As John Muir put it so succinctly “in every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

People love being outside, enjoying what nature has to offer – simply being in the fresh air in your neighborhood park for a short while does wonders to lift your spirits, photographers, bird watchers, naturalists, hikers, campers, geo-cachers, fishers and even hunters – we all enjoy seeing what is out there and recording or documenting it for the sheer please of it! Spending time outside is good for our physical and mental health!  Sharing images online has become a double edged sword – on the one hand is raises awareness that this bird/plant/wild creature is out there and on the other hand it draws a flood of people interested in seeing it in person for themselves.

For some communities in BC (and around the world) their whole livelihood is dependent on tourists visiting their area and seeing the wildlife and natural beauty their region has to offer. While this is good in theory it can have devastating effects on the local wildlife and nature in the area. British Columbia encourages its tourism sector to sell its image – beautiful scenery, spectacular wildlife, breathtaking encounters in nature! It brings tourists here so they can experience these things too – but we should really take steps to ensure the protection of our wild places from over subscription! Some tour operators (not all – I know of many very ethical and concerned tour operators who care deeply for their region) offer guaranteed sightings! Recently a tour operator was fined for ‘baiting’ to make sure the local wildlife was around when he wanted to guide tourists! It was encouraging to see this tour operator was heavily fined. Tours should be about the natural experience with the emphasis on respecting nature and wildlife.

Tourism is going to continue to grow – especially here in BC, we have a lot of wild, open spaces to enjoy nature at its finest in a relatively safe environment and experience amazing encounters with wildlife quite naturally in the course of a normal days walk in nature! There are whale watching tours, grizzly bear tours, owl and birding tours to see your favorite wildlife – in most cases these sightings happen every day – locals are well used to their occurrence, it’s important to make sure the wildlife is not being stressed by our human interest and activity as we try to get a glimpse into their wondrous life in the wild.

British Columbia has so many attractions for the visitor! The Destination BC website (tourism) promotes remarkable experiences and BC is full of wonder! From deep sea diving off the coast to skiing on hills of pure white powder to storm watching at Tofino and seeing wild spirit bears near Bella Coola – BC is an incredible destination and I feel very lucky to live here and be able to experience nature and wildlife everyday on my walks. I’m trying hard to respect the wildlife and to be an ethical observer – making sure I don’t stress or harass the wildlife I’m watching and take only photographs and leave only (gentle) footprints! The litter and rubbish I find on my walks is truly depressing. I cannot understand how people can just destroy a beautiful habitat by leaving plastic, Starbucks cups, trash and other dangerous objects in nature. I’m a permanent resident of Canada with my citizenship pending (any day now I hope!) but I spent ten years in New Zealand which has a very “clean green image” and takes a very tough stance on litter! I think we could do a lot more here in Canada – starting with education. I notice a lot of kindergartens starting as Nature Schools – teaching the very young all about the outdoors and I love this! Respect for nature must be taught young and I’m so pleased to see the youth of today (Greta Thunberg) leading the way!

BC has the most incredible, diverse geographical landscape that I and many other locals, tourists, explorers and adventurers love to visit! It is worth looking after and I for one don’t know what the answer is to all the problems humans cause but I know that more respect for nature is at the core! Respect our wild places and the creatures and plants that inhabit it – don’t just tick items off a list – take time to experience the true beauty of the place – and you might be rewarded with a wonderfully unique encounter!