We had been driving on Vancouver Island for less than an hour when we spotted our first bald eagle. The great bird was serenely surveying his domain from a perch in a towering roadside cedar.
As we careened to the side of the road and stopped to gawk at the feathered fellow, an island resident approached, retrieving her morning paper. “What are you looking at?” she asked. When we pointed to the regal bird, she said, “Oh, I guess we take them for granted. We see them all the time.”
Though we never became nonchalant about the bounty of nature on Vancouver Island, we did routinely encounter a profusion of flora and fauna during our stay. From the deck of an excursion boat, we spied sea lions, seals, and black bears foraging along the shore. From the back porch of our cabin, we fed brilliant blue Steller’s Jays by hand. As we walked along the trails that score the coast and inlands, we spotted Gray whales, startled Black-tailed deer and strolled under 800 year-old Douglas fir trees. On one trek, we came upon two creatures we’d previously only seen hanging in closets: a martin and a mink.
At the novel catch-and-release aquarium in the harbor side village of Ucluelet, we saw a fish called a Sanddab. Reminiscent of an alien in Men in Black, the Sanddab’s eye migrates from the side of its head to the top. We also became acquainted with a Spot Prawn. The Spot Prawn is the gender bender of the marine world, morphing from male to female in the third year of life. We learned that an Orca whale teaches it’s young to hunt by biting off the fins sea lions, thus disabling the poor critters sufficiently to make them easy prey for junior. That cruel fact gives you a whole new perspective on the playful stars of the show at SeaWorld.
Wherever we wandered on Vancouver Island, there were signs posted, warning of the presence of bears, cougars and wolves. While we never had a close encounter with any of those beasts, just the possibility added an extra element of excitement to our forays in the forests. When I voiced my predatory intrigue to a Vancouver Island native, she responded with a shrug, and said wistfully, “You know what I’d love to see? I’d love to see a firefly. That would really be a thrill.”
So, in the end, travel has an unexpected reward. When you return home, you have a whole new appreciation for the fireflies in your backyard.
Vancouver Island: When You Go
Point No Point Resort, Shirley, BC: from the moment you arrive, you will know that the point of the Point No Point Resort is the arresting views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from each of the 25 cliffside cabins; Terrace Beach Resort, Ucluelet, BC: Actor Jason Priestley and his family have fashioned a timeless seaside refuge reminiscent of a vintage fishing village, with a boardwalk, cabins, lofts, and rooms, all fronting a peaceful tree-lined coastal inlet
Restaurant at Point No Point Resort, Shirley, BC: each table is furnished with binoculars at this dining room-with-a-view; Matterson House Restaurant, Ucluelet, BC: comfort food in a cozy little nook, where you will be elbow-to-elbow with the seafaring locals; Jiggers Food Truck, Ucluelet, BC: the place to land the best fish and chips in town
Ucluelet Aquarium, Ucluelet, BC: get schooled on the local marine life, here on temporary loan from the sea; Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC area: amble Vancouver Island’s rugged coast and timeless forests; Beachcomber Ocean Tours, Ucluelet, BC: explore the nature and history of the Barkley Sound from a nautical perspective