Five days on the west coast
of Vancouver Island
My mom has close friends that live in Port Alberni which is "just
down the road" from Tofino. Their aniversery is in early
July so they usually stay for a few days in the resort area to
celebrate. This year the dates lined up so that we join so
we spent a week on the West Coast.
This year Nara participated in Science
Fair and was lucky enough to be picked to go to Nationals.
Her project involved growing Kelp and the kelp she used came from
a small business in Bamfield called Canadian Kelp Resources.
Bamfield is about an hour and half of dirt road driving from Port
Alberni. Nara organized a visit so we started the day early
so we could drop by on our way to Tofino.
While we could drive from Port Alberni to Bamfield and back again
on a single tank of gas, it's good idea to keep the tank full if
you can. There is a small "full service" gas station in
Bamfield that has limited hours. It's been so long since
I've seen a mechnical gas pump, I decided to take a photo.
Our destination was the Bamfield Marine
Sciences Centre. This is a jointly operated facility run by
5 West Coast Canadian universities. There is a "field trip"
program where high school classes can stay for several days, but
this programs all closed during COVID and there is quite a backlog
to getting them running again. Most of the mini-schools in
Vancouver mentioned this program, but none of the schools have
been in years. Nara's mini-school this year isn't planning
Nara's contact at Canadian Kelp Resources
kindly gave us a tour of some of the labs. There were
university students at some of the desks working away on reports
and animals in a variety of tanks along the walls. Sea water
and fresh water is available in each station and most containers
have notes about what animals are insider and why. It's an
amazing facility and you ask yourself if you could actually live
in Bamfield. Be aware, there is no Chinese food restaurant.
After our tour, we had heads full of sea
life. We arrived at the resort just as the sun was setting
but the next morning a new adventure would be waiting for
us. This week had particularly low tides in the morning so
we knew there was going to be a lot of intertidal exploring.
Everyone has their favorites at the beach -
I have a soft spot to Aneomes, but my kids quite like the
crabs. Having done a kelp themed science fair project, we
had our eyes open for all of the different kinds of kelp in all of
the different habitats.
My Mom stays at Crystal Cove Beach Resort
at the South end of Mackenzie Beach. The beach has
rocky headlands and sandy beaches which makes for tide pools, rock
walls and sand with a thin ocean over it.
When the tide got this low, what were islands became
walkable. I was a little considerned about shore nesting
birds, but I'm hoping it's late enough in the season that the
chicks have flown.
The rock walls are impressive. The kelp grows in layers
depending on what species is most effective at keeping a foot hold
and can tolerate the waves and out of water time. If you had
a ton of time, you could dig through the kelp and find small
animals hiding, but there is only so much time and ton of beach to
On the other hand, the shallow water covering the sandy beach also
had treats for people willing to spend the time looking.
Nara doesn't really like Jellyfish but I find their complexity
There are more mobile beach dwellers - Sand Dollars in the sand,
crabs in the rocks and sea stars in the pools. I like
Chitons - a kind of mollusc with a multi-part shell.
Sea stars suffered
from Starfish Wasting Disease only a few years ago but the Ochre
Star had made a strong come back.
Speaking of Molluscs, there were a wide variety of snals on the
beach. From small to giant, they were in the sand, tide
pools and ocean.
In the rocks close to the tide line we found a sea urchins and
In the mornings I would go out as early I could and then the
family would come out for walk as well. The low tide only
lasts about an hour before it starts to rise so you do have to use
your time appropriately.
Hot Springs Cove
We booked a trip by plane to Hot Springs
Cove. We could take the boat up, but the boat is slow and a
number of us get sea sick. The plane is much faster and we
could go all in one plane.
spends about as much time taxiing as it does in the flight to the
hot springs. The plane is all metal with almost no sound
proofing so it's loud - you have to wear head phones loud.
The flight leaves Tofino heading North and flies over a number of
islands that look unoccupied. It really does emphasize how
important road access is to development.
The hot springs are on
first nations land and there is agreements in place so that land
owners can use the springs for hours a day and at no point are there
too many operators all at once. There is a first nations site
stewart on sight to welcome you as you start your hike out to the
The hike to the hot spring is about 2 km from where the boats and
planes dock. It's boardwalk the entire way and being warm
weather there was nothing slippery about the walk.
The hot springs themselves are very warm - where they flow over the
rocks they were unbearably warm. The temperature changes with
the seasons (more water flow means colder temperatures) we sat in
further down the route to the ocean.
The hot springs
themselves are in solid rock which is steep and slippery. It's
not an easy place to walk around.
The plane is on a schedule so you
need to be back at the dock in time to meet your plane. The
plane has flights back to back - they unload the late afternoon
guests when they come to pick us up.
We switched the seating around and flew back to Tofino.
I've been to the Vancouver Aquarium quite a
few times, but I have to say I really like the Ucluelet
Aquarium. It's a catch and release aquarium - almost
everything is gathered in the spring and returned in fall save one
tank which has just ocean water added and all the life came in on
it's own in larval stages.
The wildlife in the tanks at the Vancouver Aquarium is generally
huge and in fantastic shape - it has lived it life without predators
or want of food. The wildlife in the Ucluelet aquarium come in
many different sizes and the small tanks makes it easy to get a
close up view.
of wildlife is also surprising. The Vancouver aquarium has a
swirling jellyfish tank but the Jellyfish are from the
tropics. Here the Jellyfish are smaller, but they are local.
The Vancouver Aquarium does have a sea grass tank with bay pipefish
in it. Here they have nudibranch in tanks.
As I said, one of my favorite aquariums.
We had lunch in Ucluelet, but it was a bit tricky because several
restaurants were close due to a lack of staff. Nara bought a
nice hoodie with a local print.
We decided to walk to see the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse (my dad
drove back to get dinner started). The view to the ocean is
amazing and the wind stunted trees make an impressive forest.
There is another short loop to see a bog. The path was
bouncy from the bog.
There are a lot of nice places to stop in Tofino We were
biking distance from Tacofino so we stopped in for dinner one
afternoon. The line up was 45 minutes long and they
eventually placed a plastic chair in the queue and tell people
that the chair is the last order - no more customers.
Thanks Mom for including us in the booking - we had a
Tags: intertidal(7), plane(4), sign(4), vista(3), snail(3), kelp(3)
People: Claira(17), Nara(16), Janet(11), Lloyd(8), Helen(7), John(1)
Last Modified Saturday, December 16th, 2023 at 10:48:43 Edit
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