You have seen them any number of times on wildlife documentaries, but that doesn’t really prepare you for your first sight of a grumpy male grizzly snatching salmon out of a teeming Canadian river.
An iconic moment, but wait till you see a mother bear leading a pair of cubs out of her den after a long hibernation – the mother ravenous, the cubs tumbling in delight at their new-found world.
Like everything in this huge country, Canada’s bears are bigger. They’re also more numerous and varied – think polar, grizzly, black and brown – so a bear-focussed extension to your holiday is a must. To miss them would be unbearable!
Knight Inlet, British Columbia
Eons ago, glaciers carved this 100 km long fjord into the coastal mountains of British Columbia, creating the perfect natural habitat for bears. In spring, you can watch them from the safety of a boat as they emerge from their dens and devour sedges and shellfish at the water’s edge. But for a real feeding frenzy you should see them – from a specially-constructed observation platform - in the fall, when the salmon are running along the Glendale River and the bears are intent on putting on enough body weight to last them through a winter hibernation.
Stay: Knight Inlet Lodge at Glendale Cove, just 60 km from the mouth of the fjord.
Sonora, British Columbia
From the luxurious comfort and facilities of Sonora Lodge, a boat takes you to the perfect spot to watch grizzlies hooking huge salmon out of a fast flowing river, and gorging on them. Or to see mother bears playing with their offspring whilst teaching them how to fish for themselves. Some of the first efforts by the youngsters are hilarious, and you’ll have a grandstand view from a 10 foot high observation platform.
Stay: Sonora Resort, with first class restaurant, wine cellar, cinema and games area.
Katmai National Park, Alaska
After a briefing by the national park service on how to make the most of ‘bear country’ whilst enjoying perfect safety, it’s time to discover the world’s largest population of brown bears. Every year as many as 50 of these magnificent brutes gather at any one time along a mile and a half section of the Brooks River. They come to feast on salmon – millions of which arrive from the Bering Sea between mid June and early September. Katmai National Park provides a majestic backdrop to this awesome natural spectacle.
Stay: Brooks Lodge in the Katmai National Park.
Klemtu, British Columbia
There is no better place to get to know the history of the white spirit bear – or to see the animals themselves – than in the Great Bear Rainforest, the world’s largest tract of untouched temperate rainforest. Stay at Spirit Bear Lodge and you'll be right in the heart of it. You may even glimpse the rare white spirit bear. But bears won’t be your only photographic trophy; Spirit Bear Lodge puts you in touch with gigantic humpback whales, orcas, sea lions and jellyfish.
Stay: Spirit Bear Lodge, Klemtu, British Columbia
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, British Columbia
Stay at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, a luxurious collection of authentically-styled woodsman chalets and cabins at the junction of the Atnarko, Talchako and Bella Coola valleys and you’ll be in a great position to see grizzlies. You will also have a whole host of other adventures on your doorstep - take a helicopter to the most remote fishing spots or normally unreachable hiking points, drift along the beautiful Atnarko with an expert fishing guide or cruise a magnificent fjord.
Stay: Tweedsmuir Park Lodge, Bella Coola, British Columbia
Great Bear Lodge, British Columbia
Arrive by seaplane at Great Bear Lodge just 50 miles from Port Hardy, the lodge itself floats on a picturesque lake with only eight rooms. The area surrounding is famed for its sightings of black bears, otters, mink, martens, grey wolves and even mountain lions, as well as ducks, occasional golden eagles, kestrels, goshawks and harriers.
Stay: Great Bear Lodge, British Columbia