About People, Water, Land

The onset of spring and summer brings Black Bears and Grizzly Bears down from the coastal mountains to valley floors in their never-ending quest for food. For millennia they have come to Orford Bay in Bute Inlet and the traditional home of the χʷomaɬkʷu (Homalco) First Peoples. The water and land of Bute Inlet provided the Homalco with transportation, food, shelter, medicine and more. Legends were born here and Homalco stories became interwoven with characters representing the creatures with whom they shared the earth and sea. Join us to uncover the stories of the bears, the ǰɛnxʷ (salmon), the χʷomaɬkʷu people and much more. You may even see χawgəs (the Grizzy Bear) or Mexaɬ (Black Bear) while exploring the Orford estuary.

This exclusive, small group tour (maximum 12 people per day) begins by meeting your First Nation guide at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. From there you’ll travel aboard a comfortable, heated boat through the Salish Sea, while watching for its residents that include humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles and other seabirds. During the 2-hour journey through spectacular West Coast landscape the guide will share stories about culturally significant sites such as Aupe (New Church House) and Hole-in-the-Wall.

Your arrival in Orford Bay marks the beginning of the next part of the adventure that includes an interpretive walk and exploring the estuary by boat. The history of Orford as a traditional winter gathering place by Homalco will come alive and include discussions of how the Orford Salmon Enhancement Hatchery has contributed to increasing the population of native fish species in the rivers.

Upon arrival in Orford the tour continues toward the estuary. Guides will point out bear signs such as scratching trees and day beds. You will also be taken on an ethnobotany journey that explores how local plants were used traditionally to create medicines, clothing and shelter. Climb the viewing platform known as the Estuary Tower to search for wildlife, including visiting bears who come down to feed.

Back out in Orford Bay you’ll board a zodiac-style boat to explore the estuary for a closer look from the water. Guides will search for black bears, grizzly bears, Roosevelt elk, otters, beavers and more. Glide past ancient pictographs high on the rock walls and discuss the net pens that hold brood stock for the salmon hatchery.

The journey back to Campbell River continues the search for whales and marine wildlife, while providing inspiring vistas from which to reflect on your adventure.

 

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Tour Details

  • 7-8 hour tour with APPROXIMATE times of: 2 hours by covered boat in each direction to/from Orford Bay; 2 hours of interpretive walking on flat ground; 1 hour exploring in a zodiac-style boat
  • Guests must be physically fit enough to walk 2-3 km
  • Heated and covered boat on return journey from Campbell River to Orford Bay
  • Only 12 guests maximum per day
  • 8:15 am departure
  • Lunch & refreshments provided
  • Washroom facilities available on the boat
  • Minimum age: 12 years old
  • Cancel up to 14 days prior to tour date for full refund. Fees apply with less than 14 days notice.
  • All times and tour components subject to change based on safety considerations

What to Bring

  • Durable shoes
  • Warm layered clothing and rain gear
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Curiousity

An Amazing Experience

What an amazing experience and all credit to the Homalco First Nation and their outstanding stewardship of this area and its natural resources. Encounters were plentiful and truly spectacular.

Jonathan M TripAdvisor.com

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What People Are Saying On TripAdvisor

An Amazing Experience

What an amazing experience and all credit to the Homalco First Nation and their outstanding stewardship of this area and its natural resources. Encounters were plentiful and truly spectacular.

Jonathan M TripAdvisor.com

An Experience I Won't Forget

Everything about this tour seriously surpassed expectations. The scenery of the location where you visit is something on its own. It's worth going just for that. It is an experience I won't ever forget. Thank-you so much for allowing us a glimpse into your incredible world!

Sophie C TripAdvisor.com

Trip of a Lifetime

This is the trip of a lifetime. Along the way we saw humpback whales, seals, sealions, bald eagles and grizzly bears! The tour was fantastic, all of the tour leaders were great and extremely knowledgable.

Diane S TripAdvisor.com

Conservation Fee

A $14 per guest Conservation Fee will be applied during the booking process. The conservation fee supports the Orford fish hatchery in rebuilding native wild salmon populations to enhance healthy bear habitat, while also protecting the indigenous roots, culture and food source of the Homalco First Nation.