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Category: ecotourism

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Bear Watching in Prince Rupert

Ok I won’t lie. When we decided to go up North I knew that  for me this bear watching excursion was going to be the highlight of my trip. Being from New Zealand where there are NO BEARS (actually there are no predatory animals PERIOD), even the thought of encountering a bear scares the bejeezes out of me. Yet as a photographer I am fascinated by them and definitely wanted to see them in their natural environment.

On our trip to Prince Rupert we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for our June bear watching tour. We were staying very near the dock at an awesome B&B so after breakfast were able to walk down to check in and board. The vessel is able to accommodate 100 passengers and although the tour was fully booked I have to say that it did not seem too crowded and everyone was able to get a good viewing spot. On our tour passengers were very accommodating and looked out for each other despite language and age barriers so that was pretty cool.

The Grizzly Bear Tour motors through the Chatham Sound for about 1.5 hours in order to reach the Khutzeymateen Valley, which is not reachable by land. On the way there is some fantastic scenery and plenty of wild life to look for. We saw lots of seabirds and a cluster of seals sunning themselves on some rocks.

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Once in the Khutzeymateen area the Captain and crew use binoculars to look out for bears. Patience and complete silence is the key to good viewing as the Captain will pilot the vessel up as close as he/she can without disturbing the animals. I have to say I was a little concerned when we first arrived at the dock and saw that the majority of the passengers were a school group. On boarding the kids were very noisy and I thought their volume would be a problem. It wasn’t and everyone was very respectful. There were about 3-4 kids who stayed out on deck the entire time, pointing out wildlife and speaking in whispers. Can anyone say “Future Marine Scientists”?

I loved that this was an ecotour and that the impact on the bears was minimal. There was one occasion on our trip where we saw a young bear and approached but the Captain chose to pull away and move on as the bear seemed agitated, perhaps sensing our presence. As much as I wanted some bear shots, I am happy that the correct ethical decision was made for the animal. We remained a reasonable distance from the shore at all times – all of the shots here are taken with a telephoto lens.

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We saw several bears were able to observe them for some time. They were much skinnier than I had imagined they would be. As it was June they would have only recently woken from hibernation. Once awake they move down to the coastline to feast on the lush green grasses that grow near the water’s edge, giving them the vitamins and nutrients they need to kick-start their metabolisms.

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Check out the claws on this one! Very glad I was on a boat and well off shore.

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Bears don’t actually see very well so perhaps he could smell us….

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To be able to view an animal in nature without negatively impacting on it’s environment is simply awesome! This was, as expected, an amazing highlight of our trip and an adventure that I would totally recommend. It was also a very long day (6 hours) and many of us were dozing inside on the way back to Prince Rupert, myself included. Once we neared the port the Captain and crew had another treat for us. They threw animal fat high into the air at each side of the boat and within minutes we were surrounded by about 30 eagles diving and grabbing the food with their talons. They were fantastic to watch and an exciting end to a great day.

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Many thanks to Prince Rupert Adventure Tours for such a wonderful trip. It was awesome. We’ll be back 🙂

So that my bear story, tell me yours!