It's hard for Andrew and Christine Edwards to remember a life without scuba diving. From an early age, they both would plunge into the depths of Vancouver's waters, gazing across underwater landscapes where wolf eels swam and octopi stretched their sneaker-covered tentacles across a carpet of strawberry anemones. These experiences stuck with them, and in 2007, the couple opened Ocean Planet Adventures to share their life's passion with others.
From Discovery Scuba classes to advanced PADI certifications, Ocean Planet Adventures' instructors guide their students at dive sites peppered across Clayoquot Sound and Barkley Sound, a UNESCO biosphere. During these expeditions, instructors and groups feast their eyes on jungles of aquatic plants and animals, including whales. Aside from open-water diving, the staff teaches specialty courses such as wreck diving, which lets divers explore shipwrecks or polish the hoods of sunken automobiles.
Based along the wave-lapped shores and lush topography of Tofino, Ocean Outfitters grants guests an intimate and informative exploration of majestic West Coast flora and fauna during environmentally responsible tours. With the salt-laced air tousling their hair, the company’s quintet of seasoned skippers pilots a fleet of meticulously maintained vessels about area waterways, letting loose their wisdom on the region’s wildlife and geology. Keels skim along the craggy, mist-laced coastline, granting guests a chance to snap scenic pictures or request autographs from whales whose songs have appeared on countless new-age albums. Ocean Outfitters' dedication to environmental stewardship is why the company strictly adheres to the guidelines for responsible whale watching, and supports local wildlife research and rescue programs through donations of a portion of its profits.
While man has not yet mastered a bird's ability to fly, we can approximate their effortless motion and unrivalled views through the glider airplane. Nestled in the Alberni Valley, the Vancouver Island Soaring Centre leads passengers on elevated journeys across the mountainous natural scenery. The VISC's fleet of PW-6U and PW-5 Smyk gliders are made of composite materials, making them light and ideal for sneaking up on cumulonimbus in the morning while they are still busy gluing on fresh cotton balls. In a Piper Pawnee plane, a pilot certified by Transport Canada leads each flight to a height of 2,000?6,000 feet before releasing the glider into the blue expanse. A separate certified pilot directs the craft from the back seat as the craft is kept aloft by thermal energy. Vancouver Island Soaring Centre can also record each blissful flying experience onto a take-home USB drive.
It's unclear why whales jump and splash on the surface of the ocean. It could be to get attention from potential mates, or a way to lose the parasites on their backs. But it is also possible that the whales are simply having fun. From the vantage point of a 65-foot whale-watching vessel, guests of Jamie's Whaling Station & Adventure Centres can observe grey and humpback whales in their natural environment, while forming their own hypotheses about their mystifying behaviour.
In addition to whale-watching trips, Jamie's leads bear-watching tours, tours to Hot Springs Cove, kayaking adventures, group hikes, and sunset cruises to find out where the sun really goes at night. A portion of proceeds from all tours supports local wildlife research and rescue programs.
• For $39, you get one admission to a 2.5-hour bear-watching tour (up to a $79 value, including a $5 fuel charge). • For $42, you get one admission to a 2.5-hour whale-watching tour (up to an $84 value, including a $5 fuel charge). • For $55, you get one admission to a 6-hour tour of Hot Springs Cove with whale watching (up to a $110 value, including a $5 fuel charge).
Big Bear Salmon Charters' Grady White 282 Sailfish, affectionately named Big Bear, is part of a fleet that ferries fishermen into the aquatic playground of trophy salmon and halibut. The quiet rumble of its twin 225 hp engines spreads across Ucluelet, a habitat filled with fish, whales, and more squid than an ink factory's payroll. Once in the water, guides use all-digital E-Series Raymarine electronics and sounders to track fish, and specialized rods await the familiar tugs of halibut and salmon at the ends of lines. The world-class team stows fish on salt ice before they clean and optionally smoke each catch. The crew also invites anglers to take breaks from fishing in their comfortable cabin, outfitted with an audio system spitting out groovy tunes. Additionally, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort partners with Big Bear Salmon Charters to provide accommodations and create on-land relaxation.