, but retreat to the forests when there's more food available later on). On the other hand, in July, some places have lots of salmon and you can see bears fishing, but it really depends on the place, so you'd have to research this. Also, we went in early June, and it was too early to do hiking in the National Parks. There was still lots of snow at the higher elevations. So if you are interested in hiking, consider this too. But this is years ago and maybe summers come earlier now because of global warming... Hope this helps a bit. Good luck with the planning!

radu

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 :)

Jurga

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

Jurga

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!

Soraya

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!

Jurga

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...

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