by LAUREN DUBOIS
I’m standing on the side of the road using the telephoto zoom lens of my camera like binoculars to scour the mountaintops.
“Excuse me, but what are you looking at?” asks a hiker with a Nordic accent.
“Do you see anything up there?” he asks.
And before I can answer him, he rushes on “Anything-special?A-bear?” The words fall out of his mouth in a mess of desperation.
I see the hope in his eyes. He’s on the hunt too. Like every other foreigner loitering on roadsides in the Canadian Rockies with impressive camera equipment; he’s looking for bears. We all are.
“Sorry,” I let him down gently. “It’s just some people rock climbing.”
He nods sadly and shuffles back to his car.
It’s day 10 of our trip and I’m still waiting for my bear experience.
It’s my one goal for this two-week tour of British Columbia and Alberta. I WILL SEE A BEAR. By the end of my trip I will have tried: ziplining, hiking, white water rafting, hiking, motor biking, cycling, hiking, driving, gondolas and more hiking; all part of my Canadian Safari.
I’ve done everything right. Followed every instruction.
Step 1: Dress the part
As soon as we hit Vancouver, we head to Roots – the most Canadian of Canada’s retailers. I feel the need to look the part. No bear will avoid me for stinking like a tourist – no way. I’ll be such a local they’ll walk straight up and shake my hand. Plus it gives us our first
wildlife sighting: The beaver. Ok, not actually a beaver, but it has a beaver on its logo. And yes, it makes us giggle.Susannah the Manager at Roots, doesn’t even pretend to misunderstand our sniggering. “Yeah, I know about you Aussies. I know what roots and beavers mean to you,” she grins. She’s so adorable I want to pack her in my new leather satchel. It smells authentic and looks like I’m a hiker who doesn’t carry lip-gloss and a compact mirror everywhere she goes. I’m totally pulling off this new rugged outdoorsy personality. Thank you Roots.
Step 2: Find wildlife hotspots.
Our first stop is Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Our host Avril, at The Inn at Laurel Point tells me:
“People come to Victoria for two things: Butchart Gardens and the Whales.”
The gardens are lovely, but I’ve seen flowers. I have not, however seen a Killer Whale. Sign me up.
Most of the Whale tour operators in Victoria guarantee a whale sighting if you go between May and October.