Grizzlies of Campbell River

Kamal Varma
December 24, 2010

Grizzly bear with food by Kamal Varma ©

For the longest time I’ve wanted to capture a Bear reaching into the water and pulling out a Salmon.  This September, I got the shot.

Located on the East coast of Vancouver Island, Campbell River offers a slice of Paradise for the Wildlife and Nature Photographer.  From Grizzlies hunting Salmon, frolicking Dolphins, migrating Killer Whales or nesting Bald Eagles, Campbell River and the surrounding area seems to offer it all. 

A quaint Coastal City with beautiful sunrises and abundant wildlife Campbell River is a 45 minute drive North of Comox.  While there is no shortage of opportunity to photograph wildlife within Campbell River itself, some of the best shots are to be had from the water (several local operators offer boat tours).  

During my visit this September I went on two one day Grizzly tours and hired a small boat for a four hour journey to explore the surrounding area.   It was during this four hour boat ride that I was fortunate to have spotted a pod of Pacific White Sided Dolphins.  From a distance, these beautiful mammals look like miniature Killer Whales.

Dolphins by Kamal Varma ©

Because you never know when or where sea life will emerge, you’re going to want to use a long lens (I would recommend at least a 400mm equivalent).  If you don’t own one, rents lenses at very competitive rates and offers “to your door” delivery.  For this trip I rented the Canon 100-400mm lens.   

Deer, stellar sea lion and bottle nose dolphin jumping by Kamal Varma ©

Other tips include:

  • Shoot wide open
  • Set your camera to “Continuous Shooting Mode”
  • Protect your gear from the elements by using a plastic rain cover or plastic bag

In addition to getting me closer to Marine life, shooting from a boat also allowed me to get closer to some of the small islands just off the coast of Campbell River and to the wildlife that inhabit them. 

Seals by Kamal Varma

The pictures below were taken with a Canon 7D and a Canon 100-400mm lens.

Bald Eagle by Kamal Varma ©


Campbell River is called the “Salmon Capital of the World” and from late August to early October several tour operators offer Bear viewing tours where you can watch Grizzlies and Black Bear feasting on Salmon.  These Bear tours entail a two and a half hour boat ride to Bute Inlet where you are greeted by local guides that take you to various viewing stations scattered along the river on native land.

Because the Bear were a little slower moving then the Dolphins, I chose to use my Canon 5D MK II .

Grizzly bear capturing a salmon by Kamal Varma ©

Although I was only in Campbell River for five days, I’m already planning my next trip there.  This time, I’m hoping to get a Humpback in mid Breach.  Hey, it’s worth a shot.

Getting there:  Air Canada flies right into Campbell River (via Vancouver)  while WestJet flies to Comox.  You can rent a car at the Comox airport and drive to Campbell River in approximately 45 minutes.

Accommodations: Campbell River has a number of motels and hotels for all budgets.

Bear tours: The two main operators are and

Kamal  Varma by R. Berdan


Bio: Kamal is an avid photographer living in Calgary, AB his photography passion includes travel, wildlife and landscape. Kamal also likes to play electric guitar when he can't get out to shoot.

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