The unique slides in Horne Lake Caves protect the environment and add fun for visitors.

The unique slides in Horne Lake Caves protect the environment and add fun for visitors.

Horne Lake Caves wins Destination B.C. award

Award recognizes a business that delivers a consistently exceptional visitor experience

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.

Just Posted

(File photo)
Crime report: Crooks busy pilfering bikes throughout Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Thefts among 295 complaints Oceanside RCMP deal with in one-week period

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue logo on the back of a service vehicle. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville and Qualicum Beach provide letters of support for Arrowsmith Search and Rescue

ASAR asks for increase in funding, one-time capital grant and for RDN to buy out current facility

The proposed running track upgrade at Ballenas Secondary is now on course. (PQB News file photo)
RDN: Parksville track upgrade project gains some traction

Staff recommends board approve $204,000 funding

The total earnings of Town of Qualicum Beach council and mayor amounted to $186,649 in 2020, including expenses. (Town of Qualicum Beach photo)
Nine Qualicum Beach town employees earned more than $100K in 2020

Mayor and council received earnings totalling $186,649

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read