Monday, 26 September 2016

A Grizzly Bear tour with Discovery Marine Safaris showcases bears and more

by Keith and Heather Nicol
 On Sunday September 25 we decided at the spur of the moment to do a Grizzly Bear Tour with Discovery Marine Safaris since they had space and many of their upcoming tours are booked solid. These tours start in Campbell River and involve a 2 hour boat trip aboard the Kuluta to Bute Inlet and the Orford River Valley on the B.C. mainland. In our group of 22 people there were a handful of Canadians with most people from various countries in Europe including England, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland.  Once we were on the dock at Orford Valley the Homalco First Nations took over the tour and they provided buses and lookout platforms for viewing bears in several different locations in the valley. Our local guides were Janet and Herbie and no sooner had we stopped at our first viewing area than Herbie reported seeing a bear in amongst some logs along the river. 
Two young bears negotiate some slippery logs
      We had been told that patience is a key aspect of bear watching and it seemed to work since the first bear soon headed off into the underbrush where it was out of sight. But a few minutes later the first bear returned with another young bear and they began to climb up on the logs and walk out over the river. After watching them intently for some time, Janet and Herbie suggested heading to the next viewing area. But just as the last people were about to board the bus, 2 more juvenile bears came out on the other side of the river and began ambling toward us along the beach. These bears occasionally reared up and wrestled with each other which was fascinating to watch.  One bear grabbed a salmon from the river and headed off into the woods to eat it and the other bear seemed to pick at some dead salmon along the shore before also heading into the trees. 
Checking out a dead salmon on the gravel bar
   From there we checked out several more “bear” areas but didn’t see anything. At one station we climbed up on a tall stand and could look down on the salmon making their way upstream to spawn. Sea gulls were everywhere taking advantage of all of this “free” food from dead salmon that had already spawned. We then checked out a nearby gravel bar and unexpectedly spotted 2 large elk! These elk watched us for some time then even did some sparring with their antlers lowered at each other. After a couple of jousting tousles the elk headed off into a stand of trees. Our Captain John Lewis said that in all of his trips in here this fall he had not seen any elk so we felt lucky to have seen them. On our way back to the dock we saw another elk and then stopped for a bear that had just come down from the river bank. We watched it amble along the river before it slipped into the underbrush and disappeared.  
Two large Roosevelt Elk locking horns
        Our return trip featured amazing clouds layered against the mountains and at one point we spotted a dall’s porpoise in the distance. We toured north of Quadra Island this time and passed through a narrow slice of rock appropriately called “Hole in the Wall”. Later we stopped over Ripple Rock which was blown up in 1958 to make shipping safer in Seymour Narrows. Evidently explorer Captain George Vancouver called this section of water "one of the vilest stretches in the world".  Thanks to Johanna Ferrie (naturalist), John Lewis (captain) and our First Nations guides for showing this magical area. For more information on Discovery Marine Safaris see:
Wispy cloud bands made the mountains even more photogenic

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