Canada’s west coast is vast, wild and thinly populated. No wonder there are only few roads. Some places can only be reached by air or water. A float plane is a relatively quick way to get almost anywhere. If there’s water that is. It’s a means of transportation typical to this area.
In the Tofino harbour we fold ourselves into the Cessna of Atleo River Air Service. The float plane is large enough for four passengers and a pilot, but it requires some skill to get into the co-pilots seat. When I succeed in this, the plane seems large enough to sit comfortably.
Off we go !
Josh, our pilot, starts the engines of the float plane and slowly we float down to the runway. For as far as one can call it a runway since nothing reminds me of the traditional runway: no tarmac, no markings, just a lot of water.
Josh fully opens the throttle. The engine of the small Cessna roars and the float plane shoots over the water increasingly faster. Within seconds we apparently have enough speed and the waters surface starts to disapear from beneath us. The view from 250 meters is magnificent. Below us the rocky Tofino coastline with its islands and inlets, in the distance the snowy mountain tops of Strathcona Provincial Park.
Icing on the cake
Josh flies this Cessna for about ten years now. He knows both the plane and the area inside out and tells us something about what we see outside the plane.
Suddenly the pulls the float plan in a tight circkle and points through the window to my right. In the water 250 meters below us swims a 15 meter long and 36 ton heavy grey whale! Usually these animals can be seen drawing one breath after which the dive again for a long time. Because of the shallow water the animal stays close to the surface, giving us some time to admire it.
We fly a few circles around the whale after which we continue our course towards Hot Spring Cove. Along the way there’s more uninhabited islands, empty beaches and pristine forest for as far as the eye can see. And at this altitude that’s quite a distance.
Just like the start, the landing at Hot Spring Cove is quite smooth. When I ask if the landings are always as nice as this, Josh tells us this is not the case. Apparently we are lucky again. Usually the water isn’t as calm.
After having picked up the extra passengers we fly back towards Tofino. A second time we get lucky and see the grey whale. Meanwhile the sun has dropped lower on the horizon, giving a beautiful golden glow to the magnificent landscape.
After nearly an hours flight we land in the Tofino harbour. It was a beautiful flight, way better than I would have thought. You’d almost go take flying lessons to get to do this daily.
Do this yourself?
I can recommend the Tofino area, but flying a float plane can be done almost throughout Canada
Best travel time
Starting from 90 dollars. This wil get you around ten minutes of flight time. Obviously, the longer you fly the more expensive it gets.