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“AWESOME !”
Review of Great Bear Lodge

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Great Bear Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Market Drayton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“AWESOME !”
Reviewed 15 June 2013

Our three day stay at Great Bear Lodge in May, as part of a holiday organised by Naturetrek, was a wonderful experience.

The flight to the lodge by seaplane created a sense of adventure from the start. On arrival we received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the Great Bear Lodge staff, and this warmth and enthusiasm persisted throughout our stay.

The schedule at the lodge is well designed to maximise the opportunities to see black and grizzly bears, but you are of course free to opt out of any boat trip or forest walk if you wish.

The guides during our stay (Blakeley, Meghan and Tom from Great Bear Lodge and Lee from Naturetrek) were superb and their enthusiasm for the wildlife in the Great Bear Rainforest, including the bears, was very infectious. During a forest walk Meghan’s demonstration of a male grizzly bear stomp was very entertaining.

For the boat trips guests have the option of wearing very warm, padded bodysuits and wet weather gear provided by the lodge. These ensured that we were very comfortable during the extended boat trips, in fact so comfortable that we occasionally found ourselves nodding off momentarily after the guide had stopped the motor and was just using the oars! Fortunately we very rarely needed the wet weather gear.

The views we had of black and grizzly bears were a thrill, especially the occasion when Roxanne (a grizzly with something of a reputation) walked along the edge of a bank and shot us a look from a few yards away that prompted a stern and loud warning from Blakeley !

Apart from the bears there were many different types of bird and wildfowl to be seen in and aound the inlet. We also had sightings of mink, river otters and seals close to the lodge.

The lodge was very comfortable and having to share two showers between nine guests proved no problem at all. We never had to queue for a shower and enjoyed the use of the complimentary fleece dressing gowns and the scent-free shower toiletries (the latter designed not to offend the bears’ very acute sense of smell). The bedrooms are compact but comfortable with ensuite washrooms (toilet and sink). We spent very little waking time in our bedroom at the lodge.

The meals provided by Glen, the main chef during our stay, were excellently presented and totally delicious, and he catered well for 2 guests who didn’t eat meat. He even managed to make tofu delicious, a rare occurrence in our experience ! The meals were so good that the fact that there was not a choice for each course was not a problem. As with the other lodge staff, Glen’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Cindy's breakfasts were a great start to the day.

After the comments above it will come as no surprise that we were sad to leave and want to return to Great Bear Lodge for a longer stay, SOON.

  • Stayed May 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Jane110280
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Date | Rating
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English first
Royal Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 June 2013

There is a lot that we liked very much about Great Bear Lodge/Tours. Top of the list would be people. The whole of the staff were top class people and professionals. The guides were extremely well qualified post graduate level girl-Fridays - energetic and very personable. Cuisine was much better than we expected, of a very high standard by a professional chef and was always to our liking. Accommodation was small but met our expectations of a floating lodge in the middle of nowhere. With a total of six guests whilst we were there it did not feel cramped though in the poor weather we experienced everyone was indoors or out on the boats. One has to realise though that this is not a safari Africa style with the area teeming with wildlife and in this my expectation was ahead of reality. Smith Inlet is wilderness, food for wildlife is scarce and bears are territorial and so thin on the ground. We felt that we learned much and came to appreciate the environment, the fragile ecosystem but that also meant that wildlife was much thinner on the ground than we had imagined.

Room Tip: All the same more or less
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  • Stayed May 2013, travelled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank brian186315
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Paris, France
Level Contributor
34 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed 25 May 2013

Unfortunately we were just as underwhelmed as the Caribbean Nomads - suggest you read their review carefully too. As they were using the hides, their trip must have been in Autumn - which is when we were told that the place is teeming with bears feeding on the salmon ..........

Our trip was in Spring and the time of year was the reason we were given for the paucity of bears in particular and wildlife in general - despite the website description of spring: "The estuary is alive with songbirds, migrating waterfowl, grazing deer, and grizzly bears."

We too saw more wildlife (including bears) from the train, our inside passage cruise, and associated tours - such as a 4 hour whale watch with multiple pods of orcas plus a few humpbacks, and a boat trip into the Haines Eagle preserve where we also saw moose with their calves and many more bald eagles - the guides on these tours did not sem to think the season was a deterrent to the wildlife!

These experiences were not only just as informative, but better catered, and the operators made efforts to seek out the wildlife (WITHOUT disrupting it) so that we could experience their area's natural wonders of which they were all so proud.

I too have been on other wildlife experiences (more and less expensive) world wide - some well catered and some rough travel - but when my initial inquiry about bringing my 88yo (unwell but still active) mother was met with such enthusiasm from Marg, I assumed (considering the price) it would be suitably catered for her.

We were assigned an UPSTAIRS bedroom and the first mention of shared bathrooms (2 showers - downstairs - between 10) was when we got there. I even went back and checked the website and can find no advice re this. She was challenged by several trips up and down stairs every day , finally refusing to go through a lounge room full of people to have a shower especially considering we weren't even offered the complimentary use of bathrobes until we were about to depart!

The food was great - but no choices, and when I asked for bread (rather than a blueberry muffin) to go with my (hard or nothing) boiled egg I got a very frosty response (despite there having been plenty left over from the night before).

The location is fabulous, and the guides wonderful, in particular Blakely (knowledgeable) and Emma (super helpful and considerate of my Mum's needs) - but expecting a senior to sit in an increasingly cold and wet boat for in excess of three hours without a toilet break, warming drink or snack is as unreasonable as assigning them an upstairs bedroom. Lip service was paid to being prepared to go back to the lodge earlier if my Mum needed, but she found it embarrassing to interrupt others' time in the boat so she could go back and use the bathroom.

In the end she became ill from the cold and was unable to go out until the weather improved. Although it did, she left without seeing a single bear. We were already more than one viewing trip down on what had been promised (due to fog preventing the sea plane leaving for the lodge) but no extra viewing trips were offered at that stage. My suggestions to schedule an extra seaplane flight (as had been done for others whose travel was delayed elsewhere and thus they missed the scheduled departure) so we could stay a little longer and she could gat a nother chance to see her first bear, were ignored. I suspect this was due to the housekeeper wanting to change the linen on our beds for new guests (not due for another 24hours) before she went on 2 days leave, but at well over $4000 for two people for TWO nights, it seemed a small ask.

I guess if you see lots of wildlife, then the facilities matter much less, but with the unreliable nature of sightings, the lack of hospitality then becomes an issue

Room Tip: ask for the double room downstairs - it is more private if you want to leave your door open to get i...
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  • Stayed May 2013, travelled with family
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Helpful?
6 Thank BarbaraMWB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GreatBearLodge, Owner at Great Bear Lodge, responded to this review, 11 June 2013
I am so sorry that you did not find your experience enjoyable here with us. I do wish you had addressed that more directly with us while you were here or contacted us directly after your departure. I did appreciate you thanking me personally for seeing to your mother’s needs as you departed on the floatplane, though that seems at odds with your written comments here.

There seems to be have been inadequate pre-trip communication between you, your travel agent and our company. I apologize for any part we had in that. One piece of information that has come to light on our end is the accidental omission from our pre-trip information of the physical requirement for our guests to be able to climb two flights of stairs. While we do host guests that have trouble with that requirement, it raises the awareness that some of our activities may be challenging for them.

To clear up any further information deficiencies I would like to address some of your concerns in order of your written comments.

Spring is actually quite a vibrant time for wildlife here as it is breeding season for both bears and birds. It is true that bear sightings can be variable from day to day, as the arrival of additional males can chase a breeding pair of bears out of the open estuary area sometimes for 24-36 hours. This time of year it is all about the presence of females as males follow them.

I knew you were having a difficult trip when you fell asleep less than 30 minutes into your first boat safari with me as we sat next to the crabapple and conifer shrubs at the mouth of East Slough. That area is one of our better birding sites as a number of species breed right in that small clump of trees including four species of warblers, western tanagers, American robins, and rufous hummingbirds.

I’m glad you enjoyed your other wildlife viewing opportunities while in Canada and Alaska. I would expect you to see more wildlife on the train trip between Vancouver and Alberta combined with a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska as you covered several thousand kilometres of wildlife habitat. We use only 10 kilometres of habitat and specialize in fewer but closer, intimate encounters with wildlife, as opposed to high numbers of wildlife that is briefly seen out of a train window or cruise ship deck. As you experienced here, sometimes it doesn’t play out as planned. For example, there were two grizzlies (Mad Max and Roxanne) that ran away from us while you were here, but it wasn’t a case of us disturbing them. Instead Roxanne, who wanted to be rid of Max and his romantic interests, took advantage of his attention towards us to run away. Of course, not wanting to lose her, he followed. (She has never been fond of him but due to his large size she has little choice. Sometimes she will approach us and try to put our boat between her and a male.) Another example was the next morning when Roxanne happened to be far away from the waters edge and we could not get a good view. It is too bad your mother did want to come out when we radioed back to the lodge after we found an obliging black bear called Edward. However it often does work out as we hoped and our Facebook page and website is filled with images of them and many others.

There are many ways to see wildlife, and I am sorry you did not find ours to your liking. As you now probably realize our program is setup to maximize the time in the field and to experience it all on a personal level. For example that is why our meals are of a fixed menu, though with advance information we cater to every dietary requirement. The fixed menu, especially with breakfast, gets folks into the field quicker. There are more relaxing ways to see wildlife but few that are more up close and personal. We do keep guest warm and dry with the gear we provide.

Clearly there was some misunderstanding between us over the room selection and I wish we had obtained more information from you at the time of the booking. I am sorry you missed it before booking, but on Great Bear Lodge page of our website it says that “each bedroom has a washroom, with hot showers located downstairs”. When you described your 88-year-old mother as active we assumed a second story room would be no problem. We do host other mature guests including my 84-year-old aunt who was here last year. She loved the trip, including the boats, bears and rain. I do wish you had looked at the ground floor room with two twin beds in the adjacent cabin as I suggested, as I think that would have met your needs.

I apologize over any confusion during our discussion about extending your stay by one day at the lodge. I understood that our office staff spoke with you about that before your trip and that you indicated you would not be able to extend due to a cruise ship booking. While conceivably it would have been possible for you to fly to Port Hardy in the morning had you stayed an extra night, I was concerned that you would be delayed by weather and that would jeopardize your 12:20 flight from Port Hardy to Vancouver to catch your cruise. As you know from your delayed arrival to the lodge we were experiencing a rainy foggy weather pattern that week, particularly in the mornings. To schedule a departure from the lodge would have left no margin if the flight was delayed. I assure you changing linens had nothing to do with it, as when one housekeeper leaves for her days off another one arrives. We contacted your travel agent after your trip to discuss compensation for the day that you missed due to weather.

I regret that you did not feel comfortable enough with us to ask to come back from safari early, even though we gave you that option. It is no problem for us to do that without affecting the experiences of others in the boat. If we have two boats out we will rendezvous and move folks wanting to stay out longer to one boat and the others go back. If only one boat is in the field a radio call to the lodge brings out another boat in about 20 minutes. We have done it often. Of course we would not have asked your mother to change boats. Additionally we did provide you with a separate boat for at least one safari. Other guests have enjoyed the adventure of taking a ‘nature break’ in the wilderness, but we understand that would have been difficult for your mother and therefore thought we had provided workable alternatives.

Finally honestly my staff was quite saddened by you description of poor hospitality. When you requested that we do something special for your mother on Mother’s Day, the staff were excited to give her a champagne toast, make her chocolates by hand, and give her a gift of a book on the Great Bear Rainforest signed by all staff. Additionally they did all they could while your mother was in the lodge such as following her closely up the stairs to assist her if needed. They would have gladly prepared for you any room but we are restricted in that all the rooms with 2 twins are on the second floor.

I am truly sorry that you didn’t find our experience to your tastes. We are not for everyone but most guests looking for a wilderness wildlife viewing experience in a comfortable lodge setting thoroughly enjoy what we offer.

Sincerely,
Tom and the team from Great Bear Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sydals, Denmark
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 December 2012

I nearly fainted when I saw the price, but the stay was worth every cent. Never had I imagined to se that many bears on one spot. The were grissleys and black bears. Some single others with cups, one mother had 3 cups! All fishing for salmon. I got 400 fotos!
The accomodations were very good, food and drink abundant and the guides as the rest of the staf first class.

  • Stayed September 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Christian E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Turriff, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 July 2012

A great three days, bears, seals, hummingbirds and humpbacks amongst many other forms of wildlife, all the staff at the lodge were very helpful and friendly and made you feel welcome. The guides were very knowledgeable and made sure your visit was safe and informative. The standard of the food was better than many high class hotels we have stayed in so well done to the folks in the kitchen. The flight from Port Hardy was great and the pilots very knowledgeable of the area.

We would go back again for sure.

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Anne R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 July 2012

the float plane trip to start with gave us a beautiful view of the rainforest, then we we came into view of the lodge, fantastic setting!
All the staff were there to greet us at the start of the most fantastic experience viewing wildlife in their natural habitat. Right from the beginning we were made to feel as if we were visiting friends rather than paying guests. The food was superb and plentiful. Although simple, our room was cosy, the bed very comfortable and we slept soundly each night. What more could one ask for!
We were very fortunate to see several Grizzlies, including a mating pair, awesome!! Also we saw Bo swimming and wading across the water between sedge banks. Lots of other wildlife also.
One of the best trips we have ever done on a holiday.
All the staff were very knowledgeable, friendly, and went out of their way to spot wildlife. They were very enthusiastic and wanted you to get the best out of your visit.
We can thoroughly recommend Great Bear Lodge.

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Kate1046
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Portland, Oregon
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 June 2012

We travelled a great distance for the trip of a life time and were crowded into a tiny lodge sharing 2 bathrooms with 10 guests. Everyone came inside at same time so wanted to use facilities at same time. Way too crowded. Was very expensive therefore you should have some space. Saw a few bears however saw many more on the side of the road near Whistler for free.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank hilary r
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Great Bear Lodge

Property: Great Bear Lodge
Address: 6420 Hardy Bay Road | PO Box 1168, Port Hardy, British Columbia V0N 2P0, Canada
Phone Number:
Region: Canada > British Columbia > Vancouver Island > Port Hardy
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 15 Speciality Lodging in Port Hardy
Hotel Class:3 star — Great Bear Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Great Bear Lodge is located 50 air miles from Port Hardy, British Columbia. The fully self-contained floating lodge is situated at an outstanding wildlife viewing location. This is a place of spectacular beauty where one can still find the silence and solitude of another era. From this location we operate our Grizzly Bear viewing program.The charming floating lodge has eight bedrooms. The common area is a comfortable place for relaxing and listening to natural history presentations from our willdife biologists. Each bedroom has an ensuite shower. The wind and solar powered lodge is in keeping with our commitment to low-impact ecotourism. Natural wood decks surround the lodge, a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine while enjoying the beauty of the scenery. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Great Bear Hotel Port Hardy
Great Bear Lodge Port Hardy, Canada - Vancouver Island

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