Inspired by late 19th century Great Camps, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is located at the mouth of the Bedwell River, where it spills into a 9-mile-long fjord, an area teeming with birds and wildlife. Just a 45-minute boat ride from the town of Tofino on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, the area is reachable only by boat or seaplane.
The enclave, well concealed by the bush under the rainforest canopy, consists of 20 great white canvas safari-like guest tents – which are done, Great Camps-style, in Adirondack-type beds, down duvets, woodstoves, antique dressers, opulent rugs, and oil lamps – as well as massage and treatment tents, dining tents, lounge and library tents, and a massive timber cookhouse area. They are linked by cedar boardwalks. The Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve contains a very rare temperate rainforest with towering cedars and Douglas fir trees, some over a thousand years old.
The resort is open only from May through September, All activities and adventures are planned to make the most of the region’s history, people, natural environment, and wildlife. Upon arrival guests receive an orientation about the activities, which range from taking a spa to hiking (along trails such as the Wild Side First Nations Interpretive Trail, which include Flores Island), from horseback riding to whale and bear watching, from river and sea kayaking to numerous other sports. There is even yoga. Do as much or as little as you want – but always in the serene isolation.
FIRST NATIONS PROTOCOL
When developing the resort the owners set out to be as mindful as possible of the surroundings. It built the resort with an emphasis on making a limited environmental impact while repairing past damage from logging and mining. It purchases and emphasizes local foods and wines, and it employs local First Nations people.
The Ahoushat First Nations Community, numbering about 1500, is based on Flores Island. Clayoquot has signed a tourism protocol agreement with them on matters regarding operating in their traditional territories, and is working with them to create a holistic healing center and on building a first-ever First Nations adventure park, which would include canopy walkways, zip-trekking, storytelling, dance, carvings, canoe building, and traditional cooking.
The resort donates its staff housing and some public spaces during the off season to the Ahoushat to use in drug- and alcohol-substance-abuse and family-issues programs. It also provides the participants with food.
The fish population in the Bedwell Watershed has declined significantly over the past 20 years and Chinook salmon are at critically low levels. In 2003, the resort began restoring more than six kilometers of crucial spawning habitats in the Bedwell River basin. This restoration work represents the only privately funded initiative of its kind in North America. To date, and with the assistance of corporate sponsors and resort guests, about 20,000 cubic meters of overburden (gravel and debris jams) have been excavated to restore the pond channel, and additional excavation work is being done upriver. Already, chum salmon have been seen digging egg nests in the new habitats, and this spring, young adults found their way back to the ocean.
The resort has committed $3 million over five years to research, conservation, and rehabilitation. A 3-percent sustainability fee is included in every guest’s fees, one-third of which goes towards the nonprofit British Columbia Wilderness Tourism Association to assist in environmental stewardship activities. The remaining money goes to the Environmental Legacy Program that includes habitat restoration, First Nations programs, and wildlife studies. The resort is testing compostable plastics made from corn and potato to replace standard plastic items used in packed lunches. It is also its carbon footprint and intends to reduce the amount of carbon the resort expends by five percent a year. It is about to install hydropower by building a generator on the river.
Guests can be involved as much or as little as possible in Clayoquot’s raptor rehabilitation, salmon habitat restoration, black bear mapping, whale acoustics, and program working with the Roosevelt elk.
“We try to teach our guests as much as possible about sustainability and the environment to take a proactive step towards a better future for us all.”