August 27, 2010 | Tips from Travellers >
Ucluelet, Surfing & Watersports
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Imagine sitting on the horizon. You’re floating in the water with the sounds of breaking waves behind you. You’re looking out to the open ocean, forever. The clouds have split to showcase the pinks, oranges, and reds of a setting sun. Your legs dangle in the cold salt water, your perch is 9 feet of epoxy glass, and you see it coming in on the outside.
It’s a set.
The first wave rolls under you. You bob over it and catch the smile from the surfer beside you. The second wave is approaching and he gives you a nod. This one is for you.
You spin your board around and start paddling into position. You’re going to catch this wave on the shoulder, turn left, and carve it until is breaks into white wash. With the daylight expiring this will be your last ride.
With a quick glance behind you, you know it’s time to start paddling, and hard. Paddle, paddle, paddle…the power of the wave catches the back of your board. You grip your rails, push down to set the fins and pop up, dropping in down a green wall of water you carve immediately to your left. Turns: one, two, three, and you ride it out.
Once on shore you pull off your leash and look back out into the surf. A few stranglers are catching their last waves in. The water is cold dripping down your face; it’s salty on your lips. The neoprene of your wet suit squeaks against your board as you walk it back to the parking lot.
A sunset surf at Wickanninish Beach. You can’t think of anything better than that.
August 23, 2010 | Tips from Travellers >
Quadra Island, Sightseeing Tours
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If I wasn’t smiling so wide I would not have caught that bug in my mouth. I flew down the hills on my bright blue scooter, exploring Quadra Island, the heart of the Discovery Islands off the coast of North Central Vancouver Island. I imagined myself with large retro sunglasses, a colourful satchel and a hand woven scarf flowing in the wind behind me. Then I would have blended in with the earthy, laid back residents of this natural island community.
My journey began the afternoon before on the dock at Painters Lodge in Campbell River. I had reserved a room at April Point Lodge and Spa, Painters sister resort, on Quadra. There is a Discovery crossing from dock to dock every 20 minutes for their guests.
April Point Lodge sits, obviously, on April Point on the south western side of Quadra Island. The resort combines the best of luxury with water front cottage-like comforts. Each room looks over the ocean. There is a full spa, a restaurant and sushi bar, fishing charters, wild life cruises and lots of toys for rent. Toys like kayaks, bicycles and... scooters.
I woke up at dawn and threw open my curtains welcoming the seascape into my room. I drank my coffee pouring over, and spilling on, a map of Quadra Island trying to plan my day.
“Turn the key to on and press the red start button,” said the April Point crew member. I took my scooter up the hill in a few wobbly blasts of the throttle before getting the hang of it. It was just me, a bulbous black helmet and an island of discovery!
My first stop was the lighthouse. I went by an earthy and organic shopping centre, was tempted by a unique vegetarian restaurant, before carrying on down the quiet wooded and scarcely populated roads to Cape Mudge and to the point to find the white and red lighthouse. I walked over drift logs on the rocky beach to take photos.
I zipped to the eastern coast of the island and up towards the Rebecca Spit Provincial Park. I watch a summer camp school bus unload and children racing to find treasures on the beach. Half a dozen sail boats were anchored in the calm and enclosed Drew Harbour. I walked out to the spit, did some beach combing of my own, and watch kayakers paddle near the shore.
From there I headed north up the coastline to the most populous area on the island, and the commercial hub of Heriot Bay. I picnicked on the beach outside the Heriot Bay Inn and Marina. Fishing boats and yachts were coming in and out of the marina as the ferry to Cortez Island departed with a load of passengers.
The residents of Quadra Island live a laid back and rural lifestyle surrounded by stunning coastal scenery, wildlife, and an unspoilt environment. Their community is rich in culture, history and artisans. I could have explored for days, but it was time to return my scooter rental.
“How was it?” asked the staff girl at the desk back at April Point Lodge.
“Amazing,” I said with my face wind-blown, fixing my helmet hair, “Except I swallowed a bug!”
“You’re not the first,” she smiled.
My visit to Quadra Island was less than 24 hours but it was more than long enough to make me want to go back, and soon.
Next time I will ride my scooter with large retro sunglasses, a colourful satchel and a flowing hand woven scarf.
Next time, I’ll smile with my mouth shut.
August 06, 2010 | Tips from Travellers >
Find more information about Ucluelet - Attractions
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My four year old nephew’s face scrunched up as the sea cucumber was placed in his little wet hands over the touch tank. He stared at its slimy body, fascinated and disgusted. “I’ve never held a sea cucumber before!” He smiled. After the staff help him put it back into the tank he led his two year old sister around to get a better look... and to tell her all about sea cucumbers, since he is now the official expert.
We’re from Alberta and up until that day none of us really knew that such creatures exist in our oceans, let alone how they move, eat, and protect themselves from predators.
The Ucluelet Aquarium offers visitors and locals a truly up close and personal encounter with the local Pacific marine life. All the animals are collected in the spring, just 5km from the aquariums location in the Ucluelet Harbour. Most of the tanks are open so kids and adult kids too, can reach in and touch the wild life. Sea urchins, anemones, several species of star fish, clams, snails, and sea cucumbers are just a few of the animals to discover in these tanks.
The staff and volunteers at the aquarium are extremely friendly and very knowledgeable about the local biodiversity! Each hour they give a predator and prey demonstration to show visitors how life truly is in tidal pools.
“That clam jumped right off the star fish!” exclaimed my nephew. “It’s like he had a foot in there or something.”
Displays also include salmon hatchlings from the nearby Thornton Creek Hatchery, colourful rock fish, crabs, jelly fish, kelp fish, local plant life, and even a baby Giant Pacific Octopus!
The most amazing thing about the Ucluelet Aquarium is that they release all their creatures, even the plants, rocks and sand, back into the ocean at the end of the season.
This little non-profit aquarium is a must-see when visiting Ucluelet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It was fun and engaging for both children and adults. It’s been a month since our visit and my nephew and niece tell everybody they meet all they know about sea cucumbers... which is actually quite a lot.Editor's note: Learn more about the Ucluelet aquarium here.