Hot Springs, Bears, Whales and Floatplane

Coming from the country of hot springs (“onsen” in Japanese) and being an onsen addict, I visited countless hot springs in my life. Sometimes I hiked into the mountains for a couple of hours just to soak in often spectacular settings. Philippe joined me with this onsen-hopping passion. A memorable one was the running river hot springs in Iceland we visited with Lia and Luca.

But today’s hot springs, Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Provincial Park, is the remotest ever and only accessible by boat or plane! It takes us a 1.5 hour boat ride and a 2km boardwalk hike to reach the hot spring at the shore of Openit Peninsula.
I hesitated to go for this trip because I get easily sea-sick. My worst boat experience in Greece years ago still lingers somewhere in my mind. However, Philippe talked me into this trip with the view of soaking in hot water in a beautiful setting.

The morning weather was great and the sea was calm. We got on the boat and it started sailing smoothly from the Tofino Harbour along countless small forested islands and remote white beaches. Only occasionally a few kayakers or campers were on the beaches. Otherwise, the area is complete wilderness. Soon we spotted a bear on the beach which were flipping rocks to search food! Only a few hundred meters away some kayakers had their tent pitched. Neither the bear nor the kayakers seemed worried much. We however were happy to watch it from the safety of the boat. Soon we spotted another bear and several otters swimming and we were all excited.

One hour and half after leaving Tofino the boat dropped us at the hot spring’s pier from which we walked 2km to the springs. Direct access would not have been possible due to rocky cliffs. After walking through the beautiful dense cedar forest for half an hour, we saw the steam and smelled the sulfur. This steamy water turning into a small waterfall, creating pools here and there. As our boat was the first one to arrive, there were only a couple of people. After hopping on the rocks and dipping into a couple of pools to test the temperature, we each settled into a small pool just big enough for one person. The temperature was little below 40°C – perfetto.

Spending five hours soaking, exploring the area, enjoying the view and lying around on a small pebble beach, it was time to go back, this time, by float-plane. Philippe got all excited after we let some slightly impatient travelers get on the first plane and in return got the 4 seater floatplane all for ourselves 🙂 Just us and a pilot – but Philippe thought the pilot was overkill. He would have flown that thing himself (of course, my hero). Stunning views from the sky. And as a premium, we saw a mother whale and her calve very close to the shore.

A perfect day which we celebrated with a nice meal at “Shelter” and another pretty sunset…

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