I have never stayed at Knight Inlet Lodge but have bear viewed in their area about a dozen times and it is a great area to see bears and their new lodge looks great. I had one day this September where we saw 14 bears and another day with 12.
I have stayed at Spirit Bear Lodge but have never bear viewed with them. the lodge is very nice but it is in the village of Klemtu so you must take daily boat rides to the bear viewing areas. The other two lodges are positioned at the bear viewing areas, it is even possible to see bears right from the lodges.
I just stayed and bear viewed at Great Bear Lodge and had a great time with morning and evening bear viewing from platforms and hides next to the river and afternoon activities that included rainforest hikes and boat rides. I did not see quite as many bears as in Knight Inlet but I prefer the smaller groups size here compared to Knight Inlet Lodge. Plus at Knight Inlet a number of different operators bring in visitors for the day, whereas Great Bear Lodge is the only operator in their area.
On a short 2 or 3 day trip I think you are better with either Knight Inlet or Great Bear Lodge because of shorter travel times for the lodges to see the bears as compared to Spirit Bear Lodge. If you had more time and prefer the more immersive tours that Spirit Bear Lodge offers (i.e right on the ground with the bears and not using blinds or platforms) then I would suggest them in a second (while I have never done a tour with them I am familiar with the lodge and the area, and know a few of their guides and staff).
Hope this helps.Edited: 28 September 2013, 19:07
I see Mufti has linked our recent TR.
Personally, having been to both Knight Inlet and Spirit Bear, I would suggest Knight Inlet if its Grizzlies you wish to see with some degree of guarantee. Spirit Bear was a fantastic experience, but you work hard for your bear viewing, basically searching them out rather than them coming to you, as at the stands at Knight Inlet.
At Spirit Bear you need to be prepared for long days out in the field, up to two and a half hours in the boats one way to get to viewing areas, some challenging terrain to hike over, and be willing to spend a lot of time in the rain.
I would not suggest a short stay either for the chance to see a Spirit Bear, as luck will have a big part to play. The next visit to the area where we saw one, which had had regular viewing recently, had a zero bear viewing outcome last Monday. Obviously, it all depends where the bears are next year, the weather and timing of where your trip falls, but there is a reason they recommend longer stays.
That being said I found the experience very rewarding, and would readily recommend it if the chance to see a Kermode Bear is what you want, and are willing to embrace the other aspects to have the opportunity.
I can't comment on Great Bear Lodge, but there are plenty of TA reviews to add to KingfisherKayaking's above.Edited: 29 September 2013, 15:58
Also, there are good possibilities in Alaska too depending on your timing, and there you get very close to the bears, or rather I should say they can get very close to you in places like Katmai National Park.Edited: 29 September 2013, 16:14
Thank you for all you replies. Having just viewed the promotional video for Knight Inlet Lodge and all your wonderful comments, I think this is likely to be my choice.
Michelle 15780 hope you don't mind me jumping in as JUST today I reviewed all three of these and am gathering information to determine which one.
The 3 that have been mentioned.
Really appreciated finding this thread to compare them.
I did not realize the two hour boat ride to get to the bears at Spirit lodge..
What I did like is they seem to have an all day trip to see the bears 8 to 6 - now I cut out 4 hours of boating..that still leaves 6 hours.
Knights Inlet seem less.
NOW - for me I am going next year probable in Summer and Great bear lodge stated that it is harder to see the bears. I really appreciated their honesty.
For those that know the area..are Inlet and Great Bear lodge in the same area.
(seems like for the bears it would be best May/June or Sept but for Banff summer is best - darn it).
Also it seems like they all have different ways of getting to the lodges and Spirit Bear at least had flights from Vancouver - which was going to make it easier. BUT my trip will be short probably 4 nights at max..so now leaning NOT towards them.
You should check with Spirit Bear but I am pretty sure the flight from Vancouver is to Bella Bella with Pacific Coastal Airlines. You overnight at Shearwater Resort and then take a 90 minute boat ride to Spirit Bear Lodge.
For Great Bear Lodge you ned to get yourself to Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island, an hour and 15 minute flight from YVR with Pacific Coastal and then there is a 20 minute float plane ride to the lodge.
For Knight Inlet Lodge you need to get to Campbell Rive, half way up Vancouver Island, and then they fly you by float plane form there.
I have no fist hand knowledge of Grizzly Bear Lodge & Safari but I have run into them them a few times both whale watching and bear viewing and they seem like nice guys. Definitely a smaller more rustic lodge than Knight Inlet. The only bads thing I hav heard in the past is people thinking they were booking at "Knight Inlet Lodge" – thy have since changed their marketing. Not sure how most guests get there but some of my customers next year are being picked up by their boat In Telegraph Cove after their kayak trip with me. They are also a boat ride (maybe an hour) from the main grizzly bear viewing area.
Only Great Bear Lodge and Knight Inlet Lodge have their accommodations right next to the areas they view bears.Edited: 18 November 2013, 18:37
that was very helpful Thanks for the the write up on the differences!!