Tofino is all about the great outdoors. People from all over the world, especially Vancouver and Washington state, flock to Vancouver Island, as well as the Gulf Islands, in order to experience the wilderness and wildlife. You’re guaranteed to see something; bear, wolf, sea otter, plenty of eagles, whales and so on. The problem is, you have to be present enough to notice the signs of these wild animals and quick enough to photograph these fleeting moments. Look away for one moment and you might miss out.
During my trip to Tofino I was fortunate enough to see grey whales, a bear along the highway, a sea otter munching on kelp, crab & star fish off the beach and bald eagles fishing in the inlet – this doesn’t include all the sea life we experienced at the Ucluelet Aquarium!
The first reason you decide to go to Tofino is essentially for the wilderness set against the Pacific Ocean. The second is for the food, of course.
The area is a playground all year: Autumn/Winter is known for winter storms. Many looking to get cozy in their resort with a glass of wine and fireplace to watch the spectacular turbulence of the ocean – sounds like a relaxing weekend. Spring is to observe the arrival of the grey whales (March) as well as Tofino Food & Wine Festival (June). Summer is when families and summer vacationers flock to the beaches, among those diehards who go all year round, to jump in the surf culture.
Aside from surfing, kayaking, hiking and boating, wild animal tours are also one of the more popular activities. I was able to experience another semi-successful whale watching tour during my time there. I say semi-successful because we were only able to see the backs of 3 grey whales feeding in a rather shallow area. Many of the whale watching tour companies guarantee you’ll see whales or a discount will be applied to your next tour or even a refund in some cases. Often times, when you are looking for whales and you stumble across some faint blow holes in the distance and a few gliding humps emerging from the water they’ll refuse to go find anything more.
In our case, we were stuck watching grey whales for an hour only to see the mist of the blow holes and a back. Honestly, I wanted to move on after 20 minutes in search of something more such as a pod of Orcas – rare to see but during our stay a pod was known to be in the area. In fact, 2017 was a year of Orca encounters in the Vancouver area! From swimming teens to kayakers and fishermen running into fishing pods full of energy.
Check our this amazing kayak & orca encounter here.
Or these scared swimmers rushing their lives as a hungry Orca chases them!
Honestly, the most exciting part of our tour was the sea otter. These little critters were once reduced to near extinction due to their desirable furs in the 1800s. In British Columbia, they were no longer inhabiting the area until 1969 when the government released 89 into the wild hoping to restore the population within the ecosystem. By 2008 the sea otter population reached 5000 and today they thrive off the coast of BC as well as Alaska and California.
In case you’re hoping to spot wildlife without a paid tour you might spot a black bear like I did on the side of the highway. Bald eagles are also easy to come by. Choose one of the few ocean front restaurants such as The Hatch or The Ice House Oyster Bar and watch the eagles pluck fish from the ocean.
The beaches also have plenty of little pools teaming with starfish, sea urchin, jelly fish, crabs and more. Roam the rocky bits of Chesterman Beach and who knows what you’ll find. But beware, the beaches also attract wolves in the summer months. If you bring your pet please be aware and stay safe.
There’s so much to explore on Vancouver Island, make sure Tofino is on your itinerary!