We don’t know who invented the idea of bear watching from the safe and comfortable vantage of a boat, but this fairly new commercial endeavor has taken off on Vancouver Island, quickly becoming a major facet of the island’s already thriving tourism industry.
Option #1: Black Bear Tours
Many people say that coastal British Columbia has the highest concentration of black bears in the world. Whether not this fact is true is a matter of scientific debate – coastal Alaska is certainly in the running for this title as well – but rest assured, there are a tremendous number of black bears roaming the shores of Vancouver Islands fjords, inlets and beaches.
Coast-dwelling bears offer a unique advantage to folks who are interested in photographing and observing these majestic animals up close: viewing from the safety of a boat floating quietly near the shoreline. Photographers, nature lovers and international visitors love this new form of nature tour for the following reasons:
- It is not physically demanding
- There are few (or no) mosquitoes and bugs
- It is relatively inexpensive
- Bears up close, but from a safe vantage
Option #2: Grizzly Bear Tours
There are likely a few grizzly bears living on northern Vancouver Island, but while tours for these awe-inspiring animals depart from Vancouver Island, the actual bear watching happens on the mainland.
The most common destination for watching brown bears when departing from the island is Knight Inlet. Located across Queen Charlotte Straight from Port McNeill, Knight Inlet is the longest inlet along the coast of British Columbia with an approximate length of 125 km. Tours depart from towns located on the east coast of the island, which provides exceptional access to remote area of Knight Inlet.
This type of tour is a favorite of travellers for many reasons, including:
- The boat ride provides relatively easy access to an incredibly remote area
- Outside of Alaska, there is nowhere else in the world you can safely get this close to grizzly bears
- The possibility exists to see killer whales and other marine life while in transit
- The photography opportunities are unparalleled.