Just a twenty minute ferry ride from Nanimo is the quaint little island of Gabriola, an island known for… being home to countless über hippies! Wikipedia politely notes how Gabriola’s cultural life includes annual festivals related to art poetry, gardens, boating, and fishing – in plain English they’re really saying it’s a giant hippie party 24/7. Besides hippies the island is covered by towering arbutus tress and its beaches are comprised of sandstone washed smooth by centuries of battering by the surf. There are a bunch of public access beaches on the island, each as different as the next. If you’re into lying on white sand and soaking up the rays or splashing in the waves, Sandwell Provincial Park is your best bet. However, if you’re like me and prefer exploring tidal pools and snorkelling in the frigid pacific waters, Dascanso Bay is the place to be. You’ll find species not found under any rock along the lower mainland’s waterfront: nudibranchs, moon snails, chitons, and very interesting fish.
One interesting species of fish I came across is the plainfin midshipman (Plainfin Midshipman – Porichthys notatus). These fish are not the best looking fish out there, with their huge mouths, disappearing tail, and bland colouration; they’re not a fish people typically go searching for. Nevertheless, the plainfin midshipman is interesting. They typically feed at night on other fish and crustaceans. As I discovered this fish can sing! That’s right the males will sing to attract females. Oh and why is it called a midshipman, well as my former high school biology teach explains…
Don’t you want to know why it’s called a midshipman? It’s because of the rows of ‘brass buttons’ on its belly. They glow. – Ruth Foster
Another very cool fish I found is the northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus). These guys use their pelvic fins to create a suction cup allowing them to cling tightly to rocks, sea weed, kelp, or your hand – and no worries there’s no risk of a hickey. There suctioning ability also allows them to remain out of the water for extend periods of time, such as at low tide. The suction cup traps moisture so the clingfish can still breathe. These cool little fish feed primarily on small limpets, chitons, and other small mollusc. Really a very interesting and unique fish!
The island is also inhabited by deer. Lots and lots of deer. Seriously there are deer everywhere! Those who call Gabriola home are not the biggest fans of the deer, and most have erected fortress like walls or moats around their property to prevent the deer from munching on their gardens. Though for city slickers, a chance to see Bambi and Thumper is pretty cool!