Our first ever bear sighting was purely by chance in the Canadian Rockies, we were on the Bow Valley Parkway just as the sun was rising, making a head start on a long day of driving. I spotted a black blob at the side of the road and excitedly stumbled on my words as I pointed saying “b...b...b...bear”! We viewed it from our rental car and took some pictures through the open window as it grazed on the roadside grass... it was a black bear and the early morning lighting was poor which resulted in very grainy pictures, but these pictures would be the pride of our trip. Seeing this little black bear in the wild was the beginning of a passion for these wonderful creatures.
Our next 'chance' viewing was in Yosemite National Park. It was coming up to dusk as we drove up towards the viewpoint overlooking the half-dome rock formation. We noticed some students walking up the road pointing into the trees so we quickly grabbed our camera. It was a beautiful cinnamon black bear. From the safety of the car, we watched it walk along parallel to us within the trees, and as we moved away, it crossed the road behind us.
Another 'chance' viewing was during Alan's first visit to Yellowstone National Park. We were driving around looking at the main Yellowstone highlights and I took him to see the petrified tree... looking at the tree was soon forgotten when we saw a small group of people looking through scopes. They were kind enough to allow us to look through one of them and we were happy to see a small black bear on the grass bank.
I have classed our first three bear encounters as 'chance' viewings. I have given them this classification as we weren't actively looking for bears, we basically happened upon them. Our remaining viewings, with the exception of the Indian Sloth bears and our Canadian 'hiking bear', were not purely by 'chance' viewings.
In 2006, we went on our first 'bear viewing adventure'. Having decided to no longer leave it to chance, Alan organised an amazing three bear adventure, hoping to see Brown, Black and Polar bears on the same trip. We weren't disappointed, we had our first ever Brown bear viewing in Knight Inlet on the Canadian coast. These Brown bears are what American's call Grizzly bears and we spent a few days on platforms watching them catch salmon. In the same location, I also saw a Black bear sow with her cub eating shellfish. Finally, we moved onto to Churchill and, even though it was a little bit early in the season, we were lucky enough to see three polar bears!
In 2007, we joined the Yellowstone Association's Wolf and Bear Discovery programme and learnt where and when to look for bears in Yellowstone National Park, within that trip we managed to view 12 bears.
We have made frequent return visits to Yellowstone National Park and it hasn't failed us yet! We visited again in 2008, 2011 and 2012, experiencing another 35 separate bear viewings. These sightings included individual black bears and sows with very young cubs and yearlings, also grizzly brown bears, large males and sows with yearling cubs!
In September 2008 we visited Katmai National Park in Alaska, twice! The first visit was to see Brown Bears on the coast and the second was to see the famous Brooks Falls bears. Where we had our closest ever brown bear encounters without the protection of platforms.
In March 2009 we went out to India to see Tigers and were amazed to see Sloth bears in Kanha National Park and Panna Tiger Reserve. I was so amazed that I forgot to press record on the video camera when we saw the first and I didn't fair much better with the second one running across the road either!!!
In August/September 2011, we returned to the region of our first ever bear sighting, the Canadian Rockies. During this trip we were hoping to get some better Black bear photos and we weren't disappointed! We joined Michael Allen on a guided viewing of the Black bears of Whistler ski slopes and saw five bears even though the berry season was very poor. We also went on a River Safari in the town of Blue River and saw another five bears. We finished the trip with a chance viewing on one of our hikes in Jasper, I don't mind admitting it was probably the scariest bear viewing experience I have ever had, we were on foot and after spotting the bear we lost sight of it and we couldn't tell where it had gone!!
In early summer 2013 we visited Great Smoky Mountain National Park, with very low expectations of seeing a bear. However, getting up at the crack of dawn and being first to drive around the Cades Cove Loop Road rewarded us with seeing a black bear with her three cubs! Another sucessful viewing to add to our list.
In September 2013 we visited the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest on the British Columbia coast of Canada. We stayed at the Spirit Bear Lodge and had our hardest earned bear sightings to date! Lots of hiking and sitting in the rainforest rain, which was superbly rewarded with grizzly, black and the elusive Kermode (Spirit) bear sightings!
In June 2014 we returned to Canada and had some amazing chance bear viewings along with two bear viewing tours to see grizzly & black bears. We kicked off the bear viewing fest with a black bear viewing tour with the Whale Centre Tofino on Vancouver Island where we saw eight bears including a mother and her two tiny cubs.
During the same trip we returned to Knight Inlet for a day visit via boat from Telegraph Cove (Vancouver Island) with Tide Rip Tours. We saw twelve grizzly bears and two black bears on the tour.
The trip was topped off with a total of 25 chance bear sightings! You can read about this bear filled trip here.
In 2015 we returned to Sri Lanka in the hope of seeing a sloth bear or two and we did! We made up for our Indian Sloth bear encounter and captured photos and videos! Phew. You can read about our Sri Lanka Sloth Bear encounters here.
In September 2015 we returned to Glacier & Yellowstone National Parks and we were lucky to have 15 chance bear encounters. The Fall has never been so kind to us, Glacier was practically littered with them! You can read about this wonderful trip here.
In November 2016 we returned to Churchill to join Churchill Wild's Great Ice Bear Adventure. This amazing trip involved us actually walking with polar bears! We saw no less than 14 different bears around Dymond Lake Lodge and no less than 20 different bears on during our day out on a tundra buggy. You can read more about this trip here.
In June 2017 we returned to Alaska & Yukon, including Denali National Park where we saw a female grizzly with her two cubs in the NP.
On our road trip we had 12 chance bear encounters, all were black bears alongside the highway.
You can read about this trip here.
2018 was an epic bear year for us - we started the year returing to India where we saw more Indian sloth bears.
We celebrated 10 years of sharing our trip reports with our 100 bears challenge - we had more than 100 bear encounters on our autumn travels through British Columbia, Yukon & Alaska.
If you are a fellow bear enthusiast or thinking about going on your first bear viewing trip we invite you to read more about our bear viewing experiences through the following links: