Great Bear Rainforest - British Columbia
We had only been back in the UK for a few days when I received a call from Nick Joynes, Wildlife Worldwide, telling me about a cancellation that they had just received, and he thought of me!!
“A crazy idea”, he said, “but we thought you might like a trip to Canada to photograph Grizzly Bears with Mark Carwardine.” “Sounds interesting”, I said. “The only trouble is”, he said, “we leave in three weeks.”
It was crazy, but hey, these opportunities don’t crop up every day. (Norma is now convinced that I have lost it completely)
So off we flew to Vancouver, we then took a small plane to Campbell River on Vancouver Island and then on a smaller float plane to River Inlet Lodge, deep in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Colombia. The weather was rather inclement with a cloud base of probably less than a thousand feet which meant that we could not fly over the mountains to Glendale Cove, so we flew very low along channels between the mountains, with the wing tips appearing to be perilously close to the trees lining the valleys. Down below we could see Grizzly Bears fishing in the shallow waters. A taste of what was to come.
Our base for the next week was a floating lodge at the entrance to Glendale Cove. The lodge has no immediate access to dry land so every time we ventured out we had to be ferried across the sound by boat.
Our first excursion, only a couple of hours after arrival, was a gentle cruise up river from the lodge. Apart from a wooden viewing platform precariously constructed in a tree overhanging the water, there was no indication that man had ever been here. Above us in the trees were Bald Eagles and Seals were fishing in the crystal clear water below. Within minutes a Brown Bear appeared from the woodland and wandered along the water’s edge, completely unconcerned over our presence. This set the tone for the next week.
A boat trip out towards the Pacific ocean put us close to Humpback Whales and Stellar Sea Lions. These animals were here because of the abundance of fish in the ocean and diving sea birds would indicate the possibility of observing lunge feeding by the Humpback Whales. An impressive spectacle to say the least.
Every day we encountered such a variety of wildlife and I was constantly aware of how relaxed every animal was. We were in their environment but we were not perceived as a threat. The bear’s only concern was catching enough Salmon to build up their reserves for the long winter ahead. The fish were in the rivers in huge numbers and the bears and eagles had no difficulty in catching them.
From a photographer’s perspective, the viewing platforms were a disappointment as they were located quite a height above the river, meaning we were always looking down on the bears with the result that eye level shots were not possible, except when viewing from a dory, but then we were usually quite a distance from the animals and they were partially concealed by the long grass.
Because we were surrounded by tall and overhanging trees, the light levels at river level were relatively low meaning fast shutter speeds were not possible without pushing the ISO very high and introducing noise into the image. Photographers are never satisfied are we !! However, I was quite satisfied with the image of a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle engaged in aerial combat over a partially consumed salmon. You don't see that inside the M25.
Our trip was superbly organised by Chris Breen and his team from Wildlife Worldwide and the local guides from the Lodge were excellent and freely shared their vast knowledge of the wildlife and the environment. The lodge is not only a base for wildlife tourism but also for research into the Grizzly Bear and conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest. We are pushing the boundaries of human encroachment in so many areas around the world that it is vital that we remain aware of the need to conserve as much of the planet as possible. Without an attempt to maintain the balance to allow wildlife to prosper, our world is doomed.
The week flew by, my back held up and we were soon on our way back to the UK with a few thousand images to sort through. Happy days !
“Can we have a nice relaxing holiday now ?” I hear Norma ask. “Well, possibly” I say (probably not!)
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