Vibrant as a Tofino tide pool, 2011 Pacific Rim Whale Festival begins

In the summer of 2007, brothers Ryan and Bryson Robertson and good friend Hugh Patterson departed La Paz, Mexico and began a three-year sailing trip with the goal of circumnavigating  the globe. 

The three surfers intended to document the state of the oceans and beaches they found.  Hugh Patterson  told about a hundred people at the Pacific Rim Whale Festival that what they found changed his life: plastic.  Bits, chunks and plastic pieces floated in every kilometre of ocean they traversed. 

Plastic shoes, bags, and bottles coated the most remote beaches from Cocos Keeling  in the Indian Ocean thousands of miles from the mainland to familiar locations in BC.

And drink bottles everywhere. 

 "It was heartbreaking to see this," Patterson said. "I will never use another plastic bottle in my life.  We want to inspire every one we connect with to consider their personal impact on the oceans by taking more care in how they live on a day to day basis," he said.

Welcome to the second evening of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival in Tofino and Ucluelet.  The festival has been host to thought-provoking presentations like this one for twenty-five years and this year seems to be one of  the most interesting years ever. 

  Each day a different nature walk covers different ground, both literally and figuratively. 

On Tuesday March 22, for instance, Ocean Outfitters will take ten people on a guided tour of Meares Island Big Tree Trail.  Same day, Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre invites people to "explore the high tide and the low tide, where land and sea meet...The crashing waves and long, sandy beaches serve as a spectacular setting to learn about the life along Pacific Rim National Park Reserve's shoreline and everything that makes this place so special." 

Alternately, people can meet at Darwin's Cafe for an interpretive walk with "Mudflat Explorer" Kimberly Johnston.  The Tofino Mudlfats are more than just mud, apparently.  "They're one of the little-known jewels of Clayoquot Sound," the write up in the Festival schedule on this walk reads.  "Thousands of migrating shorebirds depend on these mudflats, and migrating grey whales use them too."

Wednesday, March 23 will find an interactive specimen collecting opportunity on Terrace Beach in Ucluelet.  What is seining, you ask?  "John Ucluelet Aquarium curator Dave Hurwitz 'in his shoes' for an actual Aquarium-bound specimen collection. Oh! The life in  our own backyard!   A net, chest, waders, some biologist friends, and you!," the write-up on this offering reads.

Wednesday also includes a history lesson on Clayoquot Sound by Margaret Horsefield, whom, the write-up promises, is "lively and entertaining" and storytelling with Roy Henry Vickers, a First Nation artist.

There's much more to sample in the festival which packs as much vitality into a small amount of space as a Tofino tide pool.

On a beautiful Sunday morning, the 15th Annual "Chowder Chowdown" had crowds lined up for soup and in the afternoon, an interactive scuba diving introduction had a place on the schedule. 

Kids will love the Pacific Rim Whale Festival for the many encounters it offers them with the marine life that thrives in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  Adults will find the festival  a reminder of how much there is to appreciate, if not revere,  in "our own backyard."
How to get there?
Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay terminal in Vancouver to Departure Bay in Naniamo.  Follow Island Highway to Qualicum Beach exit.  Follow the signs for Port Alberni.  Highway 4 takes you up a windy road.  Follow it until you hit the turn-off to Ucluelet or Tofino.  The entire trip takes less than five hours, with ferry reservations.

Where to stay?
For luxurious suites in a stunning location, choose  the Black Rock Resort in Ucuelet.

In Tofino, choose Ocean Village Resort's affordable, cozy beachfront cabins.

The area has many other options as well, which you can find through Tourism Tofino.

And get more information about the festival here.

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