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.
In 1984, local surf junkie Liz Zed opened a simple shop in a 200-foot annex attached to the side of her home. More than 25 years later, Live To Surf oversees its main location and its own separate surf school, as well as one of the largest retail inventories in Canada. Students learn to ride regal waves through group or private instruction, or gear up for their aquatic odyssey with brand name boards, wetsuits, and clothing. Staff are on hand and doors are open 365 days a year, save for the occasional power outage or seventy foot swell.
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).