Answers

1. What kinds of protected areas are there in this part of Vancouver Island?

Protected areas are those with a defined boundary within which there is a recognized degree of conservation policy in place. The policy can be international, national, provincial, or municipal, in scope. In our area, we have examples of each level of protection, and the degree of protection varies. In combination, these areas provide assurance that the intact natural systems within these areas will remain relatively free from the impact of human activities such as industrial resource extraction and development.

  • Ecological Reserves [provincial authority] provide the highest level of protection, prohibiting public access, collecting, and development. They tend to be small in area, and remote.
  • National Parks [National authority] such as Pacific Rim allow public access while offering a strong protection, management, and educational mandate.
  • Provincial Parks provide a similar protection & conservation mandate.
  • UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves [International mandate] such as Clayoquot WBR, are designated areas where research, education, and conservation are the key objectives, while protection from industrial development and resource extraction is not assured. Instead, a collaborative approach to sustainable development, applying research and innovation to minimize impact, is employed.

2. What is an ecosystem? An ecological niche? A micro-niche?

An ecosystem is a area of the biosphere which has naturally-occurring boundaries, such as a watershed or a valley, within which the natural resources, flora & fauna have collectively established a functional, balanced, sustainable natural order.

3. What species of trees make up the local forests?

The dominant giants of the area are Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and Sitka Spruce. Douglas-Fir, often thought of as the ‘classic’ temperate rainforest species, prefers drier, well-drained slopes, so it is not as abundant along the outer coast. Other species include Western Yew, Grand Fir, Amabalis Fir, Red Alder, Pacific Crabapple, and Shore Pine.

4. What is a species, exactly?

The term ‘species’ refers to a plant or animal that is genetically different from all other plants or animals to the extent that it can only reproduce within its own species. For example, dogs & cats are different species, and cannot interbreed, whereas Beagles and Terriers are both dogs, and they can interbreed.

5. What is a rainforest?

Scientists have defined any forested area receiving 60 or more inches of rain per year on average, as a “rainforest”.

6. Why is this forest called a “temperate old-growth rainforest?”

The original, naturally-developed forest of the outer coast area of BC is located in a “temperate” climatic zone [as opposed to a ‘tropical’ zone, for example. Because this is the forest that developed here since the end of the last Ice Age [which ended some 10,000 years ago], it is dominated by specimens of trees which are many centuries old…some may be more than 1000 years old – that’s old-growth!

7. What causes the tides, and how do they work here? How do they compare to other marine areas in the world?

Tides here average 12 feet in vertical range, with annual extremes exceeding 14 feet. That is about half the vertical range of the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, and much less than the world’s highest tidal ranges which exceed 50 vertical feet. Our tides are described as “semi-diurnal and unequal” by marine hydrologists. This means they occur twice a day [2 highs alternating with 2 lows] and with each high and low separated by about 6 hours, on a 24 hour cycle.

8. Is it OK to collect starfish and sand dollars?

In protected areas such as National Parks, Provincial Parks and Ecological Reserves, it is illegal to collect plants, animals, and natural objects. On public beaches of the outer coast, such as Chesterman Beach, Cox Bay and McKenzie Beach, the local etiquette is “take only pictures, leave only footprints”. It is important to remember that collecting live specimens of shellfish, starfish, seaweeds, sand dollars and other shells will lead to a very smelly experience within a day or so!

9. What kinds of shells can you find here?

The tidelines are a natural ‘sorting zone’ where natural treasures from thousands of miles away are often found, along with thousands of local specimens of limpets, barnacles, clams, mussels, chitons, urchins, sand dollars, whelks, turban snails, olive shells, crabs, shrimp, winkles, and periwinkles, to name just a few.

10. What should I bring on a trip?

Water and snacks are always recommended, especially as there is nowhere to buy any refreshments either at the trailhead or en route. Footwear should be comfortable for walking in for extended periods. Non-slip soles are good, especially as boardwalks can be slippery when it has been raining. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather conditions on the day – in summer months even if it looks bright and sunny outside it is recommended to bring a sweater as temperatures can change and it is often cooler in a shaded forest or on a windy beach. It is also recommended to wear sunscreen even if the day is overcast as you will be outside for a good length of time. In the winter months waterproof gear is a necessity as your walk will go ahead rain or shine. It is recommended to dress in layers so that you can easily adjust for optimum comfort. Finally sunglasses and a hat are useful throughout the year. The weather in the area is variable so please make sure that you are prepared and will be comfortable.

These are a few of our favorite things... to assist you around delving deeper into the natural bounty of the West Coast.

Accommodations

A comfy roof over one's head is the perfect complement to a day's exploring. Tofino offers a diverse selection of Bed & Breakfast accommodations, luxurious resorts and "homes away from home". All accommodations on the coast can be seen by consulting Tourism Tofino and Tourism Ucluelet.

Clothing Outfitters

Left your raingear home? Some accommodations will have complimentary loaners on hand, and you can also take sturdy outdoor gear home from Tofino outfitters such as Tofino Fishing & Trading and their high quality outdoor apparel or Storm Light Outfitters, carrying all necessary technical gear and clothing for your outdoor endeavours. Right down the dock from Storm Light is the supplier for commercial and recreational marine vessels, Method Marine, providing the goods to keep your boat afloat.

The Weather

It's an everchanging phenomenon here and a prime topic of discussion, of course. These websites will keep you up to date on our Tofino weather.

We like the Canada Weather Office forecast for its accuracy, and it's always useful to check out the Tofino Surf Report and Tide Chart. The Cox Bay Webcam will give you a nice window on the waves and skies at this prime Tofino surfing beach.

Places You Should Visit on the Pacific Rim

These special destinations will beautifully complement your time with Long Beach Nature Tours, are not be missed as part of your West Coast experience. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is the first easy choice with its variety of novice to moderate trails. On the flip side, the Tofino Botanical Gardens showcase the flora indigeneous to our climate in a variety of fun and non-traditional displays, and is not to be missed. Marine history buffs will appreciate the cozy Tonquin Maritime Museum, filled with artifacts retrieved right off our coast, and be sure to visit the charming Ucluelet Aquarium, which populates its touch tanks every year with species from Barkley Sound and releases everything (or everyone) back to their native waters in autumn.

If you are visiting the Pacific Rim in your own Kayak, don't miss BC Marine Trails as the go-to resource to plan your trip and find sheltered campsites.