Bella Coola has long been renowned as the Grizzly Bear Capital of the British Columbia Coast. Its superb habitat produces some of the largest body size and highest concentrations of Grizzly Bears in the province. Emerging hungry from their dens in the Spring we observe the Grizzlies grazing on the tidal estuaries in May and June.
In the Fall the mainland salmon spawning rivers host Sockeye, Spring Salmon, Coho, Chum and Pink Salmon and these incredible runs of wild salmon provide a rich source of protein that the Grizzlies and Black Bears utilize to fatten up for the Winter. Easy watershed access to the dry interior offers a food source of Moose as well so it is easy to see how these Grizzlies attain their enormous size and high population concentrations.
Bella Coola’s “Seafood Catch of the Day” is a big part of our unique Grizzly Tour where the guests actually get to participate in the setting and hauling of the Dungeness Crab and Prawn Gear. We teach our guests how to fish for prawns and crabs and they actually get to participate in the crab and prawn fishery.
With our guests ”hands on” assistance we bait up and set out the crab pots at the mouth of the rivers to let them soak for a day or so. After they are set, the crab pots will be fishing/soaking for the next 24 hours while we are touring.
We cruise on to the mouth of the Bella Coola River to view what is left of the huge old piling pier. This long wooden pier was an incredible amount of work to build by hand to provide deep waterfront access for the steamships to supply the Norwegian community and Bella Coola.
Your guide provides very old historical pictures of the Old Norwegian settlement that existed on the North East side of the estuary and explains the history of the area and how the settlers and their town were eventually flooded out of this area.
We cruise on past the vertical granite walls past the Bald Eagle Tree where the Eagle keeps a vigilant eye on any fish activity that may provide him a meal. We cruise by the old Tallheo Cannery and while pointing out the Hanging Glaciers in the backend of the valley your guide tells of the history of the old cannery and the little sailboats that used to unload salmon here long ago. Your guide will explain in detail how the old timers use to catch the fish with their nets and the canning process they used to preserve the salmon.
|Marine Life Viewing|
We stop in the beautiful sheltered waters and pebble beach of Bachelor Bay to visit the Harbour Seals at Seal Rock and your skipper/guide points out the outstanding view of Mt. Nusatsum to the East and the stunning view of Bentinck Spire to the South-West.
Your skipper teaches the guests how to ready the prawn gear to be set and encourages the guests to take part in the “Seafood Catch of the Day” activities of baiting the pots and setting them off the stern of the Nekhani. This is a fun fishing activity and the guests get to participate thoroughly in the fishery and learn how prawns are caught. Once we set out the prawn gear the guests will have to wait for the pots to “soak” through a few tides. The guests get to participate in the activity of hauling them back on the following day.
|A Family of Grizzlies on the River|
We arrive at the mouth of a wilderness salmon spawning river where we will view the wildlife on the estuary and drop anchor in a most beautiful pristine setting. We enjoy a nice relaxed barbequed dinner on board Nekhani and enjoy the magnificent views of Bentinck Spire before venturing up river to view the bears and wildlife.
Grizzlies feed on the estuaries and the spawning salmon in this area and your guide/naturalist will walk you slowly upriver on an active Grizzly Bear trail. Along the estuary game trail your guide will point out grizzly digs, territorial rub trees, claw marks, bite marks, Grizzly day beds and old Grizzly tracks sunk deep in the moss. As well we will likely see River Otters, Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Mink, Marten and Bald Eagles living in this watershed. Moving slowly and always watching for Grizzlies we make our way upriver to our natural old growth wildlife viewing stand.
|Grizzly Feasting on Salmon|
We have an excellent unrestricted view of the Grizzlies, Black Bears and Wolves on the white sandbars upriver and downriver in a large old growth stand of cedar and spruce timber.
This area is home to Grizzly Bears, Black Bear, Wolves and Blacktail Deer and they use the game trails year round in this area. This is an excellent location for photography and an ideal spot for photographers to set up their tripods amongst the timber canopy. We will remain at this natural wildlife viewing stand during prime time and relax enjoying the wilderness and wildlife movements.
Our guided Grizzly Tours offer outstanding photographic opportunities to capture those special images of Grizzly Bears that few, if any, people have ever photographed. Our priority is always providing our photographers with unique photo opportunities.
View Schedule & Prices...
Once the sun starts to set behind the mountain we slowly start heading back down river to the Nekhani anchored up in the sheltered bay. Walking slowly and keeping a watchful eye as any time along the trail a Grizzly Bear, Black Bear or a Wolf could be observed on the creek fishing for salmon.
|Viewing Grizzly Bears|
We arrive back at the MV Nekhani just before nightfall to enjoy the cozy warmth of the onboard woodstove and enjoy some hot drinks and snacks. After discussing the day’s activities our guests are looking forward to their cozy single bunk beds. No need to worry at all about tough weather or being seasick on this Tour as our vessels is very seaworthy and we are not subject to ground swells from the outer coast.
Few things are more peaceful than a Bella Coola morning with the sun rising over Mt. Nusatsum. We are up at sunrise for coffee and a hearty breakfast. We use local farm fresh eggs and endeavor to use all local home-grown products in our galley. For those with special diets please let us know in advance. Once breakfast is done we head out to another wilderness salmon spawning river in an area where Grizzlies, Moose, Wolves and Black Bears live. We will walk slowly up the game trails on the river bank watching for Grizzlies and other wildlife. We spend the prime morning hours observing bears and other wildlife moving in this Wilderness area.
This is a perfectly natural Grizzly Bear Tour in pristine habitat. We take you in to the heart of the BC wilderness where the Grizzly Bears actually live and you are not restricted to viewing bears from a designated area. The wildlife we endeavour to view is Wild and not at all habituated to humans.
View our Bears Photo Gallery
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|Grizzly & Cubs|
Some of the biggest boar Grizzlies on the West Coast live in these remote areas and for countless centuries have been moving in the same huge imprints worn deep in the moss. You will likely see old boars, sows with cubs and juvenile Grizzlies and certainly lots of evidence of their presence. Morning and evening is prime time for wildlife to feed and with a little luck we will observe Grizzly Bears and other wild animals moving around in their natural habitat. As the sun gets higher in the sky and the prime feeding time comes to an end, we start walking slowly back downstream and head back to the river mouth for a pickup.
After lunch we head West out the fjord bound for the Big Tree and Hot Springs. En route we scan the horizon for dolphins and whales that frequent these vast glacial waterways. Pacific White Sided Dolphins are common sightings in this area and they usually put on a quite a show for us with their dazzling areal displays and playfulness. Dolphins are generally quite playful and frequent the area in the Summer and Fall with their populations being very high.
|Orca aka "Killer Whale"|
Pods of Killer Whales are also an amazing sight to see and are usually in the area in May and June hunting for the Chinook Salmon that are heading back to the Bella Coola watershed. Humpback Whale sightings are common early in the season and the Humpbacks can sometimes be seen breaching, which is truly an unforgettable sight.
The versatility and seaworthiness of our Twin Diesel 42 foot, 12 passenger Tour Vessel, MV Nekhani, really shines for these Marine Tours. MV Nekhani has an elevated wildlife viewing tower built specifically for wildlife viewing and photography. This elevated wildlife viewing tower offers photographers an excellent view of the surrounding waters and wildlife and excellent photo opportunities.
View Schedule & Prices...
|Grizzly Bear Pictograph|
On the way to Larso Bay we will view the ancient First Nations Pictographs on the East wall of the Inlet. These orange (Salmon Roe coloured) paintings are so old and faded they are difficult to spot and are barely visible. The pictographs tell many stories of the First Nations people in ancient times when First Nations were the only inhabitants of the Coast.
The Big Cedar Tree in Larso Bay is certainly one of the largest Red Cedar trees around the Coast and is about 19 feet in diameter. It is just a short easy hike from the Oceans Edge and it takes about 15-20 minutes to get there on a nicely groomed trail. It is an enormous sight to behold, so don’t forget your camera. This area is bear and wolf habitat and Spring Black Bear and wolf sightings here are not uncommon.
We depart Larso Bay and head across the Inlet to Michel Falls, a beautiful set of cascading falls from a large glacial water source in the mountains. Your skipper carefully navigates you right in close to the base of the falls and you are cooled down by the refreshing spray of the plummeting glacial water. Next we visit Hot Springs Creek and poke our nose up the creekmouth to visit the resident Bald Eagle that fishes there. Your skipper points out the protected sandy beach and a great sheltered camping spot.
|Soaking in the Hot Springs|
Arriving at the secluded Hot Springs the guests prepare once again to disembark for a soothing dip in the natural mineral hot pools. This is a very special spot tucked away on the shoreline and barely visible from the boat. A gorgeous hot springs pool has been built by locals by damming a beautiful natural rock crevice. There is room for about 8 people or more in the hot springs pool and the hot water is crystal clear with no odor. At high tide you can dive right off the hot spring rocks into the cold glacial water to refresh yourselves, and many do. This is a remote wilderness hot spring that is not commercialized at all and visited by few.
As an option if some of the guests choose not to visit the Hot Springs they can remain on board Nekhani and do a little bit of fishing/jigging for Red Snapper, Lingcod and Halibut provided they have a tidal sport fishing License. We supply all the fishing/jigging gear on board Nekhani.
|A Typical Bountiful Seafood Harvest|
With everybody back on board Nekhani again from the soothing Hot springs dip, we head North in search again for Dolphins and Whales and enjoy another cruise by a pristine waterfall setting where we sometimes spot Black Bears and Blacktail Deer.
Hauling back our “Seafood Catch of the Day” is next on the tour itinerary and we idle in to the beach and pick up the prawn line. Everybody waits in anticipation of our big catch and guests always like to participate in the fishery. Some of the interesting creatures that come up from the deep include Octopus, Spider Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Shell fish, Starfish (which are released) and of course lots of Big Jumbo Spot Prawns and the Sweet Coon Stripe Shrimp. Youngsters and adults alike are all interested in viewing creatures from the depths. It is especially good for the children to experience this and they enjoy seeing all the Crustaceans from the sea.
David Suzuki has determined that the Pacific Spot Prawn and the Dungeness Crabs fished on the BC Coast are in the Top Ten Sustainable Fisheries in the World and are caught in an environmentally sustainable manner. This particular seafood is harvested in a way that protects surrounding sea creatures and the eco-systems they depend on.
View Schedule & Prices...
After hauling the prawn strings we head to the river mouths to haul the crab pots. The guests get to gaff the crab buoys and heave on the lines and pull up the crab pots from off the bottom. We encourage our guests to participate with the crab and prawn fishing and this way they learn quite a bit about fishing for these species and how the fishing gear works.