27 October 2016

Nature abounds: Black bears take advantage of the salmon run
My grizzlies grand tour
On TV presenter Michaela Strachan's dream family trip to Canada, whales and bald eagles join the bears as headline attractions
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rom bitterns and badgers in Suffolk to bald eagles and bears in Canada - what a contrast! After finishing a BBC Springwatch series at the RSPB's Minsmere reserve in Suffolk it was time for a family holiday, and there was a trip I'd been looking forward to. I'd been to Knight Inlet in British Columbia on wildlife filming trips and I wanted to go back with my family - partner Nick and our son Ollie.

It's a special place, a floating lodge in the wilderness, accessible only by boat or float plane and one of the best places in Canada to see grizzly bears. The first time I went there was for a show called Animal Planet - we filmed grizzlies fishing and gorging on salmon in the river, an amazing sight.
The great outdoors at Vancouver Island
A perfect place to spot orcas in the wild
For our family trip we started in Vancouver, a fabulous city, and saw the sights - Capilano Suspension Bridge, Gastown, Granville Island Market. We stayed in English Bay, near the beach and beside Stanley Park - stunning, with nearly 1,000 acres of west coast rainforest. But the wild was calling. As well as grizzly bears, I wanted to show the family orcas and Vancouver Island - across a sea strait from Vancouver - is a great place to see them. From our first base at Victoria, BC's capital, we went on two 'whalewatching' trips (orcas - despite their other name, killer whales - are actually classed as dolphins) and were amazed at the number we saw.
The second was for the Michaela's Wild Challenge series when I was given two tasks - to see a grizzly baby and to get a 'kiss' from a Rufous hummingbird on migration. After sitting next to a hummingbird feeder with red lipstick and sugar on my lips, I actually completed that challenge.
" Tofino is a chilled little town, with organic cafes and surfers."
There are three resident pods around Victoria with about 80 orcas in each. Our next stop was Tofino and Ucluelet on the west coast. Our hotel at Ucluelet, the Black Rock Ocean-front Resort, was right on the ocean.

Tofino is a chilled little town with a hippy vibe, with organic cafes and surfers. We went kayaking and black bear-watching, both brilliant. Then came the highlight - four days at Knight Inlet, reached by float plane.

The flight is a stunning half-hour over the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest piece of intact temperate forest in the world. Red cedar, western hemlock and sitka spruce, some 1,000 years old, reach into the sky. As we arrived at Glendale Cove we could see the floating lodge that would be home for three nights.
"Knight Inlet is a special place, a floating lodge in the wilderness, accessible only by boat or float plane and one of the best places to see grizzly bears."
Into the wild: The Knight Inlet is reached by float plane
A cultural capital: Victoria has something for everyone
Knight Inlet used to be a fishing lodge but was bought in 1996 by the Wyatt family and is now run as a grizzly bear-watching paradise. The area has one of the largest concentrations of grizzlies in British Columbia, with 30 to 40 bears. The population varies depending on the number of new cubs. During spring and summer, the bears feed on the cove's abundance of sedge grasses, berries and shellfish, and are easy to spot. Come August, the salmon run starts and the bears gorge on the abundance of rich protein, fattening themselves up ready for winter hibernation.

They call it 'Bear Boot Camp' - they're not kidding. The three days are busy and go by quickly. We went on estuary tours to watch bears and bald eagles, an inlet cruise to the waterfalls, which included getting soaked by the spray (a highlight for Ollie), a walk through the forest to 'above the clouds', a kayak trip and a whole-day marine tour to spot orcas, seals, sea lions and humpback whales. Knight Inlet is dramatic and wild, with snow-capped granite cliffs and glaciers. The accommodation and organisation were superb and I fell in love with it. You can feel the stress lifting as the wilderness works its healing powers and you reconnect with nature. It's a place that pulls you back.

Original article published in Apr 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
Spot a grizzly or two in the wild
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