While we’re all excited to start booking our birding experiences across this majestic province, it’s a good first step to familiarize yourself on how to travel safely and responsibly before setting out on your adventure.

COVID-19 impacts can be felt everywhere, but as we embrace Phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan, travel and tourism experiences are waiting in your community and across the province. 

To help you start planning, and thinking about the impact our travels can have on communities we visit, we compiled 10 tips from HelloBC that can be your new checklist for safer travel in BC.

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre - Errington - Central Vancouver Island - BC Bird Trail
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, Errington.

1. Plan Ahead

Take the extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many businesses and services in BC have adopted new protocols, as well as changes to their operating schedules or policies to ensure your safety and the safety of their staff. Become familiar with these changes ahead of time, as some attractions or experiences may require booking in advance or may be operating at reduced capacities, and some may even be closed.

2. Be Respectful

Responsible tourism means that the experience creates a positive impact for all involved—not just the traveller. Keep in mind you are a guest of your fellow BC residents when travelling, and respect the guidelines and protocols they’ve put in place in their communities during this time. The BC Bird Trail has many attractions, birding points of interests, and cultural experiences within Indigenous communities, so please be sure to read and review their travel guidelines on Indigenous Tourism BC’s website.

Brant Viewing Area - Qualicum Beach - Central Vancouver Island - BC Bird Trail
Brant Viewing Area, Qualicum Beach.

3. Travel In Smaller Groups

If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public and may have less of an impact on the destination. A smaller group size is also great for birding as it helps avoid excessive noise, which can be an issue, improving your odds of spotting some of the more elusive birds.

4. More Time, Fewer Locations

To help curb the spread, consider a slower pace of travel and checking into fewer destinations. If possible, choose one destination and one accommodation for your entire trip, using that as a central location for exploring nearby destinations and activities.

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre - Errington - Central Vancouver Island - BC Bird Trail
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, Errington.

5. Pack Essentials

Remember to stock up with some essentials before you leave home (i.e. groceries, toiletries). This can help lessen your impact on BC communities who may be experiencing supply issues, and it also reduces your touchpoints within communities who may have limited health care facilities. 
Tip: Create a Clean Trip Kit, including hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, masks, and toilet paper. While some businesses and destinations may supply these for visitors, it’s not guaranteed.

6. Support Local Businesses

BC’s tourism businesses are eager to welcome you back as many communities rely on your support. You can speak with local Visitor Centre staff to learn more about how to support local businesses in the areas you are travelling, or better yet, check out our regional Bird Trails for local business focused itinerary suggestions – just remember to check ahead of time to see if new protocols or operation hours are in place.

Heron-ShayneKaye-1 - BC Bird Trail
Photo: Shayne Kaye

7. Stay Apart, Stay Safe

Continue to practise physical distancing and frequent hand washing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please wear a mask if you cannot keep a safe distance from people outside your travel group for an extended period of time. You can always speak with tourism businesses you plan to visit or check their social media channels to learn about the steps they are taking to keep you and their staff safe.

8. Leave No Trace

This is an essential part of all outdoor expeditions – if you pack it in, pack it out. When exploring BC’s outdoors, always leave it in a better state than when you arrived. Make sure to dispose of waste properly. Respect local wildlife by keeping a safe distance, use the identified trails to reduce the disruption of habitats, and avoid loud disruptive noises. Minimize the impact of campfires and check BC Wildfire Service for fire bans and fire safety tips. 
To learn more about the principles of Leave No Trace and responsible outdoor recreation, visit LeaveNoTrace.ca.

Derby Reach Regional Park - Langley - BC Bird Trail
Derby Reach Regional Park, Langley.

9. Be AdventureSmart

No matter the outdoor activity you are planning, be prepared. Remember to follow the three T’s—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart.ca is a useful resource for information before heading outdoors.

10. Be Calm, Be Patient, Be Kind

Take Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice and “Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe.” It’s always important to think about how you affect the people around you, and this mindfulness is especially important right now.  Remember that activities you want to participate in may take longer than usual, or places may be at capacity when you arrive. Practice patience. Have a back-up plan researched and ready. Use our regional Bird Trail itineraries for suggestions.

Remember to be calm, be patient, and be kind—we’re all in this together.

For more Covid-19 health information, visit the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control at BCCDC.ca.