Maquinna Provincial Park

When we planned our stay for Tofino, we knew we'd want to be based here for a few days, our longest stay on the island, purely due to the excursions available.

Again, thanks to the wonderful world of Pinterest, I knew I wanted to visit Hot Springs Cove. It is a natural hot spring accessible only by sea or air, and you must travel the renowned Clayoquot Sound to get there. It is home to a wilderness area known for its wildlife viewing.

I knew I wanted to travel by boat purely on the basis that whale sightings were significant. But given the option of returning by seaplane, I was absolutely tempted for the experience, even though I'm petrified of flying! It is an expensive trip already and with the seaplane addition, we deliberated for a few weeks before booking up. Once booked, we hoped desperately that it would be worth it. And I can say without bias, bribery or sponsorship, it genuinely was one of the best excursions I've ever paid for.

We opted for Jamie's Whaling Station as our provider and arrived early to check in.

All prepared, we headed down to the dock to board our boat with 6 others. Lifebelts on, we headed out of the dock and into The Clayoquot Sound.

I can say without a doubt that it was by far the worst, most memorable boat journey of my life. 5 minutes in I popped some much needed travel sickness meds and tried desperately to hold on to my breakfast. We zoomed across that water at crazy speeds, bouncing off the waves as we went. I'm sure at some points we'd bounced at least 10 foot off the surface and the crash when you landed back down was enough to send shudders down your spine. I thought the boat was going to break.

Through gritted teeth and white knuckles I clung to the seat in front of me and concentrated on not chundering in front of the small group of strangers I was now very close to.

Thankfully, after some time we came to a halt, engines off. Swapping the bouncing for an equally nauseating sway. But this sway came with a distraction. A pod of Orca playing!

We sat and watched as they splashed and spy hopped in the sun. It was awesome.

After some time watching in absolute amazement, we progressed on our way as our actual activity hadn't even really begun.

Back to a bumpy ride, I clung onto my tummy's contents once more. I think even Mr B shed a few beads of sweat by the time we made it to the bay. As I clambered onto the dock I hugged the solid ground, over the moon to have ended that leg of our journey. Although petrified of flying, I have never been more grateful to know we'd be departing by sky instead.

Once at Hot Springs Cove, there is nothing around. So be sure to dress comfortably and bring snacks and drinks. It is not a flip flops and sun dress affair. Once at the cove, there is a 2km boardwalk (about 40 minutes) through dense old growth rainforest. The views are spectacular.

Twisting and turning amongst the trees, keep your eyes peeled for any wildlife in this wilderness. Worth noting, this area is home to local and wild dogs that can often cross your path as you hike. They look just like wolves and love to stop and stare at you. It can be a little intimidating but they are perfectly harmless. We came across a few on our way. Be sure not to feed them and just continue on your path.

The blind corners and boardwalk to nowhere were exhilarating, unsure of what was hiding behind each and every blindspot.

Every now and then there would be some evidence that man had intervened on the untouched surroundings, for safety of course. Like this funny little nook carved out of a low lying tree.

The trees were so pretty and so wild and the area silent except for the footsteps of Mr B and I. We had headed straight on the trail off the boat. The few other passengers stopped at the pit toilet on entrance to the trail.

When I said there was nothing here, I wasn't kidding. It's an excursion completely unaided and unguided. Get used to pit loos in Canada if you're looking for the wild experience.

As we neared the end of our trail, the path reached higher and the view became clearer. We could hear the rushing of water and we could see the ocean from the heights of the boardwalk.

The streams ran steamy and the faint smell of sulphur confirmed we were nearing our destination.

Once at the springs, there are 2 small wooden huts to change in if you require but that is literally it. There is nowhere to store your bags and no touristy seating area. It is basic, peaceful, secluded, serene - apart from the sneaky mozzys hiding in the huts - bring repellant!

We popped on our Sunday best and rubber beach shoes (absolute must) and headed into the water. The natural hot springs cascade from a waterfall into 6 intertidal pools, cooler the closer they are to the ocean. The water reaches 50° in places and so regardless of weather, the trip is absolutely worth it.

We clambered and climbed and soaked and played in the waterfalls for a few hours. It's not a large area and so the fact it is only accessible by sea or air means the quantity of visitors is kept at bay. We encountered very few people.

When we were ready, we threw our clothes back on (looking particularly worse for where by this point - I'm glad there were few to judge!) and headed back onto the trail towards the dock.

We nestled our bums onto some rocks and munched away on our packed lunch, which I was very pleased we'd brought at this point. As we waited for our ride, we saw a few people hop back onto a boat for the return trip - my belly did a grateful dance.

And just like that, out of the fluffy clouds, our chariot arrived. The realisation that I'd be getting in a the smallest plane of my life set in. I hate planes! This thing was smaller than my car.

I wasn't even sure how to get into it, let alone how I'd cope once we were up. Would it be turbulent? Is it safe? Omg where has the evil boat gone, take me!!!

Our plane was just big enough for the pilot, Mr B and I with Mr B needing to sit in the front passenger seat to distribute weight. He almost filled the cockpit!

Our bags were put in a tiny little hatch in the tail and I was manhandled up into the back, much to my delight. Don't be hating on my rather sexy, frizzy hair. Au natural I'll have you know. I'm working on obtaining the leading spot in the next Mac campaign ;)

Our doors were locked in place from the outside, a strange feeling, and our lovely pilot hopped in.

With a few nudges of the antiquated dashboard (or whatever it is called in a plane) the engine chugged. We slid out of the dock just like a boat and started gaining speed. I wondered how this little tin can would lift into the sky. Then, with one huge gulp of air, we were up.

I watched as the cove disappeared behind us and we passed the tops of the trees. Our little boat was flying. I knew instantly I'd be ok. It wasn't bumpy at all. I gave a little squeal and the pilot laughed as we climbed.

I laughed and laughed and laughed as we flew, watching beautiful bays pass us by.

The sky was the most magical colour, dotted with clouds, glowing with sunshine and the water was the dreamiest turquoise blue.

Suddenly the pilot pointed and shouted something, we couldn't hear a lot up there! We peered below and like something out of Blue Planet, we spotted the pod of orca from the sky. He lapped and lapped around them, with crazy steep banking. You could tell he was as excited as we were to see them.

And a pod of grey whales, frolicking on the surface! We flew in circles for far longer than we were entitled (our excursion did not include aerial whale watching, that's for sure!) and I gave Mr B's shoulder a tight squeeze in disbelief as we watched.

I was so engrossed, even the sideways flying didn't bother me! Nose pressed against the window, I was all consumed.

Having got far more than we bargained for and super grateful for an enthusiastic and generous pilot, we gave one last wave and continued on. It was so hard to leave. But we did only have the one tank of fuel after all!

As we neared Tofino, more and more smaller islands came into view.

Every corner brimming with trees.

I looked on at untouched bays and some of the prettiest coastline I'd ever seen.

How were these tiny little dials in front of us giving us so much magic that we could never have experienced otherwise? Torn between the beauty of the untouched below and the glorious man made around us, I really had the time of my life.

As we came into land in Tofino, my fear of planes absolute blown from the depths of my soul, I applauded as we touched down and slid beautifully across the surface of the water. We slowly chugged into the harbour, back as a boat once more, and I clambered out of the magical flying machine.

I thanked the pilot with all that was in me and as we strolled up the dock, Mr B and I just looked at each other and laughed. Hysterical, "omg can you believe it" laughter. My eyes welled and I knew in that moment, that would be hard to top.

In my current top 5 moments of life, one day beautiful Clayoquot I'll be back and I'm ready for you.

- MTWP xxx

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