TOFINO – “It was one of those two-bottles-of-wine ideas,” admits George Patterson, owner of Tofino Botanical Gardens, a lush, five-hectare sanctuary of gardens, forest and shoreline on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island.
Patterson and I are huddled in a cedar-shingle shelter in the gardens, escaping a downpour that turns the surrounding evergreens, moss, salal, and other vegetation a deeper shade of green.
Experiencing the local green is what drew me to Tofino – not only the verdant landscape of this coastal temperate rain forest, but also the green philosophy that infuses much of Tofino’s tourism industry.
Patterson’s wine-inspired idea—to offer a kind of adult environmental camp in the hostel-cum-research-centre in his gardens—is a fine example of the local passion.
While I’m all for living in environmentally appropriate ways, when it comes to vacations I like my luxury. And so I opt to stay at the eco-savvy Pacific Sands Resort, where beachfront villas boast low-flow toilets, beams made from timber killed by mountain pine beetles and a geothermal system that draws energy naturally stored just below the earth’s surface to heat the villas and provide hot water.
“Environmental practices are just a regular part of living here,” says Dave Pettinger, director of the resort’s operations. Pettinger is always on the lookout for promising green technologies and is open to considering wind and tidal power in the future. I ask if solar energy might also be in the cards.
“In Tofino? Not so much,” he says with a laugh. Ah yes, given that Tofino has measurable precipitation 202 days a year, sun energy is scarce.
A torrent of that precipitation is falling as I pull on raingear for a soggy hike to Tonquin Beach with Gisele Martin, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and owner of Tla-ook Adventures.
Along the way, Martin points out various “wild groceries” (berries, leaves and the like) that the aboriginal people have harvested for centuries. She stops to dig a tiny licorice fern out of a mossy tree cleft with her pocketknife and hands me Tic-Tac-sized pieces of the green root to suck on.
“I was sick with a cold and a friend brought me this—best medicine ever,” Martin says.
Later, I’m thinking I’ve found the best remedy for stress ever as a steady stream of warm oil flows out of a copper vessel onto my head and through my hair.
The cascading oil is part of the Sacred Stone Spa’s Ayurvedic Shirodhara treatment, a western interpretation of an ancient Indian health practice that, truth be told, sounded like Chinese water torture when I first heard about it. In fact, it’s a deeply soothing experience.
Like the treatment, this unassuming spa is a delightful discovery, thanks to its Asia-inspired interior and eco-friendly approach that includes an organic product line and all-encompassing recycling. Even the half-a-kilogram or so of sesame oil used in my Shirodhara treatment will be recycled into biodiesel to power vehicles.
Imagine, used massage oil replacing fossil fuel. Bet that was a two-bottles-of-wine idea.
For more information on travel to Tofino visit the Tourism British Columbia website at www.hellobc.com.