The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bears

Want to be 20 feet away from a grizzly bear??? Head to Khutzeymateen.

On another incredible day of this epic #ExploreBC campaign (check out the facebook page here), we set out in a float plane from Prince Rupert to visit the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.  Despite the name, this is not a zoo nor is it a wildlife park.  Khutzeymateen is essentially a massive protected zone along an inlet North of Prince Rupert.  What makes the park so special is that the concentration of grizzly bears is so high that you are basically guaranteed a couple sightings.  According to the guide, in the summer months bout 98% of tours see at least one grizzly, and there are certain tours, like the one I was on, that see quite a few more (we saw 5 grizzlies).

The other thing that makes Khutzeymateen so special is that you can get so close to the bears without really disturbing them or putting yourself in any danger.  The bears feed on the nutrient rich vegetation on the banks of the inlet in the spring, and when the salmon are running up stream in full force they also can be watched fishing along some of the streams of the inlet.   Since you are actually viewing the bears from a boat, you can creep right up on the bears.  And since the bears are so busy feeding, they hardly notice you’re there.  In one case, we got ourselves within just 20 feet away from a thousand-pound grizzly.

When you get yourself on epic travel experiences like this #ExploreBC trip has been, it’s easy to realize that your bucket list had been missing some things.  A visit to the Khutzeymateen grizzly bear sanctuary isn’t just something that you should check out, it is serious bucket list stuff.  In terms of overall travel experiences, my visit to Khutzeymateen was among the best days I’ve had travelling, period.  It was up there with nearly any day on my trip to Antarctica or the Galapagos.

There is something so humbling about being so close to such a powerful animal.  There are no words to explain the feeling of looking up and seeing a thousand-pound grizzly bear looking back at you from just a couple meters away.  I know that it can’t be explained in words, but hopefully my photos can convey the feeling a little bit.

That hump on the grizzly’s back is pure muscle. Luckily for us, they usually use it for digging. This is perhaps my favourite photo from Khutzeymateen. It might also be the cover of the next issue of Vagabundo Magazine… we will see. This is the closest we got. I shot this with only a 200mm lens. It’s too bad the light was really harsh that day, because obviously shadows are an issue in this photo. These were actually the first bears we saw on the trip. It was a mother grizzly and 2 cubs. The mother was obviously a little nervous around us and they took off into the woods when we got about 200 meters away. We saw more than bears too. We spotted a couple bald eagles as well as some seals. But for good reason, the people come here for the bears!

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. beautiful photos! This is what I loved about the Bear Sanctuary … its wildlife and its natural beauty. You captured the essence in these photos.

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    • Yes Grace – It’s such an amazing place isn’t it? There’s not another experience like it in the world.

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  2. These are awesome creatures. I have a lot of respect for Grizzly bears but they put some fear into me as well. Powerful, beautiful, and fast!

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    • Jeremy – Those dudes are intense!!! But these guys had so much food they probably wouldn’t have shrugged had I put a saddle on the bear and rode him like a horse.

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    • Thanks Tina – An amazing place!

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  3. Wow. You are certainly a brave man. Bears scare me. I love the Photos though. SO real.

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    • Sherry – If bears don’t scare you then you’re not human… or you don’t really know what wild bears are capable of! haha

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  4. The bear photos are great but I really love that photo of the Bald Eagle in flight. This must have been a great experience.

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    • Such a good experience Dean. There are soooo many Bald Eagles in the area that they almost become a dime a dozen. HOWEVER, getting a great photo of them is still a mission! haha

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  5. This must have been a very exciting experience for you!! I can only imagine how it would feel to be so close to a grizzly, out in nature like that. Great post!

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    • Lilian – Yes, it was incredible. If you ever get the chance, you have to visit Khutzeymateen, it’s the closest you’ll ever get to a wild grizzly (on purpose) guarenteed.

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  6. Amazing photos! I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be that close to giant, powerful grizzlies.

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    • Emily – It was insane. At one point I looked up from my lens and was like “hold shit, I’m 20 feet from a grizzly bear” haha. Khutzeymateen should be on the bucketlist along with any other wildlife safari in my opinion.

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