Most of us have seen a nature program featuring brown, black and grizzly bears feasting on hapless salmon as they migrate through crystal-clear rivers to spawn. It’s now possible to see this marvel firsthand, snorkeling with salmon as they migrate.
Snorkelers can see thousands of salmon in British Columbia’s Campbell River between July and late October.
Operators offer tours on this picturesque river, and with a 7mm wetsuit or drysuit, snorkelers can float down the river watching the salmon congregate in deep pools. The bears begin to hunt between September and October, and snorkeling is forbidden at these areas. Nature lovers may also spot orcas in the sounds off Vancouver Island.
Snorkeling with Salmon
Snorkelers can expect to see pink, coho, chum, sockeye and chinook salmon in the river. The fish can weigh up to 60 pounds (27 kg) and, during July alone, 170,000 individuals make their final journey to spawn. In groups no larger than 15 snorkelers, participants can salmon-peep without feeling crowded. The activity is open to children as young as five years old as well, making it a great family activity and introduction to the underwater world for small children.
Operators provide a briefing and all necessary equipment. They do not allow snorkelers to disturb spawning runs, which occur on the shallow gravel beds. Snorkelers drift quietly along the water’s surface, moving slowly down the river in the current. The salmon show unfolds below as bald eagles circle above and bears wade down the riverbanks. Don’t worry, though; the bears feed at specific points, particularly the small waterfalls where they can catch the salmon as they jump. Snorkelers might also see deer, beavers, weasels, mergansers and kingfishers, making the entire experience a true immersion in nature.