Frequently Asked Questions


General

How do I get to Tofino?

Tofino can be accessed by car via BC Highway 4 on Vancouver Island, and is approximately a 3 hour drive from Nanaimo. Please note that Highway 4 will have ongoing roadworks from Spring 2018 to Spring 2020. Please see the Drive BC website for up to date travel advisories.

If you do not have your own car or license, check out the Tofino Bus with daily departures to Tofino from Vancouver and various locations on Vancouver Island.

Tofino can also be accessed via air, with arrivals from various domestic locations to the Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ).

Where do we meet?

The meeting place is at our office (368 Main Street) in Tofino. You may park in our lot or street side parking is available at no charge for 4 hours. The District of Tofino has a pay parking lot 1/2 a block from us on Third Street. RV’s can park there as well, or on 4th / Gibson Street. View our parking page for more information.

Please note that check-in time is 30 minutes before your scheduled adventure.

How should I dress?

We recommend that you dress warmly. Layers are best. Please bring rain gear and enclosed shoes. Depending on the season, also bring a warm hat and gloves. Sunglasses are also a great to have on the water.

If you are aboard one of our Zodiacs, we will supply you with a full body Mustang survival suit to wear over your clothing. These suits will keep you slightly warm, but they are not waterproof.

What kind of weather can we expect?

Weather on the West Coast is unpredictable. We always operate safety first, but wet weather does not mean “un-safe”. We always recommend that you arrive prepared for wet & cool coastal weather.

What type of boats are available?

We offer trips in both covered vessels and zodiac style boats, that accommodate a maximum 12 guests each.

Our covered boats have a heated cabin and stern viewing decks. Some of them have a small bathroom on board. The big advantage of this vessel type is that you can stand up and walk around.

The Zodiac is a bit more adventurous as you are exposed to the elements the entire time, which is usually a lot of fun and it is perfectly suited if you would like to focus on taking pictures. It is a rigid inflatable boat, not a dingy. You’ll be seated for the entire time of the trip. The advantage of this boat is that you feel a little bit more connect with nature and your surroundings as you’ll have a 180 degree unblocked view.

We do NOT recommend zodiac vessels for pregnant women, or individuals who have back or neck problems.

Should I go on a boat trip when I usually experience motion sickness?

Our experienced guides go above and beyond to ensure that your tour is smooth as possible, however, it is important to remember that it is common to experience some swells at sea. If you are concerned about motion sickness, plan in advance to safeguard against any potential nausea by bringing your favourite brand of anti-nausea medication. Candied ginger and chewing gum can help too.

I am pregnant, can I participate?

We want to ensure the safety of our guests so we keep in constant communication with our guides to ensure that the conditions are suitable. We do take pregnant women aboard our covered vessels, however, we ask that you are past the sensitive 3-month mark. Also, if the driver decides on the day of the trip that conditions are not suitable for a pregnant passenger, then we may ask you to reschedule. Zodiacs are not suitable for pregnant women except for Zodiac Bear Watching as this takes place in protected inlet waters.

Do you have a minimum age on any of your trips?

All ages are able to go on our tours, however, we do have height and weight restrictions on Zodiac vessels. Which means children under 5 are typically not able to go on our Zodiac tours. Please see below for height & weight restrictions.

Note that we do allow 1 free infant (under 3 years of age) per a vessel; additional infants will be charged at the child rate for that tour.

Do you have a minimum height on any of your trips?

Zodiac trip participants have to be 142cm / 4’6” tall.

Do you have a maximum weight restriction?

In order to fit our safety suits, we have a maximum weight restriction of 250lbs aboard our Zodiac trips. Also, If you are very plus size and require more space than one seat for comfort aboard our cabin style vessels, you may be required to purchase 2 tickets.

Does Ocean Outfitters have a guest minimum per trip?

We require a minimum of 4 paying customers to run our adventures. Our Meares Island program requires only a minimum of 2 guests. We will reschedule our guests for the next available tour if minimum guest numbers are not met on your initial reservation.

What are your wildlife viewing policies?

Our organization is committed to sustainable wildlife viewing, and protection for marine mammals, bears, wolves, and their ecosystems. We hold ourselves accountable to the highest standard of care and safety for our guides, guests, and wildlife. As stewards of the environment, we are dedicated to using the best available viewing practices, to keeping our operation ethical and our programs educational, to remaining conscious of the ecological footprint in our operations and by endeavouring to keep our footprint as small as possible while simultaneously contributing in significant ways to conservation. We follow the whale wise viewing guidelines to protect marine mammals. The happiness and safety of the whales and other wildlife in our area is of paramount importance to us.

 

Guaranteed Sightings

Does Ocean Outfitters guarantee wildlife sightings?

We enjoy a very high success rate of over 95% for viewing wildlife on our tours, but weather conditions and nature can be unpredictable. We cannot promise with 100% certainty that there will be sightings on every single program simply because of the inherent nature of viewing wild animals in their natural environment. This is not a zoo.

What happens if the trip does not encounter whales or bears?

If you do not see a whale on your whale watch between March and October, or a bear on our bear watch during the bear season, we are happy to offer you a free pass to join us another time. To ensure your satisfaction, our rain checks have no expiry, so hang on to them until your next Tofino vacation. Our rain checks are also transferable between tours but not refundable for cash. Our guarantee is not a cash back guarantee. If you would like to use a rain check you are obligated to make a reservation and understand that availability is dependent on capacity requirements, therefore rain check passengers travel on a standby basis.

 

Reservations & Cancellations

What is required to make a reservation?

To reserve a tour we require a full name, the age group of all participants, a contact phone number, and a credit card number (including expiry date and security code). You can reserve using our online booking system, via email, or over the phone.

How early should I make a reservation?

We generally recommend to reserve as soon as possible. We are a boutique style tour company and the seats sell out quickly, especially during the summer months.

Do I have to sign a waiver?

All activities and programs are subject to the signing of a waiver. If guests do not accept the terms of our release agreement they won’t be able to participate in the excursion and will receive a full refund.

What is Ocean Outfitters cancellation policy?

In the event that Ocean Outfitters must cancel a departure due to weather conditions, you will have the first opportunity to reschedule your trip or to collect a full refund.

If you decide to change your plans and wish to cancel your adventure, you can cancel by phone or via email up to 48 hours prior to the appointment. Please note that if you have booked a private charter with us the cancellation policy is 2 weeks prior to the departure date.

 

Whale Watching

How long is a Whale Watching trip?

Place your answer to the question here.Our Whale Watching tours are between 2.5 to 3 hours.

What types of whales can we see?

Gray Whales migrate northward to the subarctic waters of the Bering Sea from their breeding grounds in Mexico from March until June each year, and then begin the migration back south between September and December. We also have a group of summer residents who do not complete the full migration, but spend the summers feeding off the West Coast of Vancouver Island (Tofino area).

We also get surprise visits from Humpback Whales and Transient Orcas. Transient Orcas cruise the coastal waters in search of their prey (mainly marine mammals), therefore we never know when they will show up. Resident Orca (found in Victoria area) are fish-eating Orcas that reside in the Strait of Georgia.

Aside from this, we frequently see Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Sea Otters as well as a myriad of bird species like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons on our whale watching tours.

When is the best time of year for whales?

From March until the end of October.

When is the best time of day for whale sightings?

In our experience, there isn't any better time of day for whale sightings. They are in our coastal areas all the time!

How close do we get to the whales?

We operate in a cautious and courteous manner respecting the current 100 meter regulations. Whales are playful and can be curious. Occasionally a whale will swim towards us to investigate. While these experiences are unforgettable, we do not encourage human-wildlife interactions and will move away soon as it is safe to do so.

Learn more about respectful viewing of whales (which applies to all other species too).

 

bear watching tours

How long is a Bear Watching trip?

Our bear watching tours are 2 hours in duration.

What types of bears can we see?

We watch black bears on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

When is the best time of year for bears?

From April until the end of September.

When is the best time of day for bear sightings?

Our bear watching trips are based on the tides, as this is the time when the bears are coming out of the forest to forage along the intertidal zone for rock crab, starfish and other beach delicacies.

Where do the trips go?

We take you into the calm and protected inlet waters of Clayoquot Sound surrounding scenic Meares Island.

I am a very keen photographer, which boat should I book the Bear Watch on?

Our Zodiac is the best suited vessel for those focused on photography. This open vessel offers unblocked views.

 

Hot Springs Cove Tours

How long is a Hot Springs Cove tour?

Our Hot Springs tours are 6 hours in duration and it is a 1.5 hour boat ride each way. The boardwalk from the dock to Springs takes approximately 30 minutes each way, which leaves you about 2 hours for a relaxing soak in the geothermal pools. Please be aware that the 1.5 km boardwalk contains approximately 750 stairs each way. The stairs are typically not very steep, and usually do not have many steps in a row, but we ask that you use your best judgement on whether or not you are fit for this type of adventure.

Is it possible to get only a ride to Hot Springs Cove?

We occasionally can offer one-way trips to Hot Springs Cove at a reduced rate, however the availability of these seats varies greatly and cannot be confirmed in advance. Please contact us on the day prior to your desired departure to check on availability: 250 725 2866 or info@oceanoutfitters.bc.ca.

How long is the float plane flight on the Hot Springs Sea to Sky tour?

The flight time takes approximately 20 minutes.

 

Kayak Tours

Are there single and double kayaks?

At Ocean Outfitters we have both Single and Double kayaks to ensure you have the best possible experience whether you are new to kayaking or a seasoned professional. All of our kayaks are made by Seaward kayaks which, are individually handcrafted right here on Vancouver Island.

What should we wear?

Choosing the right clothing is important but can be confusing due the the changing weather on the coast. It is always recommended to avoid wearing denim and cotton if possible as these items retain water and do not dry out quickly. Quick dry or sports wear tends to be the most comfortable and fastest drying clothing. Bathing suits are not mandatory but may be an option on warm days and towels are always a great item to have on standby. The towels can remain locked in the shed on the dock along with the items that you leave behind while kayaking.

What do we need to bring?

The most important items to bring include but are not limited to; water, snacks (ideally things with minimal waste products), sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and comfortable footwear. Additional items can include foul weather gear such as rain jackets and pants should the forecast call for it.

Are cameras alright to take on the water?

Cameras are always nice to have on the tour to help document your experience on the remote kayaking tour. Cameras are brought on your discrepancy as we do not accept responsibility for any loss to or damage of the camera. Cell phones can be brought as cameras.

What if I have never kayaked before?

Never kayaked before? No problem, our program is designed to ensure that kayakers of all skill levels succeed and enjoy the surroundings. The remote dock has been strategically placed in a location to reduce the exposure to some of the common environmental hazards to kayaking such as high winds and tidal current. First time kayakers are encouraged to use a double kayak for the added stability and the benefit of working with another person to learn the basic skills.

Should we wear our shoes?

Wearing shoes inside the kayak is not mandatory but, is recommended. If you select to remove your footwear it should be placed behind your seat so that you can access it at any given time. Ideal footwear for kayaking is something with good tread, comfortable, and low profile. Examples include: Sandals, running shoes/trainers, or water shoes.

Do we stop and get out?

This specific kayak program is based on a 4.5 hour trip away from Tofino and therefore, there are no washrooms once you have left the Ocean Outfitters office. It is highly recommended to use the facilities before boarding the vessel and embarking on your trip. Once we arrive to the remote dock and enter the kayaks there is no beach landings unless it is an emergency.

What wildlife are we going to see?

Wildlife in Clayoquot Sound is bountiful with various aquatic, land based, and aerial species of animals. Common sightings include Seals, Eagles, kingfishers, Sea Stars, Sea Cucumbers, Bears, and Mink. Occasionally we also see Sea Lions and Harbour Porpoises. It is important to keep in mind that this is wildlife and as the title states these animals are not tame nor are they on any sort of viewing schedule. Any wildlife seen is an additional bonus to paddling the calm remote waters of the Tofino Inlet surrounded by Old Growth Rainforest.

 

Meares Island (Big Tree Trail)

How long does the Big Tree Trail walk take?

The there and back trail is approximately 3km. On average, this takes about 1 and a half hours to walk.

How long is the boat ride over to the Big Tree Trail?

The boat ride over to Meares Island is approx. 15 minutes.

What can we see on this walk?

All along the trail you will see Western Red Cedar trees aging between 800 and 1,300 years. Another highlight is the Hanging Garden Tree which has a circumference of 18.3m.

What is the trail like?

There is a wooden boardwalk made of hand split planks. It can be slippery when it is wet and is uneven in some parts so do take care.

Can we bring our dog/s?

Wolves frequent Meares Island, and we do not permit dogs on the Big Tree Trail. We love dogs but we do not allow dogs on our programs, not even the smallest one’s. We are visitors in a carnivore landscape. Dogs are a proven attractant to wolves. When in wolf, and bear habitat, we must adapt, and be respectful.

 

Lone Cone Hike

How long does the hike take?

From our dock and back you will have to estimate approximately 5.5 hours.

What if we are slow hikers and need longer than 5 - 6 hours?

You would need to give us a call and we can talk about the options.

How long is the boat ride over to the trail head?

The boat ride over to Meares Island is approx. 15 minutes.

Is Lone Cone Mountain an easy hike?

No, the hike is very strenuous as the trail climbs more than 700 meters in just over 1.5 km and is best done by those who are fairly fit.

What will I see as soon as I am on top of the mountain?

The views from the top on a clear day are spectacular. As you look south towards Tofino you can see the Pacific Ocean and a large section of the surrounding area.

Is there a high possibility of coming across any wild animals on this hike?

Yes, Tofino is surrounded by a wilderness area. You are in wildlife habitat. Always be bear aware and respectful.

Is Lone Cone a volcano?

No, Lone Cone is not a volcano. It is composed of igneous rock of the Catface Intrusions.

Can we bring our dog/s?

Wolves frequent Meares Island. We love dogs but we do not allow dogs on our programs, not even the smallest one’s. We are visitors in a carnivore landscape. Dogs are a proven attractant to wolves. When in wolf, and bear habitat, we must adapt, and be respectful.

 

Saltwater Fishing

How many people can go on the boat?

Our Grady White and Parker vessels have a maximum capacity of 4 passengers each.

What type of boat is used for the fishing trip?

Our Grady White walk-around and Parker enclosed-cabin boats are equipped with Yamaha 4-stroke power and offer safe and dependable performance. Fully rigged with all safety and navigation equipment. Complete with washroom facilities and loaded with the highest end fishing equipment for your fishing pleasure.

What types of fish can we catch?

Depending on the season we can offer trips to fish for salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish and even Albacore Tuna.

Would I need to bring my own gear?

No, we will provide you with everything you will need.

What kinds of methods does Ocean Outfitters use to fish?

Our saltwater fishing adventures ply both inshore and offshore hot spots and take advantage of a variety of fishing methods including mooching, trolling, jigging and fly fishing.

Can we set crab and prawn traps?

Yes, on the 6 hour an full day charters this is possible.

Do you fish in shore or offshore?

We can do either. It depends on the season, on the weather conditions, and where our experienced captains think might be the best catch.

Can we keep the fish we catch?

Our fishing programs aren’t about maxing out limits, nor about catching the largest fish. We encourage our clients to keep only what they will eat for supper.

Ocean Outfitters has reduced our in house catch limits and has implemented a 2 salmon aggregate daily limit. 1 Coho and 1 Chinook, or 2 Coho and 0 Chinook, or 2 Chinook and 0 Coho.

We have also reduced our Rockfish retention by 50% limiting 3 per angler per day, or 6 in possession over multi day trips.

Lingcod, halibut, and snapper limits have already been curtailed by the Federal government to the point that reducing this allocation would result in zero retention.

What is the CPR (Catch, Photograph and Release) initiative?

The CPR (catch, photograph, and release) initiative which implements a conservation rewards-based incentive. For every fish released (of any species) we will make a $5 donation to local rehabilitation efforts on the client’s behalf.

The top five largest released fish in the salmon, halibut, and lingcod categories during the course of the season would qualify for a draw for a free 4-hour charter. If a client wishes to release all fish during the duration of the charter, then Ocean Outfitters will provide a $50 store credit to the client and make a $50 donation on the clients behalf towards local environmental projects - namely those directly working towards rehabilitating anadromous fish stocks.

Can we fish for different species at same time?

Yes on 6 hour or full day tours. On 4 hour trips you would need to decide which species you would like to fish for.

 

Freshwater Fishing

What types of fish can we catch?

Steelhead Rainbow trout are the most popular game fish with fly fisherman and light tackle enthusiasts. Steelhead are however only available at certain times of the year, so we advise you to check with our team to ensure angling opportunities exist before booking. If steelhead are not in season, our local rivers and lakes still offer great opportunities for rainbow trout (averaging 3-8 lbs) and cutthroat trout (averaging 2-6 lbs) year-round. Different species of salmon are also available in rivers and streams in Clayoquot Sound at certain times of the year. For more details, get in touch with our team to see what freshwater salmon fishing opportunities exist during your visit.

How many people can fit in helicopter or float plane?

There is a maximum of 3 guests per helicopter and float plane charter.

How long is the charter?

The charter duration is 8 hours.

How long is the heli fishing trip?

This is a full day fishing excursion.

Can we keep the fish we catch?

No, our freshwater fishing adventures are catch and release only.

Would I need to bring my own gear?

No, we will provide you with everything you will need.