A squeal of excitement erupts from the back of the bus. Kelly is the first to spot him and every head cranes to look where she’s pointing. It’s a surprise the vehicle doesn’t tip over with everyone now rushing to catch a glimpse out of the left hand windows.
Slowly, and with a slightly wobbly gait, the black bear makes its way down the side of the hill towards our now stationary coach. Kendra, our encyclopaedic guide, says he’s probably just woken up from his winter hibernation, but looks in great shape thanks to a bumper berry season last year.
There’s always something magical about viewing wild animals in their natural habitat, but to see this magnificent animal just metres away by the edge of a busy road is slightly surreal. Kendra sums it up perfectly. “I see a lot of bears on this drive but it never loses its special feeling.
”My bear-ly believable encounter comes just minutes after leaving Jasper on a Maligne Valley sightseeing tour. The drive up to Maligne Lake cuts through Jasper National Park, which at 11,000 square kilometres is the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies and attracts some two million visitors a year. Apart from being home to bears, moose, elk and all kinds of indigenous fauna, it is also a designated Dark Sky Preserve and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Having taken a trillion shots of ‘Yogi’, we continue our drive, visiting Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake before arriving at our destination. You’ll soon learn never to put your camera away when visiting Canada and Maligne Lake is another great snap-worthy location, offering guests the chance to enjoy a scrummy lunch (try the homemade soup!) and a cruise on the lake, voted ‘Best Boat Cruise in Canada’ by eight million subscribers to Reader’s Digest.
But it’s the bear sighting that has everyone on the coach chatting excitedly on the way back to Jasper, even more so when another one is spotted on the return journey. It seems there really is no limit to how much bear you can bear.
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