An Aboriginal Journey

We booked our Grizzly tour with Aboriginal Journeys, a First Nation owned company. They bring you to Toba Inlet where it will be just your group and the guides. It was foggy, rainy, and quite beautiful. Our journey to mainland British Columbia and First Nation Lands was ethereal. The wild and rugged beauty of BC keeps us coming back, the rawness of nature and you’ll know who is in command – her majesty, Mother Earth.

Pretty cool, look at Gary’s floating office.

Yeah! First ones this year to represent New York State and NYC on the map! They get customers from all over, Netherlands and Germany are the majority of visitors.

We will start this post by giving a moment of silence to pay our respects to Ruth Henkel, Gary’s beloved wife who passed away 12 years ago. This is how Gary like’s to start his tours so we’ll start our post this way.

Gary, our guide, explained how to sight the tides, dark water is riptide, and other things water related; he is also a commercial fisherman, we enjoyed hearing his stories on the water. He was going to cruise us thorough Desolation Sound but the water was rough that way so he took another route to Toba Inlet. Gary helped set up the grizzly bear viewing tours in the region. He helped establish the tours in Bute Inlet but doesn’t like how the bears have become somewhat domesticated, all the tours go there except for his, and he calls Bute, “Disney World.”

Gary believes in conservation and respect for nature. A bug was flying inside the boat and he tried to scoop it out an open window.

Humpback whale.

Look at the fog.


British Columbia has the highest ocean currents in the world and they get whirlpools. Lucky for us we had Gary to navigate the waters, he can probably do it in his sleep, he grew up on these waters and will take his grandkids on these same waters. I have a fear of water I talk about from time to time in my posts. I was very nervous sitting in a boat, in the rain, listening to Gary’s commercial fishing stories and all the times he almost died; a giant hook slammed him in the face when the line broke, he has a metal plate in his jaw. I knew I wouldn’t die, it’s my fear making me paranoid (have a mild anxiety disorder), and told myself over and over again, “Trust your guide, he knows what he’s doing, trust the universe that everything will be ok.” And everything was ok. I need mental pep talks from time to time especially when I’m around things that I’m not comfortable with (water in this case).

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a traditional Welcome by Klahoose First Nations, Kenny and Norm, our guides; this was an unexpected surprise.

Norm on the left and Kenny on the right. Norm is wearing traditional Klahoose clothing. The hat is made of cedar bark. Click here for brief info about Klahoose First Nation.

This is an active commercial logging site. The tribe will be going on a hiatus for 2 years since they went over their quota logging,they want to be responsible and respectful to the environment. It was interesting learning about their business and culture. It’d be really cool if they opened a small inn there (we’d love to come back and stay if we had the option). Before we set out in search of grizzlies, we cleaned up in their floating logging hotel. See, add a guest hotel, please?

Bear viewing platform in the distance.

We were lucky we got to see three grizzlies. It was raining and when it rains the river swells. When the river swells, the grizzlies prefer to stay on land and wait for the water to recede, then they’ll go fishing again. The bear platforms were enclosed and sheltered from the rain but our furry friends wanted us to stand on the open bridge and watch them. We felt 100% safe the whole time, just listen to your guide and don’t do anything like run away (for wildlife precautions click here), that’s how the animals and humans get hurt (by not respecting nature and not knowing what to do). Our guides kept an eye on things all the time.

Salmon flopping around like in the nature videos.

Nature in all her beauty and her wild children.

This is a small guy or big girl, we couldn’t tell. Male (boar) grizzlies can grow up to 600 kilos(1200-1400 pounds) and females (sow) can be 280 kilos (600 pounds). Females become sexually mature at 6 years old and they can have up to one to four cubs; it doesn’t mean all cubs have the same Dad. Alpha males will kill other males, often times they will kill cubs that don’t smell like them. A female grizzly will fight to death for her cubs, they even chase off males. Gary thinks female grizzlies are tougher than male.

Grizzlies come in assorted colors not just brown, they can be dark like almost black, blond, two tone, brown, there are many variations in color.

It’s so cool seeing the pads of our bear friend’s feet.

The bear’s nose got cut off but look at this cute fat butt and the pads of it’s feet.

It was very relaxing standing, watching the grizzly fish. It did get a little gruesome when the bear ripped off the skin and the body started flopping around again; nature has a vicious cycle for some.

A native on our ferry ride from Victoria to Seattle told us that the grizzlies favorite part is the skin. That probably answers why we saw a lot of skinless fish.

Not sure what’s shooting out of the salmon. Eggs? What do you think? Any ideas?

You can see blood by the grizzly’s feet.

So much beauty, not a sound except the rain falling and the river rushing.

We have a real treat in the next post.


18 thoughts on “An Aboriginal Journey

    1. Very great tour, we couldn’t have been more pleased. We really enjoyed meeting the loggers too. It’s not everyday I meet people who do that sort of work and there’s something about it that just feels like ‘good honest hard work.’ I’m not bashing any jobs but it’s hard to describe. Seeing the fishing boats out for the commercial fishing season, it’s was nice to see a different type of living. And all the folks we met with these jobs were conservationists too (I didn’t expect that). I’m realizing that meeting more people who are at ease with nature makes me more comfy with nature. Seeing their confidence makes me try a little harder to get out of my city comfort zone.

      Banff next. I’m excited and slightly scared. Banff is going to be the harshest winter we’ve experienced. We loaded up on thermals and very warm quick dry clothing.

    1. Thank You! It was a wonderful trip. Very tiring because we were moving around Vancouver Island a lot. Campbell River was the most affordable route to see grizzlies. We were so excited 🙂

  1. Andrea, I love the area you were in. It has been many years since I was there…probably 1988 or 1989 but I loved it….I was at Alert a Haida village.
    I discovered a wonderful Canadian writer and artist Emily Carr. And I discovered she was at Alert Bay 100 years before I was. You would love her books and I’m sure her paintings too.
    So glad you took your tour with First Nations People.
    When we went we had a “Sail with the Whales” on a 40 foot teak sailboat with 42 foot killer whales (orcas)! Love the pictures and videos.

    1. We checked out the Emily Carr House outside grounds but not inside. It was closed for the season. Can’t remember where I learned about her but probably when I was searching for ‘off the beaten path’ Victoria. Have to look more into her. What little I saw I liked 🙂

      You BC adventure sounds amazing! I want to find a First Nation tour that immerses us in their culture. We still have to see the killer whales. We see humpbacks each time which is nice since the locals tell us they used to be very very rare. Orcas don’t seem to like us yet.

    1. Maybe. We’d love to see Loch Ness or maybe Big Foot. The grizzlies were satisfying enough. We could have stood in the rain all day just to watch them. The 3 hours we had wasn’t long enough. So happy we had rain gear. Some people on the tour were wearing jeans and were soaked.

    1. I’m so behind. Today I’ve been editing the other bear post 🙂 They are so cute!!! I just want to spend all our vacations staring at grizzlies! Maybe half of our vacations, lots of other animals friends in the world to observe too.

  2. I thought I hadn’t been around to see you but I see that I have,that’s why you can’t to to close to the masked man,be
    cause of his dust,that’s right you in the back sit down or this bus can’t move

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