Did you know you can go on an epic wildlife experience to see grizzly bears from Vancouver Island? We’ve wanted to take a fall vacation to see the grizzlies hunt for salmon for a long time. However, going all the way up to Alaska or to other go-to grizzly destinations in North America can get pricey. Luckily, we stumbled upon an amazing grizzly bear expedition tour that leaves from Campbell River on Vancouver Island in Canada.
Eagle Eye Adventures not only gives you a great chance to see local wildlife, but the team makes sure to provide an overall lovely day of exploring a remote part of British Columbia. This amazing tour is the perfect addition to an early autumn visit to the western coast of Canada. It is only about three hours north of Victoria and well worth the detour!
Here’s a summary of our wonderful tour with Eagle Eye Adventures into Toba Inlet to see grizzly bears …
Going on a Fall Grizzly Bear Viewing Tour in British Columbia
Since we were going on our tour in mid-October, at the very end of the grizzly bear viewing season, we knew we may not have the best luck for seeing bears. However, the area looked stunning so we decided to hope for the best and just go for it.
First Impressions of the Eagle Eye Adventures Grizzly Expedition
Our eight-hour Grizzly Bear Expedition with Eagle Eye Adventures left just as the sun was rising above the marina in Campbell River. We were bundled up and ready for a cold, windy, and rainy day. The team had been watching the wind the day prior to make sure it was safe to go out. But, luckily, the weather cooperated just enough and we were happy to know our two-hour boat ride out to remote Toba Inlet was in a covered vessel!
While the two-hour boat ride over to Toba Inlet on mainland Canada was surprisingly not very choppy due to going an alternate route, it rained almost the entire time. However, we did have a short break in the rain and were fortunate to stumble upon some humpback whales around that same time! We braved the cold air in the open area at the back of the boat for a few minutes before continuing on.
As we cruised out in the cozy little speed boat, Captain Jos shared interesting facts about the area and the grizzly bears we all hoped to see. He had hand-drew some amazing diagrams for the tour to help give a visual. Did you know grizzly bears’ claws are actually connected up to the iconic hump in their back? We had no idea! It was really nice to hear some unique information about the bears and not just a typical monologue that’s been said a thousand times. We also appreciated that they gave us some quiet time initially while we were all still waking up.
It was also great to be on a small tour – the boat only fit 12 guests max! Although there wasn’t much room to wander, the small speed boat made for a smoother and faster ride as well. There was even a small bathroom and an outdoor viewing area (which was lovely once the rain let up!).
Grizzly Bear Viewing with a First Nations Guide
Since the actual bear viewing part of the tour takes place on Klahoose First Nations land, we got a new guide after docking in Toba Inlet. However, the Eagle Eye Adventures team came along and helped to make sure the short walks to the viewing platforms were safe. After a quick bathroom break (in very clean porta potties) and a little snack of homemade muffins, we piled into a little bus to go look for bears on the Toba River!
Our wonderful First Nations guide took us on a short drive over to the viewing platform they tend to have the most luck at. On the way, we saw a bear walking through the dense forest – yay, a good sign! While this viewing area facing the river is absolutely stunning (especially with moody clouds on the mountains!), we didn’t see any bears fishing for salmon at this first stop. So, after about twenty minutes, we moved on to a platform where we were invited to join another group that had spotted a big momma bear with an adorable, goofy baby.
It was a little intimidating to be walking toward a small wooden viewing platform that had a big grizzly bear walking in the river just beyond it. But the guides made us feel very safe! And seeing that little baby frolicking around, trying to catch salmon as big as him, was a travel highlight we’ll forever cherish.
I’ve always wanted to see grizzly bears in the wild but didn’t want to just stumble upon them on the trail. This tour allowed us to view these majestic creatures in a safe and comfortable way that let me relax and enjoy it! I felt like the team was really looking out for us and I trusted their instincts when it came to the bears.
Momma and baby moved on after 15 minutes or so when a big male grizzly appeared further down the river. Apparently, it’s common for males to kill the babies so that the females will need to mate again. Our guide said this particular male was older and unlikely to be aggressive, but momma wanted to be safe! We watched them saunter off up the river and into the forest before we moved on to the next platform.
For another couple of hours, our First Nations guide took us to about four other blinds for more Chances to see grizzlies. Although we didn’t see any more, we saw multiple eagles and the clear river water made it possible to see the salmon swimming upstream.
We didn’t have the budget to bring along a giant telescopic lens, but Jos and Penny were both happy to share their great photos with us! (You can see more shots from the team on their Facebook and Instagram!) However, we did get an inexpensive monocular to get a closer look and would recommend bringing that or binoculars along, especially for spotting birds!
Waterfalls & Wildlife Encounters on the Water
Eventually, we got back on the boat expecting another rainy ride back. To our surprise, the weather cleared up a bit and we got to see even more wildlife. We spotted orcas, seal lions, and even a little black bear strolling along the coast!
Between sightings, we all sipped on hot coffee or tea and enjoyed the lovingly-made lunch the Eagle Eye team had brought along. I even had a specially made salad as the vegetarian option. They also were able to accommodate a gluten-free guest.
While the sightings were amazing, the BEST part of the boat tour was getting a very up-close view of one of the epic waterfalls streaming down the mountainside into the channel. Our fun captain even took the front of the boat into the waterfall. What a blast!
This tour was fantastic for so many reasons and we’ll never forget our grizzly encounter. We highly recommend Eagle Eye Adventures and look forward to checking out more of their tours in the future!
About Eagle Eye Adventures & Other Tours Available
Jos and Rentia Krynen founded Eagle Eye Adventures in 2000 to share their passion for the wildlife in this area with others. We were fortunate to have Jos as our captain and tour guide for our grizzly expedition. He is a marine biologist and avid photographer who is extremely passionate about sharing his beautiful chosen home with others. Of course, this means Jos has a ton of great information to share about the local wildlife and he was always happy to answer any random question our group came up with!
The rest of the team is extremely passionate as well and we enjoyed having another team member, Penny, along for our tour. She is also an avid photographer and passionate wildlife enthusiast who actually moved to Campbell River after falling in love with the area. It is always so inspiring to meet people who love their home so much!
We also love that Eagle Eye Adventures works with the local First Nations people to offer an opportunity to see grizzly bears on the Toba River. They seem to have a great relationship and work really well together to provide a lovely tour experience.
Eagle Eye Adventures also offers multiple other wildlife tours! Jos shared that in 2024, they are planning to offer a variety of tours focused on seeing eagles, puffins, and sea otters, in addition to their spring bear and waterfall tour. Tours start back up in May and you can learn more and book your tour on their website.
(Special thanks to Eagle Eye Adventures for providing us with a discounted rate for our tour. As always, all opinions are our own!)
Other Things to Do in Campbell River
Since Victoria and Tofino are usually the go-to destinations on Vancouver Island, you may be wondering what else there is to do before and after your tour in Campbell River. Luckily, this area is beautiful and has additional outdoor activities to enjoy! Plus, there is a great little brewpub and other dining options in town in addition to multiple grocery stores to stock up on snacks and other road trip must-haves.
We spent an extra day exploring Campbell River after our full-day tour with Eagle Eye Adventures and are so glad we did! Although we got soaked on our multiple walks around the area, there are two places we think you shouldn’t miss.
Quinsam River Hatchery
Want the chance to see more bears? One of the top places to go to see the local black bears in Campbell River is the Quinsam River Hatchery since they come to try to catch the salmon at the river below. This is also a popular spot for fishing and it has a trail along the river. Just be aware that you will see (and smell!) a lot of dead fish along the trail since some fish die trying to swim upstream and some carcasses are left by the bears.
We didn’t see any bears while we were there, but it was a nice walk and an interesting place (despite the strong stench!).
Elk Falls Provincial Park & Suspension Bridge
Not far from town is a beautiful short hike to Elk Falls which features a suspension bridge. We loved exploring this area and were very impressed by the powerful waterfall. It was especially beautiful with the fall colors brightening up the moody, rainy vibe.
There were notes on the trail that a cougar had been sighted in this area recently, but the only wildlife encounter we had was with a curious deer – luckily! This is such a stunning area and should definitely make your must-see list as you explore before or after your tour in Campbell River.
We absolutely loved our time in Campbell River – especially on our Grizzly Expedition – and highly recommend a visit. Even in the rain, we had a wonderful time and loved the slower pace, fall colors, and fewer tourists in autumn!
Are you headed to Vancouver Island? See our other top recommendations for a lovely autumn visit to this stunning area of Canada!