This Review of Bear Watching with Jamie's Whaling Station Tofino is from our recent tour on a cruiser vessel in the Clayoquot Sound. While we were staying locally, a top luxury glamping option in the area is the Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, which we reserve for clients with Virtuoso benefits.
Booking Bear Watching
For summer weekend bear watching or whale watching with Jamie's Whaling Station, be sure to reserve well in advance, particularly for the morning tour at 8 am. Our desired day at 8 am was sold out when I first tried to reserve it about 6 weeks in advance, with only the 11 am available. Fortunately, about three days before, the 8 am opened up, so I was able to reserve it. The cost is CAD $149 (~USD $111) per adult, with a slight discount for kids and youth.
The Boat and Tour
Check-in time for our 8 am tour was 7:30 am. The Captain said our boat was full and that my family of three had to sit together on a bench; many of the other benches had two people but could have accommodated three, and there are some prime spots at the front. Altogether there were about 25 people on our boat. The boat's windows slide up to open, although for safety they must be closed when the boat is going at high speeds, and only opened when the boat's operating at lower speeds. The passengers behind us weren't able to keep their window open due to a broken pin, which the guide explained hadn't been able to be fixed yet, so they ended up doing their viewing from the back of the boat.
On our morning it was quite misty, which made spotting the bears much harder until the mist burned off. It took about 40-50 minutes until we saw our first bear, and we only saw bears two and three right before it was time to head back (the tour was about 2.5 hours). We learned that the bears are active at low tide, turning over rocks in search of crabs and clams to eat, and that's exactly the behavior we saw. The bears are solitary (except when there's a female with a cub) in order to not have to compete for food.
While apparently it's sometimes possible to see seals, porpoises, eagles, herons, and even orcas (killer whales), we didn't see any other wildlife, except some strange white jellyfish and seagulls. The scenery was beautiful, however.
We did see salmon farming, which our guide pointed out and said was a good source of jobs. Tofino is expensive, and our captain noted that many locals have two-three jobs.
My husband and I enjoyed the scenery and bear watching with Jamie's Whaling Station Tofino, but our teenager would have been extremely bored if we hadn't brought a book for him, since on our trip, only about 10% of the time involved bear watching, and the black bears are small and seen from a distance. We also didn't see any other wildlife, apart from the weird white jellyfish and seagulls. In retrospect we should have let our teen sleep in and not bought a ticket for him. Overall, I found the activity a bit pricey for what it delivered, although of course others might feel differently.
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