Wildlife & Nature
You'll hear it again and again when talking about British Columbia: the word "diverse." Diversity describes everything in this province, whether it has to do with the land, or the people and creatures who live on it.
So when we say that BC is the most biologically diverse province in Canada, meaning that it is home to over half of the country's wildlife, you won't be surprised. And when we add that it is also the most ecologically diverse, meaning that it is the most varied in landscape and climate, you might even roll your eyes—but that fact is also true. Just because we know that BC is full of thrilling wildlife and natural wonders, does that make it any less worth seeing for yourself?
Come and experience the sound and spray of the Pacific Ocean, lush smell of the rainforest, view the new blossoms of native Dogwood trees, and touch the fresh alpine snow. From mystical starfish to endangered Burrowing Owls and admirable Bighorned Sheep, there's more to discover around every bend.
If you enjoy nature and wildlife, British Columbia is sure to make you feel like a kid in a candy store.
See also wildlife safety and nature etiquette
Marine & Land Wildlife
Especially if you live inland, you're going to want to explore BC's underwater paradise in one way or another. The depths of the Pacific, the calm basins of inland lakes, and the creeks and rivers galore are all teeming with vibrant and mysterious life. Discovering new marine creatures can be as easy as taking a seaside stroll at low tide and peering into a few tidal pools. But taking it to a new level is just a request away, because experts and naturalists cover the province to teach you what they know. Step into a museum, hop onto a kayak or tour boat, or slip right beneath the surface in scuba or snorkelling gear, and get up close and personal with an underwater world of wonders. BC's waters are home to colourful sea urchins, massive Orcas, and more than can be imagined in between.
For a different angle on what's beneath the surface, join in on the world-class fishing opportunities that exist all over British Columbia. Salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead are just some of the species that fill our waters.
Even if you plan to stick to land, adventure awaits you. A long drive, a hike, or sometimes a walk through the city, can expose you to an exciting variety of BC fauna. Depending on the region, elk, moose, caribou, and bears can be seen from the highways. Bighorned Sheep and Mountain Goats can be spotted in the Rockies, and somewhere, in remote corners of the province, they say that Bison roam. Deer, on the other hand, have been known to stroll serenely down city streets—looking to munch on flower beds—so keep your eyes open for such surreal sightings.
Whale Watching Tours & Bear Excursions
One remarkable feature of dwelling in BC is that we share our home with two of North America's largest mammals: bears, and whales. These powerful and majestic animals intrigue us to no end, so fortunately for nature lovers, there are expert guides who know how to get us close and keep us safe. Whale watching and bear tours are unique highlights of any British Columbia vacation, and opportunities to participate are easy to find. Throughout Vancouver Island, and mainland BC, various companies offer tours of different lengths and focuses, depending on the location and season. Whale watching tours take place on specialized water crafts while bear watching tours can take place on water or land, and both are guided by seasoned naturalists. Go on a marine or land wildlife tour and you can go home with stories about the pod of Orca whales you followed through the Georgia Strait, or about how you came within 50 meters of a Grizzly bear hunting salmon. You should remember to take your camera, though, or your friends might not believe you.
Parks & Camping
If you're used to country camping, where setting up in the open and trying not to eavesdrop on your neighbours is considered time in "the great outdoors," then you need to try camping in BC. Here, you can pop your tent in the spaces between Douglas Firs, surrounded by lush greenery and filtered sunlight. You can hear the birds and rustling leaves sometimes better than you can hear your neighbours, and you can take in a therapeutic nature hike before lunch. And these are just the campsites with facilities. Just like everything else in this province, camping in BC can offer a series of diverse experiences. Whether you're bringing an RV motorhome or wanting to hike in with a pack, we have a province of places you'll want to wake up in. Sites will range from free and rustic to 45 dollars a night with a corner store and a swimming pool. Some of the best camping options are in our many provincial parks, where facilities are minimal, costs are affordable, and location is often as good as it gets. If you'd rather spend your nights between four walls, then come visit our parks by day. Explore the hiking trails, the waterfront, the riverside, or whatever the local park has to offer. Stanley Park awaits you in Vancouver, Beacon Hill Park is hiding in Victoria, and there are so many more just outside city limits. Even if it's just for an afternoon, prepare a picnic and go, because a visit to BC isn't complete until you've spent some time in the great outdoors.
Forests & Trees
A stroll among strong, healthy trees can be enough to calm and ground even the most wound-up person. And in BC, nearly 65 per cent of the land is covered with such trees. For some British Columbians, just walking to work can be an exquisite, tree-lined experience, but we still try to get out of the city when we can. Word is that the forestland within BC would cover the entire country of France and then some. That's 60 million hectares of forest in one province. This includes everything from boreal forest to temperate rainforest, but is largely made up of coniferous trees. The most phenomenal feature however might be the 25 million hectares of old growth trees in the region. We are privileged to have trees as ancient as 250 years old rooted in our soil. Among our old growth and second-growth forests are species such as Western Hemlock, Pacific Dogwood, Sitka Spruce, and Ponderosa Pine, creating canopies that are diverse in their shades, shapes, and aromas, not to mention their inhabitants. The official tree of BC is the immense Western Redcedar, and according to our First Nations peoples, this could also be referred to as the "Tree of Life." Need we say more?
Maybe you already consider yourself a birdwatcher, and you plan to arrive in British Columbia with field guide and binoculars in hand. There's not much to say to you except "Good choice" and "Enjoy." For those of you who aren't birdwatchers but just love to hear a common sparrow stuttering in the eaves, you might want to consider bringing a field guide to BC, too, because a bird watcher you might become.
The delightful reality is that the varied landscape that our coastal province boasts translates into a rich and diverse avian population, unlike any other in Canada. Not only is BC home to rainforest-dwelling birds, but it also attracts fowl who thrive in wetlands, who stick to seashores, who keep to rocky mountain crags, and so on. Every year, 300 species of birds breed within the borders of British Columbia. 65 of those species are specific to the west coast and breed nowhere else in Canada. Some of BC's birds, in fact, are difficult to find anywhere else on the entire planet. So as you can imagine, we feel quite lucky. When you decide that birdwatching in BC is the adventure for you, there are so many choices of ways to indulge. Feel free to sit in a city park with a palm full of seed, but keep in mind that there are guides all over waiting to help you expand your species list. From Vancouver Island to Whistler to the Shuswap region and everywhere in between, enthusiastic experts lead birdwatching tours year round. Join them during autumn migration, winter exploring, or for Bald Eagle spotting during the salmon run. As well, for a different take on the romance of bird life, have a look at the Bed & Breakfast options that exist especially for birders in BC. Set into ideal landscapes for birding such as near sanctuaries or parks, and sometimes adorned with inspiring avian-themed decor, these getaways can be the perfect place for a bird lover to rest their head after a rewarding day of looking skyward.
Articles of Interest:
- Remote Getaway at a Wilderness Resort in BC: Off the beaten path for summer adventures and natural serenity
- Whale Watching on Vancouver Island: The marine must-do for any eco-tourist visiting BC
- RV and Houseboat Vacations in BC: Experience BC from the comfort of your own rolling or floating home
- An Expanse Enhanced: Just how big is British Columbia?
- Camping in BC 101: Things to know about camping before hitting the trails and roughing it
- Green & Beautiful - Eco Friendly British Columbia: Enjoy BC without having negative effects on the environment
- Vancouver Island's Mystic Pacific West Coast: Just breathe in Tofino, Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim
- British Columbia's Great Bears: Ways to watch and watch our for BC's bruins
- Exploring Osoyoos' Precious Desert Terrain: Hidden within British Columbia lays a small desert with wide reach
- Vancouver's Stanley Park: An urban forest surrounded by an iconic seawall
- Victoria - City Comforts with Nature Next Door: Two local favourite day trips on the southern Vancouver Island
- Awesome Whale Watching in British Columbia: Exhilarating experiences with whale watching excursions on the West Coast of Canada
By Robyn Cadamia
Photo credits: Kermode (spirit bear) walking along fallen tree in river on Princess Royal Island courtesy Tourism BC/Northern BC/Clare Levy; A humpback whale breaching in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in Haida Gwaii courtesy Tourism BC/Tom Ryan; Close up of a bighorn sheep courtesy NorthernBC/Tourism BC
Whale Watching in British Colu...
Biggest Baddest Bucket List co...
Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whi...
Skiing in Whistler, British Co...
Wreck Beach in Vancouver, Brit...
1928 shipwreck in Northern Bri...
"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake" - Robert Louis Stevenson