We woke up and walked up the street for some pizza from New York Style Pizzeria in Nanaimo. It wasn't open yet, so we walked about a bit in the rain and came back to enjoy some yummy pizza before hitting the road for Tofino. The drive to Tofino was an experience in itself. We made a stop at Coombs Country Market to see the famous market with goats grazing on the grass roof.
|Goats on the roof at Coomb's Country Market|
We also, once again, grabbed some ice cream. I had to re-visit the Nanaimo bar flavor and James decided on the spumante again. We took some pics of the goats and also a big, oddly colored bunny then headed back out.
|Awesomely tall trees in Cathedral Grove|
The drive got windier and twistier and wilder and more scenic. Misty mountains loomed in all directions. It was hard to tell how tall they were in the clouds. Rivers and lakes were almost always in sight, some with beautiful rapids and small waterfalls. After several hours of wonderful scenery and twists and turns, we arrived in the sleepy, little surf and fishing town of Tofino. As we came in towards Tofino, glimpses of the open Pacific Ocean could be caught through the rainforests. There were also signs warning travelers that they were entering tsunami zones. This prompted me to research the last tsunami in the area. It seems any noteworthy tsunamis around Vancouver Island haven't happened since the 1700's. I still wanted to read the safety signs before entering any beaches or hiking grounds. It seems if you feel the ground shake or see sudden rise in the ocean, you better high tail it to higher ground. Anyway, we arrived at our resort, Pacific Sands. It was a nice place with it's own private beach access. Our room was on the second floor, overlooking the beach.
|Watching surfers from our balcony|
|Dogs playing on our beach|
It was great to hear and see the waves rolling in. We got changed for dinner and headed into town to a place called SoBo (sophisticated bohemian). After a bit of a wait, we enjoyed our meals. James had halibut over veggies and a carrot emulsion that he really liked and I had green curry soup and veggie arepas. After dinner, we went back to our room, donned our bright yellow raincoats and went to the beach to enjoy the drizzly evening. There were quite a few surfers out and people walking dogs. We walked up and down the beach and to a big rock to look at some tide pools. There was a neat view of a lighthouse from the beach too. We sniffed out a nearby trail to come back to the next day, then called it a night. The sound of the waves rolling in was a great way to fall asleep and a beautiful sight to wake up to.
We woke up pretty early, expecting our in room breakfast delivery, which never came. We were on a schedule to get to our whale tour, so we ended up scarfing down some Clif bars and heading out. We arrived at the Tofino Whale Centre around 10. The lady at the desk checked us in and said we could wander around for about 20 minutes then come back to get suited up.
|Ridiculous red survival suit...so cool|
We walked up and down the nearby streets, looking at the little shops and the harbor, then headed back. The suits were bright red Mustang Survival suits that pulled over our many layers to keep wind and rain out. We were also given rain slickers, just in case. Our group of 11 people walked down from the centre to the boat dock (looking ridiculous in our puffy red suits) and hopped over into our Boston Whaler boat. The boat was small and quiet and great at jumping waves and making quick turns. Our skipper and guide, Howie, was very knowledgeable and had a keen eye for spotting wildlife. We hopped along the waves at high speeds, then idled in towards an island to have a look at a deer.
|Oh dear, what a cute deer!|
It didn't seem much bothered by us being there. Next, we rode out a bit further to a small island. As we approached, there seemed to be something curled up for a nap atop a large rock. It was a wolf!
|Checking out what's going on|
|Checking out our boat|
We got closer and he awoke from his nap, standing up to stretch and check out the boat. He decided to walk around to some other rocks and our boat was able to follow along side the island. He finally settled back down, poking his head over some rocks to nap again, but kept his ears alert, like little radars turning this way and that. After wolf watching for some time (Howie informed us that wolves were his favorite and he had even recently had a wolf tattoo done) we headed back to open water. We then saw it, our first whale! Gray whale to be exact. It was pretty awesome. You'd see a blow, a back, a tail, a fin. Were they playing? Eating? Waving? There was a moment when one whale was not but 20 feet from our boat! Another interesting thing about whales....they have a smell. A gross smell. But the smell was nothing to worry about during this awesome experience.
|Gray whale tail|
|Awesome shot, James!|
Our boat also passed a group, or raft, of steller sea lions sunning on a rock. We saw a harbor seal poking out of the water, some bald eagles, brandt's cormorants, puffins, starfish, gulls, and a cute little otter floating about.
|Sea lions sunning|
|Bald eagle ignoring a crow|
|"You otter join me in the water!"|
We saw whales a couple times, though I'm not sure how many individual whales there were. Overall, an amazing tour! Once we were off the boat and back to the center, we thanked Howie, lost the red suit, and left.
Lunch was at a small Chinese place called Gary's Kitchen. James had Szechewan Chicken and I had fried tofu over veggies and noodles. We split some veggie spring rolls. It was a mighty big portion and was mighty tasty too. After lunch, we headed back to our hotel where we stopped into the main reception area and bought some frozen curries and a dessert ice cream cookie sandwich to make for dinner later. Then we decided to hike the sunset trail out to Pettinger Point, which was the trail just by our hotel property.
|Beautiful views everywhere|
It was a fairly short hike out to some stunning and picture perfect viewing spots of the ocean, rocks, and some shorebirds. We spotted a golden eagle and some oyster catchers, and lots of crows as far as birds go.
|Golden eagle and crow|
There were some pretty plants too. We hiked back and decided to head over to Schooner Cove, a trail in the Pacific Rim Provincial Park. We had to drive a few miles to get there and purchase a daily park pass, then we headed onto the trail, which was mostly boardwalks through some beautiful rainforest. Before we really even started, we met a giant (as far as slugs go) spotted banana slug.
We took its picture and headed onto the trail. It lead us out to a nice, very secluded beach. We were the only people on there for awhile. After exploring the beach a bit, climbing through some driftwood, and of course picture taking, we decided to head back up the trail as it also looked as though it might rain.
|Peaceful and empty beach|
|Made a quick sand heart for my love|
|Silly perspective shot|
|We look so short|
Right as we got back into our car, the rain started really coming down. Great timing! We decided to use the rainy down time to do some laundry in the guest laundry facility and then we made dinner in our kitchenette. We made chicken curry for James and palak paneer for me (spinach with cheese). Both were tasty. We entertained the idea of going out on the beach for a bit, but the heavy rain dissuaded us. We used the indoor down time to do some picture reviewing, journaling, emailing, and general relaxing by the fireplace.
|Cozy room at Pacific Sands|
We knew we'd have to be up super early for our bear tour.
This was bear tour day! We were up at 6:45am. We ate a Clif bar and had some ginger ale to settle our stomachs for the potential choppy waters since it was a rainy and windy morning. We checked out of Pacific Sands on our way out and headed back to the Tofino Whale Centre where we were cheerfully greeted by the same receptionist. She got our familiar red suits and yellow rain slickers ready and gave us a hat for the wind and rain. Our skipper was Howie again. He had come in on his day off just to do a tour for the two of us. Super nice.
|Howie waiting on the bear tour boat|
The boat we took out was slightly different from the one we went whaling in the day before, but still very quiet and quick. We hopped into the front for good viewing. On the way out to the inlets, the driving rain and wave spray was harsh and sharp on my face. I had my sunglasses on and hoods pulled around me best I could. James seemed to be doing the same thing. When we arrived to the inlets, the weather had calmed down greatly and Howie spotted our first bears- a mommy and two little cubs. Magical!
|Crazy! We are watching real black bears out for their morning breakfast!|
|So cute! Love the cubs.|
The mom turned rocks to find food while the cubs played. Howie talked about how cubs usually stay with their mother about 2 years and that these were first year cubs. He also talked about how good the bear's sense of smell and hearing was but not so much their eyesight. We watched as she munched away at the bounty she found in the rocks until her cubs ran off into the treeline and called to her. We moved on to the next grouping of bears.
|"Anything tasty under here?"|
|Paw lickin' good|
One bear was so close, it seemed we were no more than 10 feet away. They really didn't seem to mind that we were there. Just busy eating. Crows seemed to hang around the bears, I guess to pick off the leftovers. We ended up seeing 15 black bears, which was apparently very lucky! We also had the pleasure of seeing more bald eagles and a couple porpoises. Overall, a really awesome and dreamlike experience. We had a quick bite to eat at Breakers Deli, right across the street from the Whale Centre. James had a salmon sandwich and I had a falafel wrap. Then we headed to the town of Ucluelet, just a short distance from Tofino. We stopped at Incinerator Rock, a little beach area with big rocks on the way, but only for a short time since it was windy and chilly. I will continue about Ucluelet on the next post since I've been trying to break the posts up by town.