Activities & Adventures Wildlife Viewing

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The awe of seeing a Black bear ramble along the shoreline searching for crabs or roe tends to leave people speechless.

Let the animals, birds and marine life around Clayoquot Sound take your breath away on a wildlife viewing tour.

We are fortunate to live with incredibly diverse neighbours in Clayoquot Sound. The flora and fauna are awe-inspiring and nothing compares to seeing them in their element. Guided wildlife and whale watching tours are informative, safe and respectful ways to encounter wildlife in Tofino.

čims - Bear

If you see a Black bear along the road and are at a safe distance, it is important not to stop. This can normalize human interactions, and lead to bears being destroyed. And no - Grizzly bears do not live here.

A group of otters floating on their backs looking at the camera Black bear with his paw over his face, showing off his large claws Floating Tufted puffin

Specialty tours

Seasonality 101

The animals living in Clayoquot Sound follow the seasons. Tune into their cycles for your best viewing opportunities. 

Hundreds of shorebirds on the beach and in the sky

Migration

Migrating animals arrive in Tofino by air and sea. In the spring, the Grey and Humpback whales, and many bird species, migrate north from southern birthing grounds or offshore feeding areas. These migrations usually follow the herring spawn, which leaves a surplus of nutrients to feed on. In late September or October, you may see these same populations passing through on their migration back south.

Mother bear with her small cub on the shoreline touching foreheads

Emerging

Spring is when animals that have slept through winter re-emerge for the warmer seasons. While Black bears here do not hibernate, they will go into torpor - a slowed metabolic state - and they are not the only ones. Banana slugs too retreat into leafy debris to withstand freezing, and amphibians, like Western Toads will burrow underground. You will start to hear the frog and toad chorus again on spring evenings. 

Aerial view of the ocean, islands and sandbars under the water

Spawning

Herring return to coastal waters from offshore feeding in the early spring with large broadcast spawning events, turning the water into a milky turquoise, and creating a feeding frenzy for all sorts of other animals. In the fall, salmon travel upriver to their spawning grounds where females will “dig” a redd (“nest”) for their eggs that will get fertilized by a male. They then die, leaving the carcasses along river banks for bears, raccoons, ravens, or wolves.

Birding

Outstanding habitats such as old growth rainforests, sandy beaches, and tidal mudflats attract migrating birds in large numbers. Up to 200 different species may be seen in a single year. 

Heron flying with wings outstretched

Beach or trail

Among the more readily visible species are Bald eagles, the sapphire-blue (and vocal) Stellar’s jay and the storied Great blue heron. Bird watching can be done on foot and by boat. You can also take a guided bird watching tour by foot with Long Beach Nature Tours. 

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Father with child on his shoulders looking through binoculars

Mudflats

The Tofino Mudflats, a 99km2 area, has been named an “Important Birding Area” by BirdLife International in recognition of the thousands of shorebirds that visit the area between late April and mid-May each year on their way north. It may be accessed at the Sharp Road viewing platform, and by the trail behind Hotel Zed. Raincoast Education Society hosts free bird watching events during the Shorebird Festival every spring. Bring your spotting scope and binoculars and see how many species you can see!

Sea lions on the rocky shoreline

Cleland Island Ecological Reserve

A boat trip to Cleland Island Ecological Reserve could mean sighting the famed Tufted Puffins. You can also spot seabirds and shorebirds such as Wandering Tattlers, Surfbirds, and Rhinoceros Auklets. While most providers offer private trips to the island, The Whale Centre has regularly scheduled bird watching trips. 

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Fish swimming with a hook and line in it's mouth
Jellyfish with light coming down on it in the ocean and kelp in the background

Rare sightings

Sometimes, we are treated to a special sighting. For those who go offshore tuna fishing, there may be the chance to see White-sided dolphins or blue sharks. Summer months and shifts in the currents occasionally bring Sunfish closer to shore, which are spotted by whale watching guides, or a smack of moon jellyfish surrounding your boat in Lemmens Inlet. 

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See the list of outfitters that can help you paddle, cruise or fly to meet the locals in their own backyard.

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