Grizzly Bear Watching and Viewing Tours in the Great Bear Rainforest
In late summer, when the salmon arrive to spawn, Bella Coola is host to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears on the planet. Among these old growth forests, pristine rivers, stunning peaks, soaring eagles, and vast glaciers, there is one animal at the top of the food chain: it is the mighty grizzly bear.
- Observe grizzly bears feasting on salmon
- Float the pristine Atnarko River in a non-motorized McKenzie Drift Boat or Raft!
- Explore the ancient Great Bear Rainforest in the company of a local guide
- Explore Nuxalk First Nations culture and visit the petroglyph gardens
- Stay in private chalets at the award-winning Tweedsmuir Park Lodge
- Choose either a Private or Small Group package
- Optional Add-On: see the stunning scenery of the Bella Coola Valley from the air by helicopter!
Our grizzly bear viewing trips, recognized by Destination Canada (formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission) as a Signature Experience that showcases authentic, immersive and engaging tourism experiences for travellers, take place from late August to mid October. This is when the local rivers are host to teeming numbers of returning salmon which in turn draws lots of grizzlies hoping to fatten up for the coming winter. At this time of the year the grizzly bears are intent on fishing and are more tolerant of both other bears and people and are therefore much easier to observe.
Accompanied by an experienced and knowledgeable guide, our drift trips are the perfect way to see the bears and wildlife of the Bella Coola valley. The McKenzie River boats are non-motorized and therefore do not disturb the bears in their natural habitat. The leisurely pace and silence offer a relaxed and peaceful way to travel the valley, as well as a completely unique opportunity for viewing wildlife up close and personal. On some occasions, our guests see up to 15 different grizzly bears in a single float...conversely, there could be a day where no bears are spotted (though that is rare)!
In addition to the river floats you will also be able to walk old growth forests, literally in the footsteps of the bears. Our guide will show you day beds, claw marks on trees, tufts of bear fur, and of course lots of bear scat.
Guests from all over the world have stated that this is one of the ultimate wildlife viewing opportunities on the planet. See what they say about us on TripAdvisor.
Private and Small Group Tours
Wildlife experiences are so much better in small, intimate groups. Group size is definitely something you should consider when booking your holiday. At Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, guests have the option of choosing a Private or a Small Group package. Here are the differences;
Private package - All of your tours are composed of just the people in your reservation (plus the guide of course!). On the guided Scenic River Drifts you will get to use a McKenzie Drift Boat, which is the best option for serious photographers (as it has a solid base and sides). If you have children 11 years old and younger, then you will need to book a Private package. Bookings can be made for any day of the week (subject to availability).
Small Group package - Both Guided Nature Walks and River Drifts are in small groups, with no more than 6 people. Drift the river in a comfortable raft with seats. Bookings can be made for any day of the week (subject to availability).
Visiting in Early to Mid-October
Late August and September are not the only months with great bear viewing: October is too! The bears are fattening up before going into hibernation. In October, grizzlies occasionally frequent our lower lodge lawn more often than other months in order to graze on the clover.
Other reasons to visit in October:
- No crowds! We are still running bear viewing tours while the public viewing station is closed. This means our guests pretty much have the river to themselves and a few random Coho fishermen!
- Beautiful Autumn Colours! The contrast is amazing: lush, green lawns, with deciduous trees displaying every variation of green, yellow, orange and red you can imagine.....and sometimes there might be a backdrop of white when the mountain tops receive their first dustings of snow
- Mild temperatures! In October the summer heat is long gone and winter's frigid temperatures haven't arrived just yet
- Mushrooms! Have you been to Bella Coola in the fall and seen cars parked on the side of the road? They belong to local mushroom pickers. The damp forest floor is perfect for pine mushrooms to flourish. You might even get to enjoy some for dinner while staying at the lodge...or come and pick your own, the chef will cook them up for you!
Our Packages, Your Way
Our multi-day packages have been specifically designed to showcase the best of Bella Coola and the Great Bear Rainforest. If you have areas of special interest, or mobility issues, or are travelling with a young family, we suggest doing a Private package. We can then tailor the program to suit your desires. To see sample itineraries, click on the links in the pricing tiles below. Optional add-on activities for custom trips include Heli-Hiking, Heli-Sightseeing, Fishing, Horseback Riding, overnight camping, and even summer Heli-Skiing!
- Photographers - If you are a professional or serious amateur photographer, we strongly suggest doing the Private package option. When on a river drift in a Private package, guets will be in a McKenzie Drift Boat which has a sold bottom and sides, enhancing stability. Additionally, guests can stay stationary (or move around) as long as you would like as the guide is not concerned with other guests in the group! With a Private, we can customize the tour to your desires.
- Camera Lens - We recommend lens in the 400mm-600mm range, depending if you are using a crop sensor or full frame camera.
- Book Early - As one of the best locations in the world to watch grizzly bears catch salmon, we book up far in advance. It is never too early to book!
- Book A Longer Trip - the only complaint we seem to get is "we didn't book long enough"! We suggest booking a minimum of 4 nights.