Our Top Indigenous Wildlife-viewing Picks for Fall
As the autumn rain and chill set in, all creatures prepare to decrease activity for the winter months. The berries are picked or wither on the vine. Mushrooms are ready to harvest and most salmon migrate to sea. Fall salmon migration attracts wildlife looking for an end-of-season feed and is a fantastic time for wildlife viewing on the west coast of British Columbia.
The following wildlife and cultural experiences have often been described by visitors as life-changing – a combination of direct experience with the land and the company of the traditional knowledge keepers and stewards of the land:
From June to October, Sea Wolf Adventures combines an immersive cultural experience with world-class wildlife viewing opportunities in the traditional territory of Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations (Vancouver Island North). You will enjoy a continental breakfast aboard the Sea Wolf, which departs from both Port McNeill and Alert Bay to make the one hour and 45 minute journey into X̱a̱ḵwika̱n (Thompson Sound) or Hada (Bond Sound). First Nations guides share stories and interpret the local landscape en route while you wait at a respectful distance for your chance to see these great bears fishing and foraging in their natural habitat.
Sidney is strategically located in the middle of resident orca feeding grounds. Sidney Whale Watching boasts a 95% sighting rate throughout the year and offers a guarantee: if you do not see a whale, you are welcome to join another tour free of charge, without expiration. They offer free airport and ferry pick up and are equipped with hydrophones so you can hear the whales’ thwops and songs. Sidney Whale Watching donates 1% of sales to support the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Raincoast Conservation Foundation and charges a two-dollar conservation fee on all trips to support whale conservation in the Salish Sea.
Spirit Bear Lodge is owned and operated by Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation and located in the fishing village of Klemtu. Magic strands of moss drape ancient red cedars and Sitka spruce in the area known as the Great Bear Rainforest, the world’s largest temperate rainforest which follows BC’s coastline from Vancouver Island to the Alaskan Panhandle. Travel by air, boat and foot is a small price to pay for your best chance of seeing the culturally famous, and now commonly famed, moskgm’ol: a cream-coloured black bear. Locally, the bear is raven’s reminder of a time when the land was covered with snow and ice and a call to relish the green and plentiful rainforest.
Garry Henkel, owner/operator of Aboriginal Journeys knows that this is the best time of year for viewing grizzlies. From August 20 to October 15, Aboriginal Journeys specializes in grizzly bear tours that leave from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. You’ll be safe from the rain in a high-speed, covered vessel on your two-hour ride to Toba Inlet–a fjord located on the coastal mainland. You will be met by your guides from Klahoose First Nation and may also see humpbacks, which have returned to the area in last six years and orcas who come for the returning salmon.
Yahguudang is Haida style–it is respect for all living things. Located in Haida Gwaii, Haida Style Expeditions is a Haida-owned and -operated cultural adventure and fishing expeditions company eager to share Haida culture, stories, and history. K’uuna and Windy Bay day tours close the scheduled tour season and wrap up in late September. Before the rain turns sideways, visit the Eagle and Raven Wolf village of T’aanuu Llnagaay (Tanu) and Hlk’yah G̱awG̱a (Windy Bay) or the village of Ḵ’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans). Take a glimpse into Haida heritage, cruise for taan (bear) and whales, and visit sea lion rookeries.