Visiting the Great Bear

Nature Tours - Grizzly - Image: B. Jerritt
Image credit: Boomer Jerritt

With a name like the Great Bear Rainforest you just know it’s going to be good. The Great Bear Rainforest lies just off the northern coast of Vancouver Island. It is the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest. Yes you read that correctly, the planet’s largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest.

Stretching over 400 km of British Columbia coastline, the rainforest is home to 1,000 year old Western Red Cedar and 90 metre Sitka Spruce as well as the bears: black, brown (grizzly) and white (spirit bears).
With an ecosystem this rich, it is not just the bears that flourish. The local wildlife inhabits a 16,000 km2 area that supports eagles, wolves, salmon and cougars to name a few.

Wildlife Viewing
Image credit: Catherine Hufnagel


Bear and wildlife viewing tours to the region begin in May and typically run into the fall. They may be multi day excursions to fly in only lodges that take you completely off the grid or boat tours that present the shoreline from the perspective of the sea. There are generally three mains seasons for bear watching.

The spring season is rich with bears emerging from their winter hibernations, hungry for tender spring greens and some playful antics in the sunshine. Spring is also mating season and it is all about scent. Male and female bears communicate their intentions with smell. Keep your eye out for a bit of posturing and competitive displays between males at this time of year.

Summer and autumn bring seasons distinctive unto themselves. Summer is the bears chance to eat juicy berries and your chance to experience some of the other wildlife in the region. Grey and humpback whales arrive in some areas in July and the wolves venture further from their dens and become more vocal.

Image credit: Great Bear Lodge

With the end of August comes the first rain and the beginning of the annual salmon run. Salmon arrive ready to spawn and a feeding frenzy for everyone who enjoys this rich bounty from the sea begins. This natural cycle life is most surely a sight to behold.

Regardless of the season, a visit to the Great Bear Rainforest offers a unique opportunity to experience this raw and powerful landscape as it was thousands of years ago. Visit our tour operators listings for more information on bear viewing tours.