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Rare wildlife encounters in British Columbia


Rare wildlife encounters in British Columbia

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Describing British Colombia’s astounding wildlife, you’d think we were telling tall tales and embellished lies, but then, that’s the thing about Canada; it reads like fiction but it’s far from fictional. Read on, there will be no porkies told here…

Jennie, Jennie, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
If Willy Wonka swapped chocolate for flowers, he’d have run Butchart Gardens. Why’s that, you ask? As Canada’s premier (and no doubt, prettiest) botanical gardens, the Butchart blooms are inspiring; a magical wonderland of colour, diversity, intoxicating scents and secret nooks of discovery. Little wonder then, that the garden’s history also reads like a Roald Dahl novel.

Over one-hundred years ago, Robert Pim Butchart – and leading pioneer in North America’s cement history - built himself a cement plant and dug out a lifetime of profit. But his wife, Jennie Butchart, found the result of his work (a gigantic and exhausted quarry) something of an eyesore. Her solution was to start crafting a beautiful garden inside. It all started with one seed and as the decades past, grew into what is now one of the world’s most popular show gardens.

Very much a family affair, various Butcharts have contributed to the garden’s universal success. Today it stands as a formidable year-round tourist attraction. With summer firework displays, high tea, outdoor concerts and at Christmas, a crowd-pulling medley of enchanting illuminations. With sunken gardens, Japanese themed sectors and over one-million bedding plants in over 900 varieties, there’s never a bad month to visit.

Goldilocks and the 50 Grizzly bears
From Willy Wonka, to the tale of Goldilocks and big brown bears who like to eat porridge. Actually, writer Robert Southey went way off track with that one; bears like to feed on sedge grasses, mussels, barnacles and of course, super fresh salmon. All of which are found in abundance along the Glendale shoreline in Knight Inlet, British Columbia.

If you’re after your own Goldilocks’ experience, Knight Inlet Lodge banks the Glendale Cove and is widely regarded as Canada’s foremost destination for viewing a grizzly or two….or forty and more. It’s not uncommon to view up to fifty bears within a 10km radius of the lodge. Now that’s a lot of bear.

Set amidst remote snow-capped mountainside and Canada’s rugged Pacific Northwest coastline, optimum grizzly-viewing months fall between spring and autumn, bearing in mind they love a good nap come winter (pun very much intended). Post-hibernation, you’re likely spot both brown and black bears, as they emerge from their slumber and descend on the estuary to feed on a new spring menu. Come autumn, they can’t resist the fresh salmon, hell-bent on fattening themselves up for the impending big-sleep, it’s quite a sight; as colossal as they are, bears have quite the knack for elegant dining.

Whale, whale, what have we got here?
Make like Captain Ahab and go in search of Moby Dick.

Moby was actually a sperm whale, but join a three hour whale watching tour with Orca Spirit Adventures and you have a good chance of spotting an entire clan of killer whales, which are just as captivating.  

It’s un-proven – but certainly suspected – that orcas are the most extroverted of the species, and they like nothing more than to impress guests with an extravagant water show. Of course, it’s never a guarantee, at other times they can be quite elusive, such is the nature of a stage star! 

Tours run daily from April through to October, with a fleet of ​boats fully kitted out with whale-watching mod-cons such as elevated viewing platforms, 360 degree lookouts and hydrophones (underwater microphone) to hear the commotion from the ocean. Orcas are a chatty bunch, which will contrast nicely with the acoustics on-board (or lack of) - once whales breach, visitors tend to shush to utter silence. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences tend to do that.

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