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Our Story & Local History

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Photo by Mike Wigle

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Bella Coola Grizzly Tours

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours & Adventure Resort is a land and marine based operation out of Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada. We offer guided marine tours, wildlife viewing and grizzly bear watching, with lodging in our deluxe log cabins or aboard our 42 foot vessel The MV Nekhani.

Photo by Tyler Cave

Meet Leonard

"With over 40 years of guiding experience, your host Leonard Ellis has learned the ways of the elusive Coastal Grizzly. Born and raised on the Coast of British Columbia, he has spent all his life living, working and guiding on the coast of BC & throughout what is now known as the “Great Bear Rainforest.” He has experienced many encounters with Grizzly Bears, Black Bears , Wolves, Wolverines, Mountain Goats, Kermode Bears, Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Sea Elephants, Basking Sharks, Sunfish, Sea Turtles and many other species that inhabit the area. 

Leonard has so many tales to tell of Hurricanes, Flood’s, Twisters, Tsunami’s and wild weather, he is always happy to share his many exciting stories and unforgettable experiences with you.

We offer natural wildlife viewing tours and hiking adventures throughout the Bella Coola Valley, Great Bear Rainforest and Coastal Fjords.

Meet Daniel

Spending his entire life on the Central Coast of British Columbia alongside Leonard; Daniel Ellis has gained his knowledge and skills from his mentor and father. Growing up in Bella Coola Daniel always spent his time on the water, initially as the captain of our smaller boats and eventually gaining the hours, certifications and experience to operate our largest vessel the M.V. Nekhani. Daniel will be your host, guide and skipper on board the M.V Nekhani.

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The Ellis Family

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours & Adventure Resort is a family owned and operated business.

The Ellis Family has been long established in wilderness tourism and wildlife viewing tours in the Bella Coola Valley.  Leonard, Daniel, Tiffany and Shannon work very hard to ensure your stay in Bella Coola is comfortable, perfectly safe and full of unique wilderness adventures. The Ellis Family looks forward to showing you a trip of a lifetime in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest and providing our west coast Hospitality from our family to yours.

ocean fjord with snow capped mountains

Welcome To Bella Coola

Lying amidst the towering snow capped mountains and huge old growth cedar’s this small west coast village is rich in native history. The First Nations people have lived here for thousands of years maintaining a unique culture long before the Europeans ever dreamed this land existed. The Ellis Family has been fortunate to have lived and worked with Indigenous people on the Central Coast for over half a century. We have always respected and maintained a friendly relationship and are fortunate to employ many local people in our Guided Tours. Our Nuxalk Guides assist in making your stay here an enjoyable and informative one and provide you with a unique insight of their culture and long history in the area. 

Bella Coola Mountains

Our Home and story

Fortunate to have pure clean air, soft pristine mountain water and virtually no pollution. At Bella Coola Grizzly Tours we do everything we possibly can to reduce environmental impact in our day to day operations. Bella Coola Valley bottom provides rich fertile soil and we are able to grow a large Organic Garden at our Resort to utilize all locally grown produce and vegetables in our cookery. Farm fresh eggs are provided by local farmers and laid by free range chickens. We always utilize renewable resources where possible, that are environmentally sustainable and maintain a conservative outlook on our local natural resources.

Totem Poles British Columbia

The Local Culture

The entire Bella Coola region is incredibly rich in First Nation culture with documented evidence of Indigenous civilizations existing here on the inside pass for well over 14,000 years. This discovery deems this area one of the oldest human settlements ever found in North America and dates it well back into the last Ice Age. Several sites including Triquet Island, Namu and many other sites have revealed solid evidence of fishing and hunting tools and finely honed artifacts used by indigenous people to harvest fish and wildlife for their food source and survival. Indigenous people have depended on healthy, balanced fish and wildlife stocks for sustenance and were highly skilled fishermen, hunters and gatherers living off the land and sea. 

Photo by Jesaja Class

bear walking on a log in the river with trees in the background

A Natural Eco-system

The Pacific Salmon return on an annual basis to the rivers and creeks for spawning and create a wonderful eco-system. This remote area is home to some of the largest Grizzlies and Mountain Goats in the world and an incredible web of marine life. These generally reclusive creatures tend to shy away from humans and prefer remote wilderness areas where they can feed peacefully and live undisturbed. When pressure is put on them from human activity they soon move off in search of quieter areas.

smoking salmon in a smokehouse

Importance of Salmon

Wild Pacific Salmon were and still are an extremely important resource for First Nations and they have always depended on the returns. When the Salmon is air dried and smoked with alder the protein rich fish provides a food source that will carry the people through the winter. Ooligan returns also provided an important part of the Indigenous diet and the grease trail was a prominent trading route to the Interior. Halibut, crabs and cod were a big part of their harvest as well with evidence of fish hooks, fishing gear and other hand made artifacts found in digs.

aerial view of the Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest

Covering over 6.4 million hectares, the Great Bear Rainforest is part of the larger Pacific temperate rainforest, which is the largest coastal temperate rainforest in the world. With ancient trees more than 1000 years old. Join one of our Guided Tours through the Old Growth Fir and Cedar stands to witness culturally modified trees and learn how First Nation People depended on this natural resource and still do, providing split planks for shelters and paddles, shakes for roof, ocean going and spoon canoes, clothing, hats, masks, kindling, arrow and spear shafts, rope material and many other useful items for their survival. Learn about the Flora and Fauna in the rainforest and how plants like Devils Club were used for healing and medicine.

Petroglyphs Bella Coola

Ancient Petroglyphs

The largest and most beautiful display of Petroglyphs found on this Coast, carbon dating back many thousands of years, can be found right here in the Bella Coola Valley. Local Indigenous guides have amazing stories of spiritual creation and you will certainly be amazed at the stories. These ancient Rock Carvings are like no other and are a must see while in Bella Coola. Local First Nation Tours are available to take you to these sacred places, so please enquire. 

Photo by Jesaja Class

drawing of a bear face on a rock wall

Indigenous Pictographs

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 they were the only inhabitants of the Coast, found on naturally sheltered granite rocks along the fresh and saltwater shoreline and are often seen on our Marine Tours. Pictograph’s tell very old stories of the struggles and survival of First Nations people and their settlements, like this one of a mighty Grizzly Bear.

close up of a carved totem pole mask

The Incredible Artisans

Incredible and unique First Nations artwork including totem poles, masks, cedar hats and silver and gold jewelry are all available to see here and are quite a sight to behold. Talented master carvers, weavers and beautiful displays of artwork are present all over the Valley. The first European explorers arrived on this Coast in 1793 and Captain Vancouver and Alexander Mackenzie wrote much interesting history in their journals, describing the area as “Extremely Grand” click their names above if you would like to read some good references from wikipedia and
the great Canadian encyclopaedia.

moose standing in a field with trees in the background

Local History & Traditions

First Nations depended on leaf eating Herbivores for parasite free edible meat. Arrowheads, spear heads and many other tools and weapons used to harvest and process moose, deer, mountain goat and other ungulates have been found in these dig sites that date back many thousands of years. Antlers, bones, hides, organs, everything on the animal was utilized and nothing wasted. Venison was eaten fresh as well as smoked, dried and made into jerky for sustenance to carry them through the long cold winters. Deadfalls and traps were developed by indigenous people to kill animals for sustenance and to control large predators. Bear meat was smoked, fat was rendered down for cooking and their warm, beautiful hides were fleshed and scraped to provide natural blankets for their children and families. Seals and Sea Lions were also harvested and utilized for their rich meat and durable hides.

wolf standing in nature looking to the left

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION

Wolves were harvested by Indigenous people and wolf populations were managed to reduce predation on their favored Herbivore populations. Indigenous people were forced to compete with the Wolves for their edible meat source and leaf eating ungulates (Moose, Deer, Mountain Goats) were their preferred source of sustenance. Herbivores (hooved mammals/ungulates) were and still are most important for First Nations survival and good health and do not carry the trichinosis parasite that Carnivores (Wolves) and Omnivores (Bears) host which can cause grave sickness in humans. Wolf hides were highly prized and made excellent winter clothing.

panorama of mountains with trees in the foreground

Truly Pristine Nature

The Bella Coola Valley is carved by the receding glaciers and is as remote and pristine as it gets on the British Columbia West Coast. This is a friendly place to visit with a slower pace so come enjoy the fresh, clean mountain air, beautiful cascading waterfalls and old growth cedars in our Wilderness. There is so much to see, learn and explore in this remote area of rugged landscape and endless fjords that a person can literally spend a lifetime attempting to see it all.

grizzly bear standing up looking at the camera

It's Feeding Time

The Springtime is actually one of the best times to view the Biggest Boar Grizzlies as they are forced to come down to the Estuaries to feed on the fresh Greens and Sedges that grow there. Big Boars are very reclusive so Spring is the opportune time to see them when they must expose themselves on the Tide Flats to feed. This is certainly the best time to get uninterrupted photographs of Older Mature Boars. In the Fall time they are in the small little side creeks and much harder to locate and photograph. The Old Boars graze like cattle on the tender new chutes while keeping a constant eye on their surroundings. The Grizzlies sense of smell is incredible and they can smell and see you easily from a long ways off. Unlike Black Bears that do not see well at all, Grizzlies have very good vision considering the size of their eye.

Photo by Mike Wigle

 
close up of two grizzly bear cubs during a tour with Bella Coola Grizzly Tours

Summer For the Grizzlies

When summer approaches the Sows and Cubs can be found in higher alpine terrain. They dig and feed in remote meadows, avalanche chutes and slide areas as the snow recedes. They use their huge forearms and long claws to dig for rodents and their huge nose to smell the wind in search of animals that have been swept off the mountain and killed by slides and harsh winter conditions. Blue Berries, Salmon Berries and Huckleberries grow on slide areas and lowlands and make up a huge part of their diet when they ripen up. It is quite something to watch the Bears eating the berries. They just strip the branches by running the limbs laden with the berries through their teeth, eating lots of the leaves as well, they eat a

large amount daily to satisfy their appetite. 

Photo by Mike Wigle

three bears feeding on salmon in a river

The WILD PACIFIC SALMON RUN

Come August the Bears start working their way towards the Salmon Spawning Rivers to get a feed on the first run of Salmon. The Bears feed in the Rivers on the Spawning Salmon all Fall and into the Winter. Grizzlies feed on the late run of Coho into December some years. The Wild Pacific Salmon are the Coastal Bears major food source to fatten up and ready the Bears for the long winter months when there is little food for them. We view the Grizzlies at a safe distance from our Tour Vehicles as they feed on the Salmon in the Spawning Rivers. We rely solely on incidental sightings and any encounters with Grizzlies are purely natural. The Bella Coola Valley has a high population of Grizzlies and we are able to view them in various settings while they are feeding. 

Photo by Mike Wigle

Bella Coola Grizzly Tours
A Message From The Ellis Family

We hope you will join us at Bella Coola Grizzly Tours & Adventure Resort this year to experience what the Bella Coola Valley and the area has to offer,
We can't wait to be your host & guides on this exciting adventure.
 
Yours Truly,    
The Ellis Family

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Ready For Your Adventure?