Wildlife travel: What animals can I see in British Columbia?

Scarred by fjords and dominated by mountains, Canada's dramatic Pacific coast is one of the most spectacular wildlife destinations in the world. Here be whales and bears galore.

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Illustration by Dawn Cooper

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1. Grizzly bear, Khutzeymateen Inlet Conservancy

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Grizzly bear © Eric Travers / Getty 

The first area in Canada to be designated as a grizzly sanctuary, Khutzeymateen protects a number of important salmon streams where bears come to feed.

2. Trumpeter swan, Gitnadoiks River, Provincial Park

A Trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Trumpeter swan © Gleen Bartley / Getty

Described as the heaviest bird native to North America, the trumpeter was threatened with extinction in the early part of the 20th century. Its call really does sound like a trumpet!

3. Humpback whale, Johnstone Strait

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) adult breaching, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, July.

Humpback whale © Bertie Gregory / Nature Picture Library / Getty

Humpbacks spend the summer months in the cool waters off British Columbia (and Alaska), feeding before heading south to Baja California. You can kayak with them and with orcas here.

4. Orca, Tofino, Vancouver Island

Orca in Johnstone Strait near Telegraph Cove, BC, Canada

Orca © John E Marriot / Getty

One of the most reliable places in the world to see orcas, the waters off Vancouver Island have both resident pods and transient groups marauding in search of sealions.

5. Spirit bear, Princess Royal Island

Kermode bear in the Great Bear Rainforest, BC, Canada

Spirit / Kermode bear © John E Marriot / Getty

Roughly one in 10 of these black bears (also known as the Kermode bear) have the double recessive gene that gives them a cream-coloured coat, with the highest concentration – an estimated 120 individuals – on this island.

6. Tufted puffin, Gwaii Haanas, National Park Reserve

Tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata), coastal British Columbia, Canada.

Tufted puffin © Wayne Lynch / Getty

With dramatic hair-dos sweeping back from their eyes, tufted puffins are real celebs of the wildlife world. And there are plenty more seabirds here.

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