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Bear witness

The sighting of a grizzly bear in Canada’s Banff National Park heralds the start of spring and the end of winter hibernation. Large male bears typically emerge mid-March to search for food, while females with young are generally not sighted until late April or May.

Bear watching from a safe distance can be a hugely rewarding experience, with viewing opportunities abundant in Canada’s west between April and September. Here are some of the best spots across Canada for bear viewing.

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

The magical Princess Royal Island in the Great Bear Rainforest is not only home to a healthy population of grizzlies, but also the rare Kermode (Spirit) bear, a sub-species of black bear found only in this part of the world carrying a recessive gene that gives them a naturally white coat. Companies operated by the local Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations people in the nearby village of Klemtu offer tours to view the bears, while two floating lodges in the vicinity, Knight Inlet Lodge and Great Bear Lodge, also offer grizzly bear-viewing tours from spring through autumn.

Lake Louise Gondola, Alberta

Take a serene ride above Banff National Park on the Lake Louise Gondola. This spectacular bird’s eye view offers the perfect vantage point for bear spotting below, not to mention equally mind-blowing views of Lake Louise and the peaks of the Great Divide. Further bear spotting opportunities await at the top, with hiking trails and guided hikes available.

Banff Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift, Alberta

This 10-minute open-air chairlift ride takes you above the clouds to a sightseeing walkway, offering panoramic views of the Spray and Bow Valleys, majestic Mt. Rundle and the town of Banff. Keep the camera poised for grizzly bears who traverse the slopes of Mt Norquay in abundance, seeking safe habitats for feeding and rearing their young.

Maligne Valley, Jasper, Alberta

Maligne Valley, in beautiful Jasper National Park, is not only home to an impressive bear population, it also has unique geological features you won’t see anywhere else in the world. The two bridges at Maligne Canyon and the surrounding forest offer fantastic vantage points to witness wildlife and the cascading waterfalls tumbling over ancient limestone that rises out of Medicine Lake.

The Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary, British Columbia

 The Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary, 45 kilometres northeast of Prince Rupert, was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzly bears, and is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Accessible only by boat and/or floatplane, the site is home to roughly 60 individual bears, best visited between May and September when the bears can be seen roaming the shore. 

Breakfast with the Bears, Vancouver, British Columbia

Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge, just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver, is home to orphaned and endangered grizzly bears and other wildlife. Come early for Breakfast with the Bears to witness gorgeous grizzlies, Grinder and Coola, exploring their habitat, and learn about bear conservation from a ranger during a bear feeding. Afterwards, head to Grizzly Lookout Café for a beary (ahem) delicious breakfast.

For more visit www.keepexploring.com.au


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