Welcome Teachers and Group Organizers

We offer day programs and 1-4 night overnight programs for schools, groups, home-schoolers, college and university groups. Students engage in hands-on, experiential learning in the outdoors by learning new skills, building their teamwork and leadership capacity and challenging themselves. Programs take place in May, June and September each year, and are so popular that we recommend booking up to a year in advance for the best choice of dates. For detailed information on how to book, visit our Organizer Information page. Or if you are ready to submit a booking request, click the red button below. 

Submit a Booking Request

A quote from a teacher who brings his students for a trip each year:

Each year the grade seven students visit Camp Thunderbird at the beginning of September. The goal of this trip is to provide students with the opportunity to develop team-building and leadership skills. We arrive on day one and quickly get to know our energetic and enthusiastic group leaders and the physical facilities. During our stay students are lead through a variety of activities that develop these various skills. As a teacher I have the advantage of watching the students’ skills develop throughout the year, well after camp is complete. It is great to see students apply the skills they have learned at camp, becoming House Captains, leading various service activities, organizing assemblies and modelling these skills to the younger students in our Junior school. The benefits of the skills acquired at camp are truly applicable to the students’ every day lives. Thank you so much to Hana and her crew at Camp Thunderbird.

Dominic Smith, Teacher
Queen Margaret’s School


The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island Outdoor Centre and Camp Thunderbird is committed to providing quality outdoor experiences that support healthy growth and development of young people.  We invest significant resources to create programs that provide these benefits to our participants without exposing them to unacceptable hazards.

Participants and their families should be aware of the risks involved in participating in camp programs and accept that by participating they are taking those risks. Please take the time to review this summary of risks and our risk management approach. Risks will vary for each program, so we ask that you also take the time to review the information provided about each program.

YMCA-YWCA Outdoor Centre and Camp Thunderbird Risk Awareness

Activities Offered

Below is a list of program themes, and included activities.  If you are interested in changing your program, or creating a custom program that includes a hybrid of some of our available programs, please contact us.

Outdoor Adventure Program

Learning Objectives:

While participating in Outdoor Adventure Programs at Camp Thunderbird, students will:

  • Learn specific outdoor skills by practicing them in a group setting
  • Experience new challenges through boating or land-based outdoor activities
  • Gain an appreciation for the forest and lake habitats of the Sooke area
  • Build relationships with peers and teachers through shared outdoor experiences
  • Work on personal growth and development through *challenge by choice
  • Gain self confidence through being away from home and the traditional classroom
  • For a list of BC Curriculum links, please contact the Outdoor Education Manager


The following activities are available for groups pursuing Outdoor Adventure at Camp Thunderbird. This program is also available in French.

*Challenge by choice is an important principle in Outdoor & Adventure Education. Participants are invited to participate voluntarily in activities at camp and are empowered to choose the level of challenge they engage in. For example, for some students putting on a climbing harness and making one move on a rock climb is enough to push their comfort zone.

Rock Climbing: Participants receive basic instruction in climbing safety, equipment, and techniques.  Our trained instructors engage participants in proper climbing preparation and communication sequences.  Participants receive an opportunity to practice climbing in one of our two climbing areas.  Cougar Rock, located in main camp, has three climbs varying in technical difficulty.  Nicola Ridge is located just less than a kilometer (20 minutes hike) northeast of main camp.  Nicola is slightly more challenging as it is about 2-3 meters higher.  Both climbing sites are natural rock and use similar equipment and lesson plans.

Archery: Participants have the opportunity to learn about archery safety and technique. We encourage personal improvement and development over competition with other participants.  Participants receive instruction and practice on one of our three outdoor archery ranges and get a chance to use their new skills in archery games.

Canoeing: Participants become familiar with parts of the canoe and the paddle, paddle sports safety, and basic canoeing strokes.  Besides the opportunity to practice their paddling skills, participants have time to explore Glinz Lake and check out the wildlife and natural wonders of the area.

Kayaking:  Participants learn about the parts of a kayak and kayak paddle, paddle sports safety, and basic kayaking strokes and techniques.  Thunderbird boasts a fleet of both ocean, river and lake boats to which participants have access.  During a kayaking session, participants are given the opportunity to develop their paddling skills and to explore Glinz Lake.  All participants using our sea and river kayaks must demonstrate a wet exit (turn upside down in your kayak and exit under the water) at the beginning of their kayaking session. Please ensure all participants (students and chaperones) come prepared with a bathing suit and towel. Wet exits are not required with our lake boats.

Swimming: Our waterfront area, including three metre jump tower, provides an excellent fresh water swimming environment. Thunderbird staff are certified with Bronze Cross or National Lifeguard Service Award from the Royal Lifesaving Society.

Hiking: Thunderbird boasts nearly 1200 acres of forest that provides beautiful hiking routes that range in difficulty.  During a hiking session, participants learn about safe hiking, preparing to go on a hike, and appropriate clothing and safety gear to have.  As well, participants learn about their natural surroundings, and play a variety of trail games. We can offer hikes ranging from one or a few hours, to full days and overnights.

Campcraft: A campcraft session provides participants with the opportunity to practice many of the necessary skills of an extended wilderness experience.  Participants learn about and practice building fires and shelters, finding appropriate campsites, and engaging in minimum trace camping techniques.

Orienteering: Orienteering is one of the world’s most popular competitive sports, requiring both an understanding of the outdoors and map reading skills, as well as a keen sense of observation.  At Thunderbird, a basic orienteering session provides participants with the opportunity to learn about using a map, and to practice their skills by navigating through a basic orienteering course.  An advanced course, including learning how to use a compass is also available with advanced planning.

Teambuilding & Leadership

Learning Objectives:

While participating in Teambuilding and Leadership Programs at Camp Thunderbird, students will:

  • Learn about teamwork through hands-on activities
  • Build relationships with peers and teachers through shared outdoor experiences
  • Establish a healthy team atmosphere
  • Practice taking a leadership role, or standing back to gain a new understanding of their role as leaders
  • Work on personal growth and development through challenge by choice
  • Gain self confidence through being away from home and the traditional classroom
  • Build trust and respect for their classmates
  • For a list of BC Curriculum links, please contact the Outdoor Education Manager


When you book a Teambuilding & Leadership Program with Camp Thunderbird, we will create a schedule of activities that offer a progression of initiatives. This program can be customized to meet your groups’ goals.

Teambuilding Activities: Teambuilding activities are group-based sessions that provide participants with the opportunity to engage in activities and games that encourage group development, teamwork, and personal challenge.  During a session, participants are encouraged to think about and discuss concepts such as teamwork, co-operation, and communication, and are challenged to push themselves to succeed as members of a team. We progress through a series of simple to more complex group challenges during each session, based on the groups’ needs.

Low Ropes Course: The low ropes course offers a variety of challenge elements that encourage participants to work together to achieve a specific goal.  Participants have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and work cooperatively in order to achieve various levels of success.  This session involves cooperative games, trust activities and group initiative tasks and progresses towards the various elements on our low ropes course.

High Ropes Course: Our High Ropes experience involves activities that challenge the group to achieve success through co-operation, challenge by choice, and skill acquisition. On the course, participants wear helmets and harnesses and are tied into a team belay system.  With a small team, participants can climb the “Giant’s Ladder” or walk the “High V”, two of the high ropes course elements we have at camp.

Nature Programming

Through hands-on interaction with nature the students will gain an appreciation for the natural world while learning about topics such as our local ecosystems, biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, wildflowers, animal tracking, and the action we can take as individuals, families, and schools to mitigate our impact on the environment.

Most activities are conducted outside using the forest, lake, streams, and natural ecosystems and habitat.  Programs are experiential and all materials and staffing is provided by Camp Thunderbird.

Owls of Camp Thunderbird (Owl Pellets): Students will learn about the diversity, evolutionary adaptations and feeding behaviours of owls of the Camp Thunderbird forest. In this hands-on activity, each student will dissect an owl pellet and identify the skeleton of the owl’s prey. Students can then take the bones home if they like.

The Animal Game:  Students learn about food chains while playing an interactive high-energy game in the forest. Each student takes on a role in the food chain and hunts for food either by looking for food stations in the forest or by tagging other students. Up to 75 students at a time can play. This is one of our most popular activities!

Forest Learning Chain: Students take on the roles of both learner and teacher in this engaging activity conducted along a section of trail. In small groups, students become “experts” on a particular organism or phenomenon, and teach it to their peers while exploring one of Camp’s forest paths.

Animal Tracking: In this program, students will have the opportunity to explore the environment around them in search of evidence of recent animal activity. By focusing student’s attention on the intricate patterns of the forest, students learn to recognize what is, and what is not a track. Students will be encouraged to not only look for animal sign, but to think critically about the behavior and habitat of different species.

Habitat Fragmentation: This interactive game will allow students to experience firsthand the repercussions of increasing human activity on the natural environment. Acting as bears who must meet certain criteria to survive each year, an understanding of the impact of habitat fragmentation on wildlife will be gained.

The Wonders of Wildflowers: Students will explore, through self-directed discovery, the natural environment. Along with information to correctly identify wildflowers, flora and fauna will be explored on a micro scale.

Sensory Nature Walk: This program diverges from a traditional nature hike by encouraging students to experience the forest around them through all of their senses: touch, sight, smell and sound.

Bilingual Outdoor Education

Our Outdoor Adventure and Teambuilding and Leadership programs are available in French in May and June each year, for up to 55. All activities can be run in French, however meals are run in English and our staff may decide to convey some safety information in English. All administration is in English.


Ready to sign-up?

Submit a Booking Request