Rich tidal pools,
a shoreline full of life, and fantastic geological features attract
visitors to Botanical Beach, northwest of Victoria.
little creatures in the tidal pools
offers one of the best opportunities to view intertidal marine creatures
and plants on Vancouver Island. Botanical Beach has 251 hectares
of upland habitat, but it is best known for its abundance of intertidal
life. The area is a protected zone, so please take nothing but photographs
from Botanical Beach.
It is one of
the most amazing places on the entire West Coast, particularly at
low tide. This is when visitors can walk a long way out across flat
sandstone and granite outcroppings to view tide pools filled like
jewel boxes with brightly coloured marine animals. Purple, red and
orange starfish and sea urchins, blue mussel shells, white gooseneck
barnacles, and green sea anemones and sea cucumbers only begin to
hint at the spectrum of intertidal life that thrives here. So significant
is this location that a research station was first established here
in 1900 by a team from the University of Minnesota.
that live here must be able to handle a wide range of conditions.
When the tide is out there are significant changes in temperature,
predators, food sources and salinity. Each creature has adapted to
contend with these variable conditions.
cannot cope with drying will survive in the tidepools or in shaded
crevices. There you will find congregations of seastars, chitons
and anemones, the seastars often piled together to reduce moisture
loss. Barnacles, snails and mussels are able to survive by closing
up tightly with a small amount of water inside their shells. Purple
sea urchins have established a particular niche in the soft sandstone.
Their sharp, hard spines help to wear away the indentations in which
Beach, Juan De Fuca Provincial Park
is a spectacular coastal route that ends in Port Renfrew, 104 km
from Victoria. Visitors find their way to the beach along the same
rough road used for most of this century. The distance from the
dock in Port Renfrew to the beach is 5 km. Only four-wheel drive
vehicles with high clearance should attempt the road past the parking
area. Beyond here the road narrows, parking is limited, and turning
around is all but impossible. Better to bike or walk in. Allow 45
minutes on foot from the parking lot. As you near the beach the
trail divides: take the right fork to reach Botany Bay, go left
for Botanical Beach and the tide pools.
Ridges of shale
and quartz jut up through the basalt at Botanical Beach to create
immense tableaus in places such as the awe-inspiring Devil's Punchbowl.
The Punchbowl, flanked by smaller bowls on either side, features a
gallery of caves rising above two huge cedar logs and a field of driftwood
kindling. Although you wouldn't want to be anywhere near here at high
tide, it's staggering to imagine how conditions must boil in there
during winter storms.
Watching from Botanical Beach
are located at the north end of the sandy beach and require some
scrambling to reach. Wear rubber boots, as the going is always wet.
Even during the lowest tides of the year - December and January,
June and July - the prospect of being caught out here will make
your adrenal gland flutter.
so that you visit here when the tide is falling. At this point on
the coast there is often only one major tide per day, and you can
spend several hours waiting for it to recede if you arrive at the
wrong time. The best local tide chart to consult is the one issued
for Tofino. The store at the Port Renfrew Hotel is a good local
source; so is Parks Canada's West Coast Trail office in Port Renfrew,
as well as the Sooke Info Centre.
Killer whales (or
orcas, the largest member of the dolphin family) and gray whales are
often seen swimming offshore from French Beach, China Beach, and Botanical
Beach. Although the orcas live in these waters year-round, the best
time for spotting gray whales is during their annual migration in
March and April, when they are en route to Alaska from their breeding
grounds in Baja, Mexico. California and Steller's sea lions appear
from August to March as they follow migrating fish stocks.
Whales feeding off Botanical Beach
From these beaches
along the southern coast of Vancouver Island you'll almost always
spot the smooth-domed head of a curious harbour seal bobbing offshore.
It's not unusual
to spot black bears in early spring on some of the beaches as well,
particularly around China Beach and Mystic Beach. Bears are unpredictable
and potentially dangerous animals, especially when they emerge hungry
from winter denning. If you see a bear, back away slowly. Do not
leave food or garbage lying around: a fed bear is a dead bear.
is located in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, near Port Renfrew on the
south coast of Vancouver Island. There are four main areas to the
park: the China Beach Campground, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the
China Beach day-use area and Botanical Beach.
Botanical Beach is the northern terminus for the Juan
de Fuca Marine Trail. The community of Port Renfrew is the southern
terminus of the rugged and remote 77-km West
Coast Trail, which challenges hikers from around the world each