Bear-watching a grizzly event in British Columbia

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VANCOUVER ISLAND, British Columbia -- One might not want to encounter a grizzly bear face to face, but in a remote area of the Pacific Northwest here known as Knight Inlet, visitors can view them from a safe distance on a Knight Inlet Grizzly Bear Adventure tour at Knight Inlet Lodge.

Knight Inlet, located northwest of Vancouver, is one of the top grizzly bear viewing spots in the world, according to Dean Wyatt, owner and operator of the Knight Inlet Lodge. It is not uncommon for up to 40 bears to be within a few miles of the lodge during the peak fall season.

The lodge, situated 37 miles from the mouth of the inlet at Glendale Cove, reflects an assortment of construction styles; its guest accommodations are described as rustic with modern amenities.

According to Wyatt, all of the rooms are cedar paneled and have private bathrooms, and the guest building features lounges with wood-burning stoves.

The lodge can accommodate 30 guests in twelve rooms, but 20 to 24 persons is the average occupancy, he said.

Wyatt owns and operates the lodge with his wife. They have owned the lodge since 1996, and the lodge has been in existence since 1979, he said.

According to Wyatt, "All of our bear-viewing tours are led by experienced professional guides who are knowledgeable about bear biology and behavior."

To limit the impact on the bears, the tours accommodate only 24 guests at a time and restrict bear viewing at the channels to 10 people per trip (three trips per day).

There are five different viewing platforms, in three different areas to provide a safe and comfortable viewing base, he said.

He added, "All of our guests must go through a 45-minute orientation regarding our bear- and wildlife-viewing practices and bear safety."

The Knight Inlet Lodge offers a variety of packages and activities for guests.

This Canadian grizzly is stuffed, but at the Knight Inlet Lodge guests can view live ones. "Our feature product is the grizzly bears, but our claim to fame is the variety of wildlife that we can offer people," said Wyatt.

According to Wyatt, "Our target market is anyone interested in wildlife. Seventeen percent of our guests are from the U.S.

"The U.S. market is very important to us. It has the largest ecotourism market in the world, and this is the fastest-growing segment of the tourism market today," he added.

In addition, Wyatt said, "we are a great family destination, and we anticipate that this year we will have more than 100 children at the lodge."

Tours at the Knight Inlet Lodge are offered through Oct. 21. The packages range from two to eight nights.

All of the tour programs begin with a night at a participating hotel in the town of Campbell River, followed by a short flight to the lodge.

Stays include deluxe room accommodations, all meals and snacks at the lodge, all transportation and boats to the bear viewing stands.

Guests staying two or more nights will be offered a choice of extra tours including bird- viewing excursions.

Guests also can choose from daily grizzly bear-viewing tours, whale-watching tours, marine wildlife excursions, scenic inlet cruises, rain forest hiking trips and salmon fishing.

Additional activities offered are hiking tours, tracking tours, kayaking itineraries and a jet-boat tour to the head of Knight Inlet.

Prices start at around $500 per person, quad through Aug. 20. Rates are slightly higher during high season, which runs from Aug. 21 to Oct. 21. Single, double and triple occupancy rates are available.

The lodge offers agents a 10% commission. "I used to be a travel agent in another life, and I know how important agents can be to our success. Worldwide we do 65% of our business with travel agents," said Wyatt.

For more information or reservations, call (250) 337-1953, e-mail [email protected] or visit the Web site at www.grizzlytours.com.

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