Tag Archives: Farewell Harbour

Bears repeating

Wednesday 24 August 2022 – I am sitting in the middle of a rowdy quiz, and, remarkably, no-one has objected to the fact that I’m clearly sitting with an internet-connected computer. That I have not been mobbed or ejected is testament to the generally good nature of what is normally a very divisive entertainment. Would that the UK, or even world, politics were so genial.

We didn’t cheat, by the way.  If we had, we’d have won, and we didn’t.

Rather than cheating, I have been using my computer to process the photos Jane and I took today.  We took a lot of photos, mainly because the day was a belter.  Lots of the photos were rubbish, many of them were duplicates, but some of them were worth showing you, so please read on to see what we saw.

The plan for the day was to see grizzly bears.  To be honest, at first, I was worried that the visibility might restrict what we could see;

it’s easy to understand, looking at this, why float plane pilots are reluctant to fly in under these conditions.

We needed to leave promptly because, under the regulations governing the area, we had a two-hour slot at Knight Inlet when we were allowed to “go huntin’ bear”; but that time slot started at 9am, and we had a 55km journey to get there.  We had two guides with us – Darryl, who also drove the boat(s), and Ria, who passed the two-hour journey by giving us some interesting nuggets about the bears as we made our way. We took a fast boat for the first part of the journey and the plan was to transfer to a RIB for a more discreet and flexible approach to stalking the bears.

The journey was leavened by spotting some Orcas, so we paused a bit to watch them and to try to take some photos.  It’s lovely to see these beasts, but let me show you what it’s like to photograph them.  Those of you who have bothered to read my angst-ridden post about photography choices – I hope that’s everybody? – will know that I purchased a longish telephoto lens for the purpose of capturing wildlife images on this trip.  Here is an example of what I could see through my nice, newly-purchased lens.

We could hear the Orca and we could see it; but respect for the species says we didn’t try to approach it, so this demonstrates that getting dramatic images of whales relies hugely on luck.  We did OK in Victoria, when the whales approached us; today, less so.

Our journey took us past the Knight Inlet Lodge, one of only four places with a licence to go blundering about looking for wildlife in these parts.

and shortly after, we got to see Our First Bear. This is a photo that Jane took and, again, it gives a good idea about the protocol of approaching wild grizzlies.

The next couple of hours were spent very carefully and quietly following this bear as it worked its way along the inlet, eating the sedge grass which grows in profusion here and is an important part of the bears’ diet.  We were not alone.

Eventually with Ria and Darryl jumping into the water and pulling our RIB along, we got a really close view of this bear.

(the above, by the way, taken on my mobile phone, which, though not perfect, shows how good they are these days).

There’s a good information-sharing ethos among the various lodges that work these waters, and so we got an alert that a female was visible a little further back in the inlet, with one of her young – not a cub, but, in bear terms, a teenager.  So we gently retraced our steps and saw the two of them apparently companionably wandering along munching sedge,

Elated with a very successful morning of bear spotting, we left the inlet and a lunch break, when it became clear that the weather was improving.

We had another allocated slot so headed back into the inlet, when a higher tide made it possible to seek out a female and two cubs which we heard over the radio were around.  And they were there, but it was difficult to catch sight of them

so I passed the time taking photos of the increasingly lovely view back the way we’d come.

Eventually, common sense prevailed and we decided to head homewards and got back to the Big Boat for the journey home.  The clear conditions made it easy to see where we made the transition from river water to glacial meltwater.

(the above included simply because of the single puff in an otherwise cloudless sky).

We (well, they; my eyesight isn’t up to this, these days) spotted more Orcas; there were several active, and some even breached, apparently; sadly, I didn’t see this and, once again they were largely distant.

We stopped for a tea break near one of the other lodges that operate hereabouts. The weather by the stage was lovely, so I insisted on a team photo.

(Darryl is in the ln light green top; Ria is on the right.)

We had the excitement of a float plane arrival at the lodge

and we discovered that the disused site nearby was once (in the good ol’ logging days) a pub and brothel.

We then headed back to Farewell Harbour Lodge, past a couple of white sand beaches created from the crushed remains of shellfish and the site of a couple of First Nation homesteads

and some pictograms which date from the mid 18th century, as First Nation Indians made drawings of their first encounters with European culture, using salmon egg oil and red ochre for the red colouring in painting galleons and horse carts.

Shortly thereafter, we were back and it was Time For The Bar, I Think, but not before I’d whizzed up my drone to take another shot or two of the lodge.


We had another delicious evening meal and were joined by a delightful Danish couple, Philina and Søren. who, like us, had had a great day watching the local wildlife .  Then it was time for The Quiz, which was riotous fun even though we didn’t win, and now I sit alone in the lounge writing about the great day we’ve had because every other bugger has gone to bed in preparation for another adventure tomorrow.  The plan as it stands is for us to take a short hike to a waterfall, where we should see salmon and we might see bear.  We’re hoping for another exciting day; come back and find out how it went, won’t you?

Farewell to Victoria – Victoria to Farewell

Tuesday 23 August 2022 – For reasons which will become clear, this will be a fairly brief post, somewhat hastily cobbled together. I hope you enjoy the photos, though.

The day started well, in that we were up promptly, breakfasted, checked out of the hotel and in for our private charter flight, a small float plane, from Victoria to the Farewell Harbour Lodge. For a while, though, it all fell apart. The lass behind the check-in desk at Harbour Air told us that there would be a delay. It wasn’t quite clear why for a while, but eventually we understood the situation. Cloud and fog made flying in to Farewell Harbour too dangerous in the view of the Harbour Air despatcher, who was therefore unwilling to send a plane to us in Victoria unless the situation at the far end cleared. We were advised to wait and see whether the weather and the forecast changed. New forecasts came in every hour, and each one indicated that visibility would still be a problem.

Naturally, we started pondering alternatives, but the raw truth is that we needed to get somewhere over 500km away to an island in the Johnstone Strait, so flagging down a cab or seeking a bus ride wasn’t really an option. Even driving to the nearest place on Vancouver Island whence we could catch a water taxi looked too difficult.

Despite the best efforts of BT, whose circuitry detected a crisis and therefore implemented a cap on Jane’s phone, we managed to contact Discover Holidays, who are looking after us whilst we’re in Canada. Fortunately, Jane got through to a lady called Sarah, who had worked on developing our itinerary with the heroic Brendan at NATS, so we didn’t have to waste time explaining the problem to her. The idea of a driver was mooted, but then all of a sudden, a plan came into being which was to fly us as near to Farewell Harbour as the weather allowed (e.g. Campbell River) and take a water taxi from there. So we got our plane after all.

We climbed in, buckled up and the pilot taxied out past the air traffic control tower

(because Victoria Harbour is unique in Canada because it actually has a runway marked in the harbour), and off we went. Conditions were pretty clear, so here are some of the photos we managed to garner as we went:

Victoria Harbour, with the breakwater we walked around yesterday at the top of the picture;

Butchart Gardens;

evidence of some fairly drastic logging;

several views showing what a big slab of land Vancouver Island is;

a couple of arty attempts on my part;

a photo by Jane of Campbell River (meaning – yippee! – it had cleared and we were carrying on all the way to our proper destination);

coming down towards our landing and skimming along just below the clouds; and finally

arrival at Farewell Harbour Lodge, where we found out a couple of interesting nuggets. Firstly, the pilot of our plane (a De Havilland Beaver – I was going to call this post “Nice Beaver” but Jane gave me One Of Her Looks) was named, appropriately, Dakota; and secondly, Tim, the proprietor of the lodge, could take the credit for us arriving, as it was his suggestion that we fly as far as the weather allowed, and he was pretty sure it would clear, as indeed it did.

It was, thus, with considerable relief that we arrived at the lodge (which looks great and seems very well-organised)

only some five hours late and just in time to get a beer in as Tim gave us the indoctrination spiel. A key fact that emerged from this is that tomorrow will be an early start, hence my brevity. I am being brief. Yes, I am.

We actually peered round the back of our cabin and found where they park the boats, as well as this scene

which is documentary proof that you can indeed have your kayak and heat it. Thank you. Thank you for listening to my joke.

A delicious dinner was at 7, after which we got a very interesting talk on humpback whales from a lady called Vicky, and so it’s now quite late – at least relative to the 0530 alarm we’ll need if we are to join in tomorrow’s excursion to seek grizzly bears and other fauna. So I hope you’ll excuse me whilst I get to bed to try to get some sleep. Come back tomorrow and find out if we made it.