Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about our tours as well as important information to help you prepare for your trip! If you don't see the answer to your question below, please don't hesitate to Contact Us!
BOOKING YOUR TOUR
Why Book a Big Tree Tour?
Our guests regularly say that their Big Tree Tour was the highlight of their trip! We offer an authentic local experience, born out of a passion for sharing BC’s natural beauty with others and tuned to each group’s unique interests and abilities.
Having a knowledgeable guide also opens up a hidden world of insight that might otherwise be missed. During your tour, TJ will help to identify the wide variety of native plant and animal species you see, visit the best wildlife viewing areas, reveal the rich history of the towns and valleys you visit, and work to ensure that you have the safest and most comfortable trip possible.
How do I book a Big Tree Tour?
Tours are based on availability from May to October (excluding September 2018, as TJ will be guiding in the Great Bear Rainforest during this time).
To book a tour, please choose the one that interests you and complete the form on the Book Tour page. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
*Please note: Due to the fact that we are a small, single operator company, it’s best to book tours with as much advanced notice as possible to ensure we’re available.
How do I pay?
Payment can be made by cash or by credit card on the day of the tour. We accept any Canadian-issued and most non-Canadian issued credit cards with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB or Discover logo. Alternatively, we can send you an invoice to pay online prior to your trip if you prefer. Debit cards are not accepted at this time.
What is your cancellation policy?
Big Tree Tours reserves the right to cancel or postpone a tour due to inclement weather, foreseeable hazards, or events beyond our control such as loss of our vehicle or guide. In such circumstances, a full refund will be provided (if a payment has been made) or alternative dates offered.
What are the age requirements?
Due to the nature of our tours, they are best suited for those aged 12-65. A parent or legal guardian must also accompany children aged 12-18.
What is the minimum/maximum number of guests?
Minimum: 2 (Excluding 1-on-1 Photo Tours)
Note: If you’re an individual looking for a 1-on-1 tour or to join an existing tour, please contact us to see if there is an opening during your visit.
What does the Pro Photo Package offer?
Make your vacation photos stand out from the rest! By adding the $75 Pro Photo Package when you book your tour, your guide, a renowned nature photographer, will capture the magic of the tour for you! Afterwards, you'll receive anywhere from 25-50 professional images that are yours to share with friends and family. One set of images will be sized for the web and the other for prints. We’re sure you’ll love them! See some examples here: www.bigtreetours.ca/pro-photo-package*Note: Photos provided are for personal (non-commercial) use only.
ON YOUR TOUR
Do I need to sign a waiver form?
Yes, all participants are required to sign a waiver form. Waivers will be provided on the morning of the tour and must be signed and then witnessed by your guide. Participants under 19 must have a parent or legal guardians signature.
Please have each member of your group review the waiver before your trip: CLICK HERE TO READ WAIVER
When/where does my tour begin/end?
After booking your tour we will coordinate the pickup location with you. We typically meet at 9:00am for orientation and once all waiver forms are completed, we head out! We typically arrive back around 4pm. Tours begin and end in Port Renfrew.
How difficult are the walks/hikes?
This depends on where we go and what your abilities comfortably allow for. Before your trip we will do our best to match your experience and interests to the tours available. There’s something for almost everyone!
The trails in the Upper and Lower Avatar Grove combine for a total length of about 1.5 km. Boardwalks and stairs are spread throughout the grove to help with the more challenging sections, however, there are still portions of the trail that are uneven dirt pathways and somewhat steep. These can also become slippery/muddy in wet weather. These trails require that guests have a good sense of balance and the ability to take high steps, which can require knee strength.
To see the San Juan Spruce, no hiking is involved. The trail to the Red Creek Fir is about a 10 minute walk in along a fairly easy trail with a slight incline. The walk down to Sombrio beach from the parking lot is on a well-maintained pathway and takes about 5 minutes. Once you’re at the beach, we can walk as far as 2 km along the beach or sit down and watch the waves. The beach is comprised mostly of round cobblestones and some sandy areas. The loose cobblestones can be tricky for those with balance issues so please let us know beforehand.
What are the physical requirements?
In short: to join a tour, guests must be able to be walk or hike comfortably for a few hours over the course of the day without undo strain. If you are at all unsure if hiking is safe for you, we strongly suggest consulting a physician prior to participating in a Big Tree Tour.
The trails in Port Renfrew (Avatar Grove in particular) require you to have a good sense of balance on uneven terrain and, in some places, take high steps which requires knee strength. The trails at Avatar are about 1.5km in length and are a mix of boardwalk and dirt paths with exposed roots/rocks. Activity and pace can be tailored to suit your level of experience to a degree but a moderate level of outdoor walking/hiking experience is required to fully and safely enjoy the day.
What should I bring?
Anything that you might bring on a typical day hike along with any important items or medications that you can’t live without. Some suggestions are:
• Snacks and a bottle of water
• Bug spray
• Proper clothing and footwear for sun, wind, or rain
• Trekking poles for balance on uneven trails
• Any medications that you require
• Two Epi-Pens for those with severe allergies
• Binoculars for wildlife (we have a pair to share)
• Small backpack
• A big smile :)
What should I wear?
You don’t have to own the latest technical gear to join one of our tours but certain items will help ensure you have the most comfortable and safest time possible.
In short: Hiking shoes or boots and quick dry clothing is best. A rain jacket and pants are a great idea as well as the weather here is known to change on a whim.
Footwear: For tours in Port Renfrew we strongly recommend hiking boots (mid-high). These will help protect your ankles from twists on uneven terrain, keep your feet dry if it’s rainy or muddy, and provide better traction on slippery boardwalks or roots. Open toed shoes like sandals or flip-flops and dress shoes are not allowed.
Clothing: Avoid cotton (jeans, t-shirts, socks) wherever possible. Cotton absorbs moisture and stays wet making it uncomfortable and at worst, dangerous in cold weather. Instead, we strongly recommend quick-dry or non-absorbent clothing such as nylon, polyester, fleece, or wool. A waterproof rain jacket and rain pants are also highly recommended in case it rains. Dressing in layers is the best approach and it doesn’t hurt to pack an extra set of dry clothes which you can leave in the van. A hat and sunglasses are also a good idea during the summer months at the beach.
What weather should I expect?
Sun, wind, rain, and everything in-between!
It’s called a 'rainforest' for good reason. That being said, the trees on the west coast also owe their great size to the often warm and sunny summers. If you’re prepared with the proper gear, the mix of weather really only adds to the experience! The most beautiful days in the woods are often those where the fog is rolling through forests and all the colours are enriched from the moist air. Along the coastlines and beaches, a wind-breaker will help with the breeze.
*Extreme weather: As exciting as it can be to watch big storms, in the case of extreme weather events such as high winds or rainfall, trips may need to be cancelled or postponed until a later date for safety reasons due to the risk of falling branches, poor road conditions, and/or large waves. If rescheduling the tour for a later date does not work for you and a payment has been made, a full refund will be provided.
Will we see any wildlife?
You can bet on it! Just what we’ll see is the luck of the draw of course but be sure to pack your camera or binoculars if you have them! We also have a pair that you can borrow. Your guide will stop at a few key viewing areas throughout the day to increase your chances of seeing something special.
There’s always the chance of seeing Roosevelt elk, black bears, black-tailed deer, bald eagles, osprey, salmon, seals, otterns, mink, various seabirds, ravens, woodpeckers, red squirrels, salamanders, newts, frogs, and a variety of other critters big (Sasquatch?) and small! Wolves and cougars also call this region home but are extremely rare to see.
We practice safe and respectful wildlife viewing at all times.
Will there be bugs?
The west coast is significantly less buggy than the rest of Canada but you’ll still find some mosquitoes in the shady forest during the summer months like July and August. It doesn’t hurt to pack some bug spray if you normally use it. Wearing light colored, long-sleeved clothing is also supposed to help keep the bugs at bay. Outside of the forest they are much less of an issue.
Will there be washrooms?
It’s best to use the washroom prior to leaving on the tour as there are no washroom facilities at Avatar Grove. A few other locations such as Sombrio Beach have outhouses. It is also possible to stop to use a washroom when we pass back through town around the middle of the day.
Can I bring my dog/pet?
Unfortunately, not at this time. We don’t have the capacity to bring pets in our vehicle or on our tours. Wild animals can also become frightened or, at worst, become a threat to your beloved pet. We thank you for your understanding.
Are you insured?
Yes. We are fully insured with general commercial liability insurance and commercial vehicle insurance.
Most vehicle rental insurance policies do not cover travel on logging roads but by booking with us, you leave that worry behind!
Do I need special insurance?
Individuals who are travelling from outside of the province are responsible for ensuring that they have the necessary travel insurance in place. It should cover things such as trip cancellations, outdoor adventure activities, personal belongings, personal injuries, and emergency medical expenses and evacuations. Residents of British Columbia enrolled in Health Insurance BC should be covered.
Do I need to complete a pre-trip medical form?
Yes, each participant is required to complete a basic pre-trip medical form. This information is confidential and only used to ensure the guide knows of specific health concerns, allowing you to have the safest trip possible.
What safety precautions do you have in place?
At Big Tree Tours your safety is our number one priority. We work to minimize risks as much as possible so that you can focus more on enjoying your tour. By their nature however, outdoor adventure activities do retain some level of risk, which is why your guide is certified in Wilderness First Aid and carries a first aid kit with the group at all times during the tour (that's what's in his big backpack!). We also travel with a satellite phone for emergency communication purposes and a personal locator beacon. Our vehicle must pass a Commercial Vehicle Inspection at the beginning of each season as well to ensure all components are in proper working order. TJ also has a Level 1 Guide Certification from the Commercial Bear Viewing Association. And last, but not least, we have the neccessary BC Park Use Permits for operating a commercial business in the local provincial parks. Phew! Yes, that's a lot of stuff but it's what lets us have all the fun out there!
What if I’m allergic to bees/wasps or other things?
Please notify us of any allergies prior to your trip. If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bees or anything else (ie. peanuts, shellfish, etc.) and carry an EpiPen, you must bring two Epi-Pens with you on the trip along with an anti-histamine. Please ensure that they are not expired. We try our best to avoid bees and wasps but there remains the chance of being stung in the woods or at the beach, particularly in the summer months. At times we are over an hour from the nearest medical facility and would need to treat the reaction in the field while working to get you help as quick as possible.
Bears, cougars, and wolves! Oh my!
Yes, it's true! All these magnificent creatures are found here on Vancouver Island, however, as they generally avoid contact with people as much as possible, it's much more likely that you'd be hurt twisting an ankle on the trail than by encountering a wild animal. Bumping into bear while hiking on a trail is fairly uncommon and it's extremely rare to see a cougar or wolf. If we're lucky enough to spot a bear, it’s typically while driving along a roadway. Grizzly bears are not found Vancouver Island, only black bears. If we do encounter a wild animal during the tour, please follow the instructions from your guide. TJ carries a Commercial Bear Viewing Association Level 1 guide certification.
Where is Port Renfrew? How do you get there?
Port Renfrew is a small coastal community of about 200 people located roughly 2 hours from Victoria, BC on southwestern Vancouver Island. It is in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation band. If you’re travelling from Victoria, the quickest way to Port Renfrew is by taking Highway 14 via Sooke. If you’re coming from further up island, the quickest route is the Pacific Marine Circle Route via Lake Cowichan. Both roads are paved but narrow and windy so be sure to drive carefully. There is also a new gas station in Port Renfrew that's open 7 days a week from 7am to 9pm and sells gas and diesel.
If you need a lift to get up there, the best option is the West Coast Trail Express Bus: www.trailbus.com
Can you recommend any places to stay in Port Renfrew?
There are plenty of awesome locations to stay during your visit in Port Renfrew ranging from rustic to fancy. Below are few of our personal favourites and people that we’ve worked with closely:
• Explorer's Retreat
• Explorer's Retreat with Bunkhouse
• Handsome Dan's Cottages
• Soule Creek Lodge
• Big Fish Lodge
• Port Renfrew Beach House
• Pacheedaht Campground
• Homestead Cabins
• Going Coastal R and R
• The Whales Tale
• Wild Renfrew
Looking to call Port Renfrew home? Check out www.LivePortRenfrew.com
Is there cellphone reception where we’re going?
In Port Renfrew, no. This comes as a surprise to many people but is also part of the appeal of being at the end of the road! The closest towns to Port Renfrew with cell reception are both an hour away in Sooke and Lake Cowichan. Your best bet for communication while in Port Renfrew is to find a landline or connect to Wi-Fi. Many of the local restaurants and accomidations have Wi-Fi and you can find free public Wi-Fi at the Port Renfrew Community Centre next to the fire hall.
How do you find these big trees?
See the new Giant Tree Hunters documentary which highlights our efforts at the Ancient Forest Alliance to find and protect the largest trees and grandest groves in the country!
What does TJ stand for?
You’ll have to join a tour to find out! If you can guess, then dinner is on me ;)