On this new adventure we offer a short but exciting opportunity to explore Canada’s wild West Coast. We begin in Vancouver and make our way by ferry to Tofino for a pelagic birding adventure out to the continental shelf. From here we’ll look back to the forested mountains and wild beaches of Clayoquot Sound and Vancouver Island.
Out in the deep blue there is a seemingly unlimited potential for interesting seabirds and mammals such as albatross, shearwaters, puffins, phalaropes, jaegers, whales, sea otters and more. Pacific Rim National Park is a delight at this time of year, when dripping rainforests offer a respite from the summer heat elsewhere in Canada. Wild beaches are the home of wolves and a large assortment of shorebirds. Early September is a great time of year for shorebird viewing in British Columbia.
To round out the experience we’ll sample the excellent cuisine that British Columbia has to offer, and soak up some laid-back west coast atmosphere. The tour begins and ends in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Day 1: Arrival in Vancouver
Upon arrival at Vancouver International Airport, you can transfer to our hotel near the airport where we’ll meet for a welcome dinner. Your guide will introduce the trip including the itinerary and our target birds and wildlife.
Day 2: Ferry to Vancouver Island
We’ll embark on a mid-day ferry to Vancouver Island. Before then, we’ll drive to Boundary Bay where we can view some migrant birds at one of the world’s great shorebird viewing sites. Boundary Bay offers exceptional viewing of common migrants freshly arriving from the breeding grounds such as Black-bellied Plover, Western Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Baird’s and Semipalmated Sandpiper. Rarities show up often and this is a great time to find exciting waders such as Red Knot, Marbled Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and Red-necked Stint.
The Tsawwassen to Duke Point ferry is a two-hour mini-pelagic trip that takes us across the Strait of Georgia. This is a great place to see resident Orcas. Birds include Pacific Loon, Brand’s and Pelagic Cormorant and Marbled Murrelet.
Once we arrive in Nanaimo we’ll head north then west over to Ucluelet. A mandatory stop is Cathedral Grove, one of Vancouver Island’s most impressive stands of old-growth cedar and fir forests. Impressive stands will leave us breathless, and we have a chance to see birds such as Hammond’s Flycatcher, Steller’s Jay, Brown Creeper, Hairy Woodpecker and Pacific Wren. Night in Ucluelet
Day 3: West Coast Pelagic tour
A pelagic off the west coast of Vancouver Island is a journey of discovery. We never know what we’ll find out there, some 60 km off the coast. The boat trip starts in Tofino, about half an hour north of Ucluelet. First, we ply the inshore waters where we’ll hope for both Humpback and Gray Whale, Sea Otter, and birds such as Bald Eagle, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Rhinoceros Auklet and Common Murre. At the famed Cleland Islands, we have a chance to view a small colony of Tufted Puffins. Also in the area could be Heermann’s Gull and even Horned Puffin.
Once we point the bow to the west, we’ll make a one-hour journey to the edge of the continental shelf. As soon as we make it, all of a sudden the ocean becomes alive with seabirds. Specialties at this time of year include Buller’s and Flesh-footed Shearwater. We’ve been lucky to see the very rare Short-tailed Albatross here several times. Otherwise, the long list of more common pelagic birds include: Red-necked Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull, Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Ancient Murrelet, Cassin’s Auklet, Long-tailed Jaeger and more.
Other animals abound including Risso’s Dolphin, Humpback Whale, Northern Fur Seal, Blue Shark and other marine surprises.
We’ll return to our hotel in the afternoon to rest and may return for some more birding in the evening, at a local hotspot. Night in Ucluelet
Day 4: Pacific Rim National Park
Today will be a back-up day for the pelagic tour, otherwise we’ll be exploring some west coast beaches and rainforest. At Florencia Bay, we can find Wilson’s Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Red-breasted Sapsucker and Varied Thrush. We’ll scan for ducks and loons out in the bay and we might even see surfers in the water here. One of the elusive but often-seen denizens of Pacific Rim is Gray Wolf, and we have the potential to see them if they visit the beaches in search of marine fare. Black Bears are common here.
We’ll feel small among the giant Sitka Spruce along the Rainforest Trail, and we’ll get our scopes out when checking out Long Beach and Sharp Road for interesting shorebirds. The area truly has a west coast feel and we’ll make the most of it. Night in Ucluelet
Day 5: Transfer to Vancouver
We’ll do some more birding around Ucluelet this morning and search for any species we haven’t yet sighted. Then we’ll return to the eastern side of Vancouver Island where, if we have time, we can explore some hotspots for more shorebirds and forest birds such as Hutton’s Vireo and Black-throated Gray Warbler.
We’ll then catch another ferry that will bring us back to the Lower Mainland, this time closer to Whistler. As such, we’ll get to explore a little bit of mountainous terrain and get nice views of Vancouver before returning to the airport hotel via Stanley Park.
Day 6: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel near Vancouver International Airport.
Departures & Prices
Tour Price Includes
- All accommodation (Good quality)
- All breakfast and lunches
- One pelagic trip
- Ground transportation
- 1 guide with 4 - 8 participants, 2 guides in 2 vehicles with 9 - 12 participants
- All park, conservation and entrance fees
Tour Price Does Not Include
- Flights to and from Vancouver
- Evening meals (group will dine together, but pay individually)
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Taxes (5% GST)
What to Expect
What to Expect
Our British Columbia Pelagic and Coast tour is primarily a birding tour, but we will also look for other wildlife and enjoy the natural beauty of British Columbia.
The daily travel schedule varies to account for weather, bird species and habitat, but it is a fairly fast-paced tour due short duration of the tour. Most mornings we are out early before breakfast, but return to have breakfast around 8. We will spend the remainder of our morning birding, before a leisurely lunch around noon. In the evenings we will relax after dinner, but there are some night excursions scheduled to search for owls and other nightlife. These are always optional.
Breakfast is usually at the hotel after a morning in the field. Lunch is often at a restaurant, apart from a few picnics. Dinner is always at a good restaurant not far from our accommodation. During dinner we usually discuss the day’s activities and review the list of birds seen and heard.
Accommodations during the tour vary but are all charming or luxurious, spacious and comfortable.
For the most part, the walking on this tour is suitable for everyone. However, we will occasionally encounter slippery trail sections or uneven terrain, and we may have a short climb or two.
The drive from Vancouver to Ucluelet takes about 5 hours but includes a ferry ride. We will also be making stops along the way including a stop at the spectacular Cathedral Grove. The road on the Island is curvy in places.
The tour will take place during BC’s autumn. Daytime temperatures can still be warm at this time of year, but can also be highly variable. Rain is also possible.
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Huge flocks of Western Sandpipers and a variety of other shorebirds
- Tufted Puffin
- Black-footed Albatross
- Ancient Murrelet
- Buller’s Shearwater and various pelagic species
- Western songbirds including Hutton’s Vireo, Townsend’s Warbler, Pacific Wren and Chestnut-backed Chickadee