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Starfish at low tide at MacKenzie
Beach in the Pacific Rim Park
One of the joys of visiting Pacific Rim National Park is participating in the gray whale observation tour led by a park naturalist. Start at the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre, located beside a lengthy stretch of windswept and surf-pounded beach on Combers Beach on Wickaninnish Bay.

You'll find telescopes mounted on an observation deck at the centre, plus numerous displays inside that introduce visitors to the geographical and natural history of the Pacific Northwest. Numerous privately led whale-watching expeditions set forth from Tofino daily.

Be prepared for a cold, wet, bone-jarring journey most days as part of the cost for a close-up view. Even viewing from the shore can be hazardous. Beware 'snap' or 'rogue' waves when approaching the coastline. Stay well back from the tideline when exploring rocky headlands.

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival celebrates this awesome migration of gray whales - held annually during March and April. The hosting villages of Tofino and Ucluelet, along with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offer a wide range of over seventy events providing entertaining and educational activities for all.

Each spring, some 20,000 Gray Whales (Eschschrictius robustus) move past the western shore of Vancouver Island, en route to summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. The 30 ton giants can be seen from shore, as early as February, with females and calves passing in April and early May. They return by the same route in the fall, to their calving and wintering areas in the lagoons of Baja California.

Gray Whales belong to the family known as baleen whales, which feed by straining huge mouths full of sea-bottom mud through filter-like baleen plates. Tiny marine organisms are thus captured by the baleen, and then swallowed by the whale. These large and slow animals are often encrusted with barnacles and other marine life, visible when they surface.

Gray Whales were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1900's, but have recovered well since their hunting was banned in 1947. Whale watching expeditions are available from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Deer, bear, gray whales, orcas, sea lions and more than 200 species of shore birds enjoy the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, along with the human species, who come to be part of this experience. Here, where rainforest meets ocean, the 130 km of shoreline between Tofino and Port Renfrew emcompasses the West Coast Trail, the Broken Group Islands, and the stunning expanse of Long Beach.

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