The Horne Lake Caves are earning wide recognition as a unique tourism destination.
On Oct. 20 the Horne Lake Cave Provincial Park and Outdoor Centre received Destination B.C.’s first ever Remarkable Experiences Award in front of more than 400 of the province’s tourism leaders at a Vancouver Convention Centre gala.
It recognizes a business that delivers a consistently exceptional visitor experience that exceeded expectations and triggers visitors to share through social media and word of mouth, according to Destination B.C.
This was the second major tourism award for Horne Lake Caves. It received the 2015 Innovator of the Year award from Tourism Vancouver Island for the slides, ramps and ladders they installed in the main cave late last year, explained Park Director Richard Varela.
The aluminum walkways were meant to protect the cave’s crystal formations from foot traffic but as they were designing them it became clear “they could also add a wild thrill at the same time as preserving the cave environment,” Varela said.
He added that visitors have been impressed with the new additions, submitting rave reviews which resulted in a number one ranking on the world’s top trip-review site.
“Imagine entering a cave and cutting past a wall of sparkling crystal formations tens of thousands of years in the making, scrambling up a series of small waterfalls, then climbing onto a metal slide to descend back down under a rocky ceiling, in the dark, illuminated only by your headlamp,” Varela said.
“Along with the added thrills, another major benefit is the safer travel with better footing than wet slippery rock. The unique design also channels dirt and human detritus into an easy collection point for future cleaning.”
The slides and ramps were the brainchild of Phil Whitfield, a caver and retired B.C. Parks planner who’s name appears on some of the first maps of the caves, over 40 years ago,” Varela explained. Whitfield proposed limiting human impact with elevated walkways.
The shiny new hardware is part of ongoing restoration which has involved hundreds of volunteer hours. The park’s cave tour operator and staff, along with caving club members from across B.C. and even local scout troops worked to restore the cave to a more natural state. That includes the removal of old spray paint and scrubbing years of grime from the limestone walls, revealing sparkling crystals and fossils of ancient sea-life.
“The cave is looking better than I’ve ever seen it,” Varela said. “There is already a new layer of sparkling crystals growing over top of the previous mud and grime. It’s inspiring to see we’re on the right track.”
The project was made possible by B.C. Parks, the Canadian Cave Conservancy and the cave tour operator, Island Pacific Adventures.
In the last five years, that partnership has added features like Canada’s only cave theatre and an updated interpretive centre with a fossil display and small museum exhibit, along with the design and construction of new trails and maps. The park is open year-round and offers a wide range of tours and self-guided experiences, above and below ground. Visit
www.hornelake.com or call 250-248-7829.