All kitted out in our comfy, coverall flotation suits, we set off at exhilarating speed, pausing briefly to observe basking seals and then bald headed eagles. As we approach the fjord inlets, our guide slows the zodiac, eventually switching down the engine and rowing us closer to the shoreline.
We drift slowly and silently, all eyes trained on the beach…watching, waiting and hoping to glimpse the black bears, known to emerge from the rain forests and onto the beaches to forage for food. Our patience soon pays off! We spot a large black bear busily beach combing.
Within a few minutes, another black bear comes into view from the other side of the beach, this one with her two cubs in tow. Mommy Bear sets about showing her cubs how to forage, casually turning over huge rocks with one swoop of her great paw, looking for crabs, clams and barnacles. The cubs are fast learners!
Suddenly, the two adults become aware of each other and with a few sharp grunts, Mommy Bear sends her cubs up a nearby tree for safety. That’s when we notice there are already two more cubs clinging to the branches of another tree… these must be the offspring of the first bear! So we have two sets of twin cubs up trees and two sows having a bit of a stand-off on the beach, with the drama unfolding before our “bear” eyes.
Eventually, satisfied that there is no imminent danger, Mommy Bear #2 calls her cubs down from the tree and retreats into the forest, leaving the first bear to finish up her seafood platter in peace.
Now we’re eager to spot Grizzlies….and we don’t have to wait long. Just a couple of days later, we’re rewarded with the sight of a Mommy Grizzly with her two cubs, on the side of the road through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.
We spot more black bears on the way to Jasper National Park, like this one…
And this one in the Town of Jasper…
Probably the greatest highlight of my West Coast Canada tour back in June 2010 with Exodus Travels was the opportunity to watch bears in their natural habitat.
We spent four days on Vancouver Island, including two at the west coast resort of Ucluelet (named after the Nuu-Chah-Nulth word meaning “safe harbour”). The area is part of Clayoquot Sound, a vast temperate rainforest region of extensive beaches and deep fjord inlets.
I apologise for the quality of the photos in this post, but bear in mind (pun intended!) that at that time I only owned a paltry handheld Canon compact “point-n-shoot” camera with 5 x optical zoom…not exactly top of the range wildlife photography equipment!