Seeking an accessible yet thrillingly unique new experience? Vancouver Island North boasts the highest concentration of caves in Canada. Water has worked its alchemical magic on the rugged landscape for hundreds of thousands of years. Result: The relatively soft karst (limestone) topography is riddled with networks of subterranean getaways – some suitable for beginners, others only for the most expert cavers.
Rookies of all ages can explore at Little Huson Caves Regional Park, a 45-minute drive south of Port McNeill, off the Zeballos road. A self-guided tour here includes stops at a natural rock bridge and walk-in, cathedral-style cave.
Everyone can get an easy access look at some of Canada’s finest karst formations from viewing platforms set up along the Alice Lake Loop. It includes stops at the Eternal Fountain with its soothing waterfall, and the Devil’s Bath, a very good example of a cenote, much the same as those found in the Yucatan.
For their part, experienced cavers can explore some of the longest, deepest karst caves in Canada. On the north Island, several of these caves are concentrated in two areas rich in limestone, the Quatsino formation and the Parsons Bay formations – the later is not exclusive to the north Island region as it stretches farther south on Vancouver Island. Guides are strongly recommended for the more difficult treks, and regional authorities ask that cavers steer clear of any unmapped caves. Information about the sport on Vancouver Island can be found through the Canadian Caver website at www.cancaver.ca.