Although over the years there have been sightings of Grizzly bears on Vancouver Island, officially, they don’t live here. So if you want to view these magnificent brown bears, a guided tour to the inlets of the mainland is what you are after. And, there are several Grizzly Bear Tours to choose from.
The tours leave from Campbell River, and head to either Bute or Toba Inlet and typically run from mid to late August until mid-October. There are grizzly bear tours that leave from the north island as well, however, I will leave those for another post.
Grizzly bear tours aren’t cheap, and it’s an all-day adventure, but if seeing grizzlies up close is on your bucket list, then do it! It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you won’t regret. As an added bonus, you will most likely see other wildlife along the way as well.
Grizzly Bear Tours – Campbell River to Bute Inlet
Great Bears of Bute Tour
Operated by Homalco Tours, this 100% indigenous-owned tour company provides you with an immersive indigenous experience. Join an Indigenous guide and visit the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nations in Bute Inlet. This one-of-a-kind adventure provides bear viewing, whale watching, and cultural exploration.
During the boating portion of your trip (2 hours – one way), you travel in a covered and heated vessel and will be supplied coffee and /or tea, as well as lunch and snacks. Once you arrive at your destination, you are transported to a mini-bus, and trained guides take you to viewing platforms to watch the bears in their natural habitat.
On your return trip to Campbell River, the guides watch for whale activity and show you more cultural sites.
The duration of your trip is approximately 7- 8 hours.
Book now: Great Bears of Bute
Grizzly Bear Expedition
This tour, operated by Big Animal Encounters, offers you a scenic boat ride through Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Park on your way to Bute Inlet. Desolation Sound is a spectacular location to spot whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals. Lunch, snacks, tea, coffee and water are supplied.
Once you arrive at your destination, you are greeted by a member of the Holmalco First Nations who takes you to your safe viewing location to watch the bears. This tour runs from mid-August until mid-October. Going later in the season gives you an even better opportunity to view grizzlies catching and eating migrating salmon.
Duration is approximately 9 hours.
Book now: Grizzly Bear Expedition
Grizzly Bear Tours – Campbell River to Toba Inlet
The Toba Inlet tours take you to the beautiful jewel-coloured waters of Klite River. Along the way, you will view the incredible steep walls of Toba Inlet and the thundering waterfalls that tumble into the ocean.
Once you arrive, you are greeted by members of the Klahoose First Nations. These trained guides provide you transportation by mini-bus to the four viewing platforms. From there, you watch the bears in their natural habitat from a relatively safe distance. As these tours typically run from late August until mid-October, you see grizzlies gorging on fish in preparation for hibernation.
While observing the bears, you may have the opportunity to see other wildlife, such as black bears, wolves, cougars, elk and deer. You spend 3 hours at the viewing platforms. It sounds like a lot of time, but trust me, you won’t want to leave!
The Klahoose First Nations works with the following tour operators:
- Westcoast Grizzly Bear Tours – This tour departs at 10:00 am and is approximately 8 – 9 hours in length. Lunch is included.
- Eagle Eye Adventures – Tour departs at either 8:00 or 8:15 am (with a meeting time half hour prior). Included in the tour is lunch and snacks, onboard wildlife education, gloves, hats, survival suits, sunscreen and onboard washrooms.
- Campbell River Whale Watching and Adventures Tours – This 9 – 10 hour tour departures at 7:00 am and provides more time specifically for viewing marine mammals along the way. Lunch and onboard washrooms are provided.
My Personal Experience
We have our own boat and aren’t afraid to take it on long journeys. And we also know that if we head towards the mainland inlets, we’d most likely see a few grizzlies foraging on the shore. So last fall, we decided to make the trek down Toba Inlet on our own. However, it wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped it would be.
We DID spot a mama grizzly and her two young cubs foraging on the shore. However, we weren’t able to get close enough to them for my images to turn out. And we also discovered that once we arrived at the end of Toba Inlet, you HAVE to be on a tour to get to the platforms. So our adventure was a bit of a bust. And we realized to get what we were after, purchasing a tour was the way to do it.
And so we did, and it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had!
We went with a company called Aboriginal Journeys, which unfortunately isn’t running Grizzly Bear Tours anymore. But even though Gary, our tour guide, was awesome, the bears are the ultimate highlight. It’s the ability to see grizzlies walking down the river 20 feet in front of you, searching for fish. It’s the awe you feel when observing these magnificent creatures so close.
Is it scary? I guess it should be, for you are really close to them. However, I found the experience exhilarating, not scary. I realize, being that close to a large creature with sharp teeth and sharp claws that’s been known to attack humans is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, if viewing bears is on your bucket list, what are you waiting for?
This truly is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences…one that I would absolutely LOVE to do again. 😉
A Quick Note
As my experience was with a company that no longer does grizzly bear tours, I can’t vouch for any of the tour operators mentioned above. (Other than the gracious Klahoose First Nations guides we met while on our Toba Inlet tour). However, before I mention any company/business on Vancouver Island View, I always check online reviews. Each tour operator noted above gets rave reviews. So, no matter which one you choose, I have no doubt you will have a wonderful experience.
Places to Stay in Campbell River
If you are coming from afar, you may want to spend the night in Campbell River to make your long tour day even more enjoyable.
Here’s a great place to start for hotels, motels and resorts: Campbell River Accommodations.
If you are looking for vacation rentals, check these out: Vrbo Vacation Rentals in Campbell River.
Have you been on a Grizzly Bear tour out of Campbell River? Let us know about your adventure in the comment section below.
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