Saturday, February 11, 2012

Botanical Beach

If you live on Vancouver Island and are looking for a cool outdoor spot to take the kids to, try Botanical Beach.  When timed with a low tide, Botanical Beach becomes one of the most amazing places on the West Coast. Across flat sandstone and granite outcrops, tide pools are filled with brightly colored marine animals and plants.  Hands down the greatest outdoor education classroom your children will ever experience.  Its for anyone really.  Best know for its abundance of intertidal life, Botanical Beach also boast 251 hectares of upland habitat.  Within this area are shorelines to explore and an easy 2.8 km loop trail called the Botany Bay Loop.

When visiting the area, please remember it is a protected zone and as tempting as it is, removing shells, snails, sea urchins, and any thing else for that matter is not permitted. You are however, allowed to take all the photographs you wish.  When exploring Botanical Beach, keep your eye on the tide coming in and rogue waves. (A large wave created far out at sea.) These are regular waves crashing on the rocks and I would guess a rogue wave would be of concern if nearby.  Some of the tide pools at Botanical Beach are quite large and deep. Important to make children aware of their surroundings and watch where to step.  If planning a visit to Botanical Beach, check the tide tables.  Best to time your visit with low tide.  Also plan for a whole day because there is so much to experience!  Botanical Beach is located minutues from Port Renfrew.

Article published in the June 2011 issue of Take 5 Magazine

Botanical Beach TV 

We have heard it all before.  Canadians today spent too much time in front of the television and not enough time outside.  I’ll admit watching television is entertaining.  High definition, big screens and surround sound make it seem like I am part of the action.  That’s what makes it so darn entertaining but let’s not forget that going outside can be too.  Botanical Beach, located in the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, is one of the most fascinating places on the west coast.  It’s a place that captivates my imagination, proving I do not always need the remote control.  Standing at the edge of Botanical Beach, I witness a scene no big screen television could offer.  The colors are vibrant, shown at a high resolution and I enjoy a stunning 360° view.  There is no need to wear 3D glasses; the waves crashing on the rocky coastline are really spraying towards me.  I have yet to come across a television with a built in spray bottle.  A gull flying overhead is heard long before I see it, confirming the surround sound is turned on.  All the components of a television are working perfectly outside.

It’s not just the bells and whistles that make television entertaining; interesting programs intrigue audiences.  Botanical Beach could easily have its own channel and offer original programming for a variety of viewers.  One program might be called Discover Botanical Beach, an hour long program of discovering the life that exists here.  The beach has spectacular geological features facilitating an abundance of intertidal marine life.  At low tide, we were able to walk across the flat sandstone and view tide pools full of marine life.  Inside sheltering holes were purple sea urchins hiding from predatory crabs.  I was particularly interested in the not so lucky sea urchins.  After a sea urchin dies and the purple spines have fallen off, what’s left is a beautiful round delicate shell called the test.  We manoeuvred around California mussel beds and were careful to avoid deep tide pools camouflaged with surf grass.  A short list of what we found includes branched coralline algae, graceful coral seaweed, iridescent seaweed, and shield limpets.  I am looking forward to the next episode of Discover Botanical Beach.  I hear grey whales can be spotted.

The Adventures of Hank and Harriett is an interactive and fun program for children.  It’s a story about two thrill seeking hermit crabs that compete, play and live at Botanical Beach.  We missed the episode where Hank and Harriett fend off other hermit crabs in a vigorous competition to claim two vacant Blue Top snail shells as their own.  I hope we get a chance to watch that one.  Instead we watched an exciting episode where Hank and Harriett try cliff diving for the first time.  Being an interactive program, they required help from my son, Ben, in positioning them safely along the cliffs edge and once that was taken care of, Hank and Harriett quickly set off.  Hank, who loves competition, was not to be outdone by Harriett.  Immediately he headed towards the steepest cliff and executed a perfect tuck and roll jump back into the tide pool.  Harriett, using the same style and form, chose a less daring cliff for her first dive but was soon diving alongside Hank.  It was a great tale of two friends sharing adventures together.

No channel is complete without some sort of sports program.  Between Botanical Beach and Botany Bay lies a rough and wavy paradise for experienced surfers.  As the water surges in, a rocky shelf, situated off shore, causes the swell to break and creates a powerful wave to ride.  I was amazed the surfers were not smashed against the rocks but they obviously knew what they were doing.  I watched in amazement as they surfed along the waves, executing perfect dismounts only to paddle back out for more.  I was intrigued and wanted to get closer to the action and get a sense of how powerful the waves really were.  Had I paid attention to the volume on the surround sound speakers, I may not have been swamped by an incoming wave.  It was the only time I wish I had been sitting on my couch watching TV instead of being outside. 

I’m a fan of the Food Network.  I enjoy trying new recipes that test my culinary skills but mostly I like to eat.  Camp Stove Cooking on Botanical Beach is a fabulous show.  I get to sit back, relax, and watch Chef J prepare the best bannock right before my eyes.  He blends a perfect mix of whole wheat, butter, pine nuts, and dates turning it into a tasty warm treat.  Knowing that perfection takes time, the kids and I bid our time exploring tide pools and let the chef do what he does best.  Funny how each time we return to check on the progress, there is a sample waiting for us try.

For me, being outside is every bit as entertaining as watching television.  I recommend Botanical Beach as a “must see”, “4 and a half out of 5 star” program.

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