We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises. We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.
Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.
Staying at a bear lodge was a particular dream of M’s, so after some serious forward planning (14 months in advance), finally the day arrived! Part of the excitement was our first trip in a seaplane – what a wonderful way to travel. Best way to fly. We were in the smaller plane of two going to the lodge, 5 passengers plus the pilot. We had a beautiful clear flight, landing at the front door of our floating accommodation at Great Bear Lodge.
Due to various constraints (time and money – the usual), our visit was on the shoulder of the approaching salmon season (August). Bear spotting was likely, but viewing bears catching fish was entirely up to nature. M was just keen to see bears, and I was keen not to get eaten, so we didn’t really care if no salmon were involved in our experience.
When we arrived, there was a lot of hugging and farewelling going on – the seaplane that brings the new guests takes the leaving guests back to port. It all seemed very friendly, if a little excessive, but it was a magical place to land, and thrilling to know we would be staying here for a couple of days. What a location.
Sorry for the blogging break! While it’s back to reality for me (and that has taken a few weeks to organise), here on the interweb I can pretend it’s still all happening…
As you might have read earlier, we were in Port Hardy to prepare for our flight to Great Bear Lodge. The flight was in the afternoon, so we took a drive to Port Alice to check out the surroundings before leaving on our seaplane flight. Beautiful scenery, and it was a pity we didn’t have time for a proper hike. I can recommend it for a picnic location. Sadly we couldn’t stay for the submarine races.
From Courtenay we travelled to Port Hardy. Our main reason for visiting was to be ready for our flight the next day to Great Bear Lodge. On the way we stopped for picnic lunch at Port McNeill, where we saw a bald eagle.
We had one night in Courtenay, at Kingfisher Spa, which turned out to be a beautiful location. M was so disappointed we didn’t have time for any spa treatments, but the cafe/restaurant and view from outside our room was excellent diversion for one night. From the beach and then from the restaurant we could see seals popping up their heads. The mountain backdrop behind was very impressive.
From Victoria we headed up the coast. The first hour out of the city was excruciatingly slow – in an hour we travelled about 15 km. They are repairing the road and there was an accident and a breakdown – luckily we had planned for an easy driving day. We were heading to Courtenay but on the way stopped in at a couple of lookouts, and for lunch checked out Rathtrevor Beach. So far the Canadian beaches we’ve seen in BC are different to most Australian beaches – it seems like there’s a lot of dark sand, and the tide is always out – but the mountainous backdrop is absolutely stunning.
From Vancouver we headed to Victoria on Vancouver Island. By lucky accident we found out that it’s better to book a spot on the ferry rather than just turn up. We were early and nearly made it onto the ferry prior to ours, missing out by about 6 or 7 cars. But we didn’t have long to wait to get from Tsawwassen terminal to Swartz Bay. It was a lovely crossing and then an easy drive to get to Victoria.
On a day trip from Harrison, thanks to our friends local intel, we checked out the Othello Tunnels, a park close to the town of Hope on Highway 3. In town we discovered that Hope and surrounds is where Rambo First Blood was filmed – they are celebrating the 35th anniversary soon. There was also a mountie in full kit roaming the streets, but I didn’t get a chance for a pic.
It was a lovely walk and the tunnels were impressive. We approached from the further entrance, which had cougar and bear sighting warnings – as is common almost everywhere in BC.
On the name: apparently the chief engineer was a Shakespeare fan. And when they first ran the train service they scheduled it at night so passengers couldn’t see the sheer drops either side.