WATCH: The unfolding drama in Thailand has gripped people around the world including here on Vancouver Island which has more caves than anywhere in Canada. The most popular and accessible are the Horne Lake Caves near Qualicum Beach. On Monday, people venturing into them said it was hard not to think about the ongoing rescue.
Monday was another busy day at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park where people from around the world come to go deep underground.
“When we first started in the late 80’s we had maybe a couple hundred visitors in a year and now that number has grown to over 10,000 people a year on the cave tours.” said park director Richard Varela.
Vancouver Island has roughly 1500 caves, more than anywhere else in Canada and the caves at Horne Lake are the most accessible so they are the busiest.
The park offers guided and self-guided tours for different abilities so it’s where most first time cavers usually go.
“We’re just going to go check out the caves, we’ve never been here so we’re gonna go see how it is and do the self exploration ones.” said Kim Salmon.
As one large group after another headed up to the different cave entrances Monday, visitors to the park said it was hard not to think about what was happening in Thailand.
“Yeah Thailand was on my mind and you can do self-guided tours here and guided tours so that’s one of the reasons I chose a guided tour because I didn’t want to get lost or anything.” said visitor Christie Hartwig.
“I wasn’t thinking about it so much when we came but when we got here I did,’ said visitor Kyle Margeneau. “Everybody’s following it on the news so I was thinking about it and about being in caves and some of the places I’ve stuck myself into when I was a kid.”
Park management says the type of incident happening in Thailand wouldn’t happen at Horne Lake.
“It’s not going to ever happen on a tour of the Hornlake caves,” said Varela. “There’s lots of reasons, everything from the shape of the caves and how we run our tours to even what time of the year. And so we’ve taken hydrological studies from major universities, there’s been a lot of research done in that park and we use that information to help guide our policies and our protocols.”