Recommended wildlife encounters in British Columbia
British Columbia, Canada not only offers breath-taking wilderness regions, but it’s home to abundant wildlife. Just some of the magnificent creatures you may be able to glimpse include grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, moose, bighorn sheep, cougars, deer, wolves, marmots, countless bird species and an array of marine life, including sea lions, dolphins and whales.
These wildlife encounters are just about guaranteed to make for an unforgettable holiday in Canada’s western most province.
Whale watching from Vancouver Island
Throughout Vancouver Island there is a wealth of options for whale watching tours, including right from the beautiful capital city of Victoria in the easily accessible south of the island. Whale season usually runs from May to October, but in this part of the world you can also take a whale-spotting cruise from November through to April and still have a good chance of a sighting…although you will have to dress up very warmly! But in the Spring, Summer and Autumn you’re pretty much guaranteed to see these magnificent creatures including orcas, humpback whales, minke whales and grey whales. You’re also likely to see porpoises, harbour seals, eagles and more.
You can choose between the comfort of a larger covered boat or catamaran where you will have access to drinks, snacks and washrooms, or choose a custom-built Zodiac boat that offers an exhilarating and intimate whale-watching experience (you’ll need to don a full-length cruiser suits otherwise you’re likely to get very wet and cold). Its always a great experience whatever the weather with an amazing range of marine life and birdlife to see.
Grizzly Bears from Telegraph Cove Vancouver Island
Up in the north of Vancouver Island you can enjoy a full day trip exploring spectacular Knight Inlet to find grizzly bears in the spring. As the snows melt, both black and grizzly bears emerge from their hibernation dens on the mountain slopes and the hungry bears make their way down to feed on the spring sedge grasses in the river lowlands.
Spirit Bears in the Great Bear Rainforest
Spirit Bear Lodge offers an especially unique experience. The rare spirit bear, also called the Kermode bear, is one of the world’s most elusive animals. To view these black bears that have a cream-coloured coat, it takes the tracking skills of an expert guide along with plenty of patience and good luck. Estimate of the Sprit Bear population range from 50 to 150 and they’re only found here in the Great Bear Forest. If luck is on your side and you’re able to see one, it may be a sign of good fortune to come as the First Nations people believe. A stay at this lodge allows you not only this opportunity, but to immerse yourself in First Nations culture and take tours of their ancestral lands. Along the way, in addition to bears, you might catch glimpses of mountain goats, wolves, cougars, Sitka deer, humpback and orca whales, sea otters, sea lions and more.
Wilderness & Wildlife experiences with a touch of luxury
There are some beautiful lodges in British Columbia which are in the depths of the wilderness but which offer five star experience. Once such place is the Sonora Resort located within British Columbia's cluster of Discovery Islands, it’s a luxurious base from which to enjoy the wilderness. Here you can have a "Canadian Signature Experience" – the Eco Adventure Tour where you will see otters, seals, sealions schools of white-sided dolphins, humpback whales and possibly Orca. In May and June you will be able to see Black Bear feasting on mussels on the rocks. From mid August to mid October you have the opportunity to view Grizzly Bears, taking a journey up Bute Inlet by boat and arrive at Orford Bay where a Homalco First Nations guide will take you by vehicle along logging roads to covered viewing towers to safely view the bears pluck salmon from the riverbank.
The Black Bears of Whistler
While Whistler may best be known as a winter ski resort, viewing the area’s black bears is one top draws between mid-March and October. There are several ways to view them safely, including from above via the gondola on Blackcomb or Whistler mountains. Of course, it also provides an awe-inspiring bird’s-eye perspective of the dramatic mountain scenery too. Sightings are reported every day during this period, with mother bears and the cubs gorging on the berry bushes, frequently near the ski-out area from the Creekside gondola.
Another option is to join a tour with local nature guides on a Land Rover off-road scenic excursion. Starting in late April, black bears emerge from hibernation and begin to feed on the new spring growth. And whilst you’re looking out for bears you can enjoy the panoramic views of the Coastal Mountain Range including waterfalls, glacier lakes alpine, old growth forest and wetlands. As well as black bears you might also see moose, deer, mountain lions, bobcats and coyote’s in this area.
If you happen to arrive in the spring, you may even spot some of the animals around Whistler Golf Club. While they aren’t going to be attempting a hole-in-one, you’ll see them dining on skunk cabbage on the nearby Valley Trail. Bears tend to hang out right on the Chateau Whistler Golf Course too.
Bird Watching at GoldStream Provincial Park
The bird watching opportunities in British Columbia are practically endless. On Vancouver Island alone, there are over 220 different species, from trumpeter swans, brant geese and bald eagles to owls, songbirds and everything in between. At Goldstream Provincial Park, bald eagles are just one of the highlights, sharing the trees and skies with kinglets, Steller’s jays, red-breasted sapsuckers and many others. You can also see the park’s own version of Niagara Falls, an impressive waterfall that plunges more than 150 feet.