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Canada Wildlife Holiday. Why we choose Tofino for bears and whales!

Posted in: Canada, Posted in: Bear Safari Canada


Canada Wildlife Holiday Tofino

Canada and in particular British Colombia is so rich in wildlife and opportunities for bear viewing and whale watching, sometimes it is difficult to understand the huge choice of destinations and which of these places to choose for your Canada wildlife holiday. With our Canada Operations Manager, James Manson, living on Vancouver Island for many years, we were in the perfect position to experience first-hand the best local wildlife viewing operators in British Colombia and create spectacular customised Canada wildlife holidays for our discerning clients.

Tofino wildlife holidays

Situated on the south west pacific coast of Vancouver Island, it is hard not to fall in love with this picturesque coastal town. Even if there was not wonderful opportunities for small group whale watching in Tofino or super encounters with coastal black bears, you would still love visiting Tofino for its ‘laid back’ vibe, eclectic range of shops and art galleries, good choice of restaurants and easy access to the famous. It is also a great location for keen hikers who want to walk sections of the famous Wild Pacific Trail; which starts just south of Tofino at Ucluelet. Some travellers even come here during the winter for the niche travel activity of storm watching, with this town becoming famous for observing the full fury of the Pacific Ocean releasing its energy ‘on top of’ the town!

Whale Watching Tofino

Tofino has some of the best whale watching off the Pacific coast of Canada and North America. Famous as a place where the Gray Whales pass twice a year – with some of them stopping and becoming resident for that season – as part of their long distance migration between Mexico and Alaska. Because of this two-day migration of the Gray Whales past Tofino, the whale watching season in Tofino is very long, with the peak periods being March to May and then again June to November.

There is more to see than just the Gray Whales on your whale watching tour, with good chances for Humpback Whales and transient Orcas. Transient Orcas are the Orcas whose main food source is seals rather than Salmon; which is the food preferred by the resident pods of Orcas which are famously see around Johnstone Strait on the north east coast of Vancouver Island. Other marine wildlife which you have the chance to see includes colonies of Sea Lions -or a raft of Sea Lions if they are in the water- as well as seals and porpoises.

We generally work with whale watching operators in Tofino who can take our client out in two different types of boats. Some people prefer the smaller (12 passenger whale watching boat) more open Zodiac boats; which can be quite exhilarating to travel in and provide a small group whale watching experience at Tofino. For those who prefer a cabin style boat, and the chance to walk around the deck, we can also book you into this type of boat; still with a small number of passengers for your whale watching tour at Tofino

Black Bear viewing Tofino

Although many visitors think that there are option to see both brown and black bears from Vancouver Island, the reality is that there are no actual brown bears found on the island itself. The brown bear viewing you see advertised from the east coast of Vancouver Island, are actual departures to inlets and island off the coast of western BC. So this means that apart from the odd stray brown bear who might swim across to Vancouver Island – quite rare and sadly hunters usually take them out of equation pretty soon – black bears are the dominant bear species on the island and without the ‘threat’ and competition from the larger brown bears, they thrive.

Generally the Zodiac and smaller boats are used to travel to remote shorelines and beaches where black bears feed and forage. They are incredibly adapt at turning over rocks and boulders and scraping off mussels and other seafood, which provides a valuable source of protein and energy. Watching these beautiful bear meander along the shoreline, with the multi-coloured lichen covered rocks and the dense temperate forest behind, provides some great black photography opportunities and is why we recommend one of two black bear tours in Tofino during your Canada wildlife holiday.

How to get to Tofino – self-drive or by plane?

Many visitors to Tofino enjoy the self-drive option for Vancouver, as not only do you get to cross the scenic Strait of Georgia between Vancouver to Nanaimo. You then enjoy a scenic half-day drive across the spine of Vancouver Island, through mountains and past lakes, to reach the Pacific Ocean at Tofino and your starting point for your wildlife activities. However for those who prefer the ariel route and in effect to combine a scenic flight in a small plane with whale watching and bear viewing at Tofino; then there are a couple of operators including Tofino Air who can provide this air service.

Where to stay in Tofino

Rather than recommend specific hotels or wilderness lodges at Tofino we would instead to channel advice around location. Ourselves and many of our clients have preferred to ditch the car at Tofino and stay at ocean-fronted condo’s or hotels which are within easy walking distance of Tofino town and most importantly, easy walking distance of the whale watching and bear watching tours. This generally means a 5-15 minute walk from your accommodation to the jetty of the activity provider. However there are not many long stretches of sandy beaches close to Tofino downtown, so if this is more a combined beach/surfing trip and Canada wildlife holiday, then you may be better off staying at one of the famous beaches; such as Chesterman – recently voted one of the Top 50 beaches in the world; for its raw, rugged beauty – and shuttling in your rental car from your beach hotel of condo to and from the best wildlife operators in Tofino town.

Canada wildlife holidays. Is Tofino great for families?

Absolutely, and I can say that with 100% conviction after having taken my own family there back in 2008. There are a lot of activities geared towards kids and in particular teenage kids; such a surfing lessons, kayaking and beach walks. In addition, the whale watching and bear watching tours out of Tofino are not too long (3 to 4 hours generally); which helps keep the kids motivated and not bored. Then you have the town itself, with a wide range of both shops and restaurants which are very much geared towards families. So if this sounds like a Canada wildlife holiday that has a little something for all of you, then check out this Tofino wildlife holiday.

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