A walk on the wild side: glamping with bears.
Routine is the enemy of time.
It’s a phrase I’ve grown to love in my quest of trying something new. Often, I find myself seeking continual adventures in order to ensure monotony doesn’t get the best of me. So when we found out through Glampinghub.com (glamorous camping = glamping) about a luxury safari camp, set on raised platforms that overlook feeding grizzlies on one of BC’s remote lakes, it was a no-brainer. We had to go.
On our flight over, when we bobbed and weaved over the towering peaks of BC’s coastal mountains and descended into the arid plateau of its interior, excitement couldn’t help but rush over me. There are places that you stay, where you sleep and then there are places that you experience and remember.
Bear Camp is one of those memorable places.
Found in the Chilcotin region, Bear Camp sits on the crystal clear aquamarine Chilko river, just below the headwaters of the 65 km long Chilko Lake. For thousands of years, the Chilcotins have been home to the people of the river, the literal translation of the region’s name, and it’s easy to understand why.
We arrived around the same time as 3.8 million sockeye salmon had swum into the river’s waters. Their spawning season, which started 700km ago at the mouth of the Fraser River, was coming to an end. Bright red bodies, nearly 3 feet long, shimmered beneath the shallow waters as the fish fought the currents to swim to our shorelines.
Attracted by the abundance of food the salmon represented, grizzlies by the dozens descend from the alpine hillsides to feast within the river. Catching the sockeye salmon or Chinook (king), they snatch their kill and carry it into the wooded shoreline to dine on an all you can eat salmon buffet. Eagles and ravens perched in the towering lodgepole pines and Douglas firs, ready for the scraps left behind, while foxes peered from between the tall grasses looking for their share in nature’s bounty.
Often to discover these wild places one must find a route far into the backcountry, and while we had indeed travelled a great distance, it was a comfortable trek. Four hours south-west of Williams Lake Airport, we took a twisting and turning dusty road past the ranch lands of Chilcotin and at the end of the road found ourselves at this luxury camp.
Safari tents resting on elevated platforms had a view right onto bear central. Our slice of heaven was situated on a calm section of the river, with small islands and towering mountain peaks within touching distance.
Below our tents were plenty of gear for our choose-your-own-adventure trip ahead: mountain bikes, kayaks, SUPs, horses and saddles, motor and drift boats that would facilitate our desire to explore.
An all-inclusive camp, the day began with a hot cup of coffee delivered right to our tent door while the loon call reverberated in the vast landscape at our feet.
Our days and nights were filled with drinks and food that fed our souls and kept us warm until we crawled under the electrically heated blankets of our king-sized beds. The guides at camp would suggest activities to make the most of our days, while the zero light pollution gave us a night sky we couldn’t resist staying up late for.
Highlights included spying grizzlies from the seat of our kayak, dining at the top of a mountain while peering down a glacial valley, and exploring a remote peninsula isthmus with a sundowner cocktail party.
It was the perfect combination of luxury and adventure with a backdrop of wilderness. Sleeping amongst the trees while grizzlies roamed the rocky shoreline below, we felt as though we were tucked away in one of BC’s best-kept secrets. A temporary home that feels like a family cabin instead of just guests at a hotel, where staff felt like friends and food tasted like your best meal ever.
It’s a place to escape the ordinary and make memories that count.
Chilko Lake is located in the interior of British Columbia and is accessible with a 4×4 vehicle following many highways and dusty roads or by plane via a one-hour flight from Vancouver, BC. Yes, you can drive but by plane is far more comfortable.
Options can be to take a direct charter flight, or a regularly scheduled 19 seater to Williams Lake, BC – about four hours away.
We took the regularly scheduled flight and while a charter would have been better, still found the flight incredibly scenic due to the low altitude of flying and endless glacial peaks that spread out from the windows.
Bear Camp offers an all-inclusive getaway including all activities, meals, booze, and guides to show you around. Equipment such as quality kayaks, SUPs, and mountain bikes were also included.
For each of our activities, including the accessible hiking found right at our doorstep, we also had the option to be joined by professional guides who were incredibly knowledgeable about flora, fauna and the history of the area.
A camp chef was onsite to prepare everything from fresh bread to delicious meals created with locally sourced ingredients. Every meal was a battle to not overeat.
The camp is only able to accommodate up to 16 guests, but we lucked out by having only two others joining us making the place almost ours alone. The funky camp had a relaxed vibe with every detail covered and felt like a retreat among friends.
When to go:
We went mid-September which is prime time for bear viewing until the camp closes in October.
The camp is open from spring to fall, and each season has its appeal. However, I would always return in the fall due to the crisp and clean air alongside with the possibility to view bears feeding on salmon right below your elevated patio.