On Vancouver Island, we’re always talking about exploring, seeing, doing, and experiencing. Because of the region’s profound natural beauty and hearty outdoor culture, almost any outdoor activity can be considered a nature tour, whether it’s a road trip up the coast, backpacking a secluded trail, walking along the waterfront, or spending a few hours in the forest. If you’re the type of traveller who loves to have everything planned and ready for you, then nature tours, events, and wildlife centres are the perfect addition to your island itinerary.
The opportunity to view wildlife changes with the season, so the options will vary depending on the time of year you’re planning to visit. In the early spring, it’s common to come across fawns and newborn bunnies in urban areas. During the late summer and early fall it’s prime bear and whale watching season, as salmon return to their home streams to spawn. While eagles, herons, seals, and sea lions can be seen all year-round. Wildlife, as the name suggests, is wild. So there’s never a guarantee you’ll spot these signature critters. That said, going with those who know the area and the species best will maximize your chances.
A guide will transport you to trails, lakes, inlets, beaches, mountains, rivers, forests and/or all the other wonderful landscapes we have here, explaining the habits, history, and culture of the species. They’ll help you walk, ride, and paddle to your destination, telling tales and stories along the journey.
Paddle With A Sea Kayaking Tour
Experience extraordinary wildlife encounters on an unforgettable kayaking tour, like those offered by Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures. From day trips up to weeklong tours, explore the coast in search of orcas, humpback whales, bears, eagles, sea stars and breathtaking scenery. Because kayaking is a self-propelled activity, it opens up endless possibilities for viewing wildlife in ways motorized tours simply can’t offer. Along with experienced guides, your time will be spent paddling through beautiful passageways and past islands while learning about all that inhabit this coast.
Visit A Wildlife Centre
The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, BC cares for injured, ill, and orphaned wildlife. The centre showcases eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, and even a few resident black bears. Because it’s a world-class rehabilitation facility, many of the animals are on the road to recovery for release back into the wild. The centre features wheelchair-accessible trails, so everyone can enjoy a self-guided tour of the grounds at their leisure.
In the Cowichan Valley, you can visit The Raptors for an immersive look at several birds of prey species including hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons. You can even book a hands-on experience with a hawk!
Explore The Brant Wildlife Festival
Each year, Brant geese return to the tranquil shores of Parksville Qualicum Beach, signalling the unofficial start of Spring in the area. This phenomenon sparked the Brant Wildlife Festival, a tradition 29-years strong in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, commonly occurring in March. The festival features special Spring Break exhibits for kids where they can experience nature inspired by fun and adventure. Bird watching enthusiasts can join a professional tour with an ornithologist (a bird expert), or those new to birding can learn the basics at a beginner-friendly workshop. Take a tour of an estuary, visit the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, and more! The festival runs from March 18th to April 20th, 2019, with fun outdoor outings for all budgets and ages.
Visit the Brant Wildlife Festival website for more information about the lineup of events.
Ascend Into The Alpine
Did you know that Vancouver Island’s highest mountain is called Golden Hinde? Raising 2,195 tall, the mountain is located in stunning Strathcona Provincial Park, a popular region for hiking and scrambling. For those eager to summit mountains in a short time-frame, the folks at Island Alpine Guides offer single-day heli-hiking packages that will take you high up into the some of the most picturesque peaks the island has to offer.
Another place to find the perfect panorama is at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, located just 30-minutes from Courtenay. Enjoy a scenic chairlift ride to the top, where on a clear sunny day, you have a full view of the ocean, coastal mountains, and surrounding mountain range.
Fish The Alberni Inlet
If your idea of an island getaway includes an afternoon spent on a boat with lines in the water, head inland to the Alberni Valley. Port Alberni is Canada’s ultimate fishing town, a title it earned in 2010 by the World Fishing Network. There are over a dozen fishing charter companies, large and small, offering a variety of tours through the coveted waters of the Alberni Inlet: home to one of the most productive fishing grounds in the country.
For more information about things to do in Port Alberni, visit Alberni Valley Tourism’s website.