We can't wait to meet you but until then, here's a bit about us!
Big Tree Tours Ltd. is a Vancouver Island eco-tourism business offering guided day trips to BC's biggest trees, ancient forests, and wild coastlines.
The concept first arose in 2010 during a hike to Canada’s largest tree, the Cheewhat Giant. Surrounded by trees of epic proportions and incredible beauty, local photographer and conservationist, TJ Watt, had a thought: although Vancouver Island is home to some of the most stunning temperate rainforests left on Earth, many locals and visitors don't get the opportunity to see them as they're often hidden away or too hard to reach. Thus, out of TJ's passion for exploring ancient forests and sharing the experience with others, Big Tree Tours was born.
The goal today is to provide guests with the opportunity to easily experience the grandeur of BC's biggest trees through fun and engaging tours that are filled with local knowledge and insight. We're confident our tours will leave you with a deeper understanding and connection with the natural world as we strive to create experiences that are as unique and unforgettable as the landscape itself.
YOUR GUIDE: TJ WATT
Meet TJ, the founder and operator of Big Tree Tours. Born and raised in Metchosin, BC, he will be your local guide, interpreter, and nature-nut for the day! An avid conservationist, professional photographer, and big tree hunter, TJ has an intimate knowledge of Vancouver Island’s ancient forests and a deep passion for sharing them with others. He first began exploring old-growth forests more than a decade ago and has been leading group hikes and tours since 2010. During your trip, TJ will help identify unique plant and animal species while also sharing interesting tales of local history. His easy going personality and enthusiasm for nature is sure to make for an enjoyable trip! TJ is certified in Wilderness First Aid and licensed to transport passengers.
Interesting facts: TJ is credited with identifying and helping save the Avatar Grove and has since lead teams of volunteers in constructing boardwalk along the trail to help improve visitor access and safety and protect the tree roots. TJ is also a co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance; a non-profit organization that works to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests.
HOW YOU'LL GET AROUND
Prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience! The vehicle you will be traveling in is a 4x4 Mitsubishi Delica. With high clearance, rugged tires, and 6 comfortable passenger seats, it’s the ultimate backroad tour bus. The roof features 5 unique skylights that allow for incredible 180º scenic viewing. Check out the photos to the right!
At Big Tree Tours we’re big on safety too. Each season our vehicle must pass a thorough Commercial Vehicle Inspection, certifying it for transporting passengers. We also have Commercial Vehicle Insurance, which covers travel on logging roads as well - something that most rental vehicle insurance does not. This way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
Port Renfrew is a small, coastal community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, about a two-hour drive from Victoria, BC. It is within the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation, meaning "People of the Sea Foam", who have called the region home for time immemorial. With a seasonal population ranging from about 200-400 people, the town was historically built around the logging and fishing industries. In recent years, a shift towards tourism has begun as Port Renfrew becomes known as the ‘Tall Tree Capital of Canada’. The world’s largest Douglas-fir tree, the Red Creek Fir, Canada’s second largest Douglas-fir, Big Lonely Doug, two of Canada’s largest spruce trees, the San Juan and Harris Creek spruce, and scores of giant redcedars, including 'Canada’s Gnarliest Tree' at the Avatar Grove, are all found within an afternoon’s journey. Further up the coast you find the Carmanah and Walbran Valley’s, home to some of Canada’s finest old-growth forests. The trailheads for the 47km Juan de Fuca Trail and the 75km West Coast Trail are both also found in town. From wild coastlines, to ancient forests, and spectacular wildlife - Port Renfrew has it all!
THE STATUS OF BC'S ANCIENT FORESTS
While most of the world has long since lost its original forests, the west coast of British Columbia is still home to some of the most magnificent old-growth temperate rainforest left on Earth. Trees here can reach over 20ft (5m) in diameter, tower over 300ft (95m) into the air, and live to be almost 2000 years old. However, after a century of industrial logging, only a small fraction of these once-great forests remain.
On Vancouver Island alone, 79% of the original productive old-growth forests have been logged, including 90% of the valley bottoms, where the biggest trees grow and the richest biodiversity resides. When we visit places like the Avatar Grove, San Juan Spruce, or Red Creek Fir, we're getting a glimpse back in time to a land of giants that would have once stretched for as far as the eye could see.
Today, conservationists like TJ are working hard to secure the protection of the last remaining ancient forests and big trees before it's too late. Old-growth forests are important for the climate, tourism, clean water, endangered species, and many First Nations cultures. We hope that by bringing people out to experience these forests first hand, it will help to raise awareness and play a role keeping them standing for generations to come.
GIANT TREE HUNTERS
See this documentary about the quest by TJ and others to find and protect the largest trees and grandest groves in the country!