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Things to do in The Arctic North
Things to do in The Arctic North
The luxurious Canadian cruise you’ve always dreamed of
Passengers can frequently spot wildlife such as orcas, bald eagles or sea lions along the coastline of British Columbia. The waters of south-western British Columbia in Canada, are some of the most spectacular in the world, and the uniquely beautiful, comfortable and convenient journey aboard the V2V Empress between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria aims to showcase this stunning corner of the world with unparalleled commitment to service, comfort and luxury. Whether you are looking for an exciting add-on to your Alaska cruise or your Rocky Mountaineer train journey, or you simply wish to discover Victoria for a day, cruising to Vancouver Island on this stylish 242-passenger high-speed catamaran is an opportunity to spend the voyage learning about the rich culture in the region. Sailing directly from downtown Vancouver past Stanley Park, across the Salish Sea and meandering through the stunning British Columbia Gulf Islands into Victoria’s Inner Harbour on Vancouver Island, passengers can frequently spot wildlife such as orcas, bald eagles or sea lions. Throughout the 3.5-hour journey, guests also have the opportunity to taste local flavours through the on-board menu, which features foods and non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages exclusively sourced from the region. All seating is reserved, so when you go up to the sundeck to enjoy the incredible 360-degree views, you can be rest assured that your seat won’t be occupied by someone else once you come back inside. [caption id="attachment_44989" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cruising - but with all the comforts of a luxury hotel[/caption] Need to know In Vancouver, the V2V terminal is located downtown by the convention centre, within short walking distance of the Vancouver Cruise Terminal, a variety of luxury accommodation options as well as boutique properties. In Victoria, the ship arrives and departs directly from the Inner Harbour across from the British Columbia Provincial Legislature, within an easy four-minute walk from all pick-up points for the best Victoria and Butchart Gardens sightseeing tours and activities. See Victoria If you cruise to Victoria for the day, you will have enough time to wander the quaint, historic downtown with its British colonial architecture, visit the stunning Butchart Gardens, or linger over afternoon high tea. [caption id="attachment_44990" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll be amazed at all the wildlife spotting you can do![/caption] Go Royal Class The V2V Empress cruises past some spectacular British Columbian wilderness; the views from Royal Class seats are unbeatable. V2V’s two classes, Premium and Royal, both feature comfy ergonomic leather seats equipped with international power outlets (and free wi-fi throughout the ship), but Royal class is tailored to those who appreciate more personalised service. Up on the upper deck, Royal guests enjoy the best views, with food and drinks served directly to their seat. A welcome drink and a three-course light meal in both directions is included, as well as unlimited non-alcoholic drinks. For more information visit V2Vvacations.com
How to cruise the British Columbia Coast in style
For travellers seeking a highly personalised and truly authentic experience, V2V Vacations promises to provide a uniquely beautiful, comfortable and convenient journey between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
Love humpbacks whales? Wait ’til you meet the belugas of Hudson Bay
While snorkelling in Arctic waters, Birgit-Cathrin Duval forgets how cold the water is as she sings with the Beluga whales in an undersea duet. So much water, so much sky. Just as Canada is huge, Hudson Bay is enormous. Churchill, on the other hand, is a small settlement in the far north of the province of Manitoba – a tiny speck under a vast azure sky and the clear turquoise water of Hudson Bay. [caption id="attachment_26453" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Snorkeling and singing with the beluga whales in Hudson Bay is an exhilarating experience (photo: Birgit-Cathrin Duval).[/caption] But the colours, so reminiscent of palm-filled lagoons, are deceptive. The water temperature in the Bay can dip below freezing and only reaches a high of 8-9°C, even during summer – pack ice is visible on the horizon. I am sitting in a Zodiac, stuffed into a thick neoprene suit which is supposed to protect me from the cold. Seven millimetres will separate my skin from the icy water of Hudson Bay apparently, and I’m skeptical. [caption id="attachment_26454" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Two beluga whales glide gracefully through the arctic waters of Hudson Bay in Manitoba.[/caption] The suits are so tight the staff had to help pour me into the suit in the wooden Sea North Tours hut back at the harbour, and the protective suit clings to my skin like tough rubber. Jump right in... Now we are on the water, concentrated and excited, imagining we’re doing a good impression of Greenpeace activists on the high seas. No one speaks, but everyone knows what is going through the others’ heads: “Do I really want to get into the water?” and “Will I go into shock if I jump in?” These totally rational thoughts are interrupted as we spy the ivory-coloured bodies of a pod of beluga whales. They glide majestically through the water in groups of three and five. [caption id="attachment_26455" align="alignnone" width="1000"] A curious beluga whale bobs his melon-shaped head out of the water in Hudson Bay, Canada (photo: Robert Taylor).[/caption] During summer more than three thousand of these three-to-six-metre-long whales swarm to the warmer waters of the Churchill River to give birth to their young, and that makes the Churchill belugas the world’s largest accessible population – as we can now see. Due to their unusual, melon-shaped heads, they are not as elegant as dolphins, but are just as curious and playful. They are called ‘canaries of the north’ because their calls sound like the twittering of birds. They'll sing to you... Our Sea North Tours guide steers the boat from the Churchill River to the clearer water of Hudson Bay. There he stops the boat and turns the motor off. And then we can hear them: a high-pitched whistling and chirping emerges from the depths. Bubbles rise, and we see their elegant white backs – they are so close, and then they dive away from the boat. Should I really jump? How will they react? I hesitate. Other whales approach the boat, whistling and chirping all the while. I jump in with a heavy splash, and land in the sparkling green water. [caption id="attachment_26457" align="alignnone" width="1000"] If you're not up for swimming with the beluga whales in the arctic water, kayaking with them is another option (photo: Travel Manitoba).[/caption] For a moment, I feel nothing. Then the cold of Hudson Bay strikes me with the force of an electric shock. Adrenaline courses through my body – it’s an extraordinary feeling. I feel more alive than I have in a long time and completely forget the cold. Like a plump seal, I move through the water in my neoprene suit, because now I want to see the belugas and sing with them – a duet, perhaps, or even an aquatic quartet. I stare through the green water through my mask. How deep is it here? What if a polar bear swims through the bay and tries to swallow me, mistaking me for a seal? Best not to think about it. I breathe deeply through the snorkel and press my lips together. Humming, I imitate the call of the belugas. I wonder if they can hear me. They must – their calls are growing louder, like someone trying to find a station on an old transistor radio, and I get goosebumps from the excitement. But where are they? I flinch. Something jellyfish-like swims directly in front of my mask and, through the water, I hear the others whooping. Apparently the whales prefer tenor voices, because I see neither flukes nor fins. I attempt to switch from high to low tones, the lowest that my lungs can produce, and then they start to come to me! They'll come and hang out with you... I see their white backs between the waves as they head straight for me. I duck my head underwater and straighten my mask. A large whale swims directly underneath me. When he discovers me, he turns onto his back and eyes me curiously. I must look strange to him in my black rubber suit and mask. I wonder if he enjoyed my song. His wide mouth seems to smile at me and I want to touch him, but when I extend my hand, he disappears into the green depths. Others come, glide alongside me, turn their heads toward me – they are gentle giants, circumnavigating me with care. Despite their bulky heady and massive bodies, they float through the water like graceful nymphs. I am surrounded by chirps and peeps, as if we were singing in hymns in an underwater choir. Belugas are such funny creatures. Am I imagining it, or are they smiling at me? Maybe I’m singing off-key. At any rate, I hum and chuckle out of pure joy. This unusual encounter with these incredible Arctic creatures has been exhilarating. As I surface, I laugh, shouting with delight. Not even the icy water sloshing around in my mouth can put a damper on my feelings. I shiver as I climb into the boat with the others – perhaps from the cold that I had completely forgotten, but more likely from happiness at the most extraordinary encounter of my life. Travel information Churchill is in the province of Manitoba and can only be reached by train or by air. The Great Canadian Travel Company offers tours in Churchill with the six-day Beluga Encounter. On the hunt for more close encounters in Canada? See our favourite picks below: Walking with polar bears Five best bear-spotting experiences in Canada
Step up your next trek by adding a chopper to the mix in BC’s Bugaboos
Want to go heli-hiking in British Columbia? Leave the gear at home but bring your sense of adventure, writes Katrina Lobley.
Cruising from Canada to Greenland through iceberg alley
A cruising journey by sea through the Northwest Passage, from the wilds of Canada to the little–discovered wonders of Greenland, mesmerises with the unaffected beauty of its top-of-the-world location and down-to-earth locals (Tricia Welsh).
Dodge the frozen giants of Canada’s Iceberg Alley
See icebergs of every hue and shape in Canada's awesome Iceberg Alley.
Would you walk amongst grizzlies with a BC bear whisperer?
In order to not just see grizzly bears but walk with them, one has to get up early and develop a strong olfactory fortitude, writes Birgit-Cathrin Duval. It absolutely reeks here. There are dead salmon everywhere: on sand banks, on the riverbanks, in the water. Red-white bodies, half rotten and chewed at. They travelled for weeks on end, swimming thousands of kilometres upstream and, here in the Mitchell River, in the endless forests of the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia, they returned to the place of their birth, only to spawn here and die here – and become a feast for grizzly bears. The nights are short at the Pyna-tee-ah Lodge owned and run by Ecotours BC in the unlikely town of Likely, British Columbia. A handful of houses surrounded by thick rain forests, high mountains and wild rivers, this is a wilderness only familiar if you watch a lot of nature docos on TV. Despite the protracted night, there’s no sleep-in on the cards; the alarm buzzes at 4:30 and, in pitch black, we set off on the motorboat to cross Quesnel Lake into a region only very few tourists ever get to see. [caption id="attachment_26223" align="alignnone" width="667"] A mother bear and its cub hunting along the salmon-rich Mitchell River (photo: Ecotours BC).[/caption] At over 450 metres deep, this body of water is the deepest fjord lake on Earth, and the thought makes us a little dizzy. We reach the mouth of the Mitchell River in the dawn light and our guide, Gary moors the boat so we can board an even smaller dinghy to travel further up the river. Into the water At 70, Gary Zorn is still fit and wiry. He has spent half his life in this wilderness, and his steely blue eyes are sharp and always alert. He used to use his eagle eyes to guide bear hunters until he came to detest the senseless shooting. He then founded Ecotours BC with his wife Peggy to specialise in animal sightings and, certainly, it’s more like animal encounters as he takes guests closer to bears than anyone else would ever dare. [caption id="attachment_26224" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Discarded salmon carcasses along Mitchell River draw in a bald eagle (photo: Ecotours BC).[/caption] It’s only possible to do in small, exclusive groups; Gary, his employee Ryan Simmonds and we three travellers are the lucky participants (or could it be victims?) today. It is an unbelievable experience: while most sane people would never walk towards a known bear feeding ground, we don waders and Gary leads us forward up the Mitchell River. The current is so strong that it almost lifts me off my feet. There is that overpoweringly pungent stench of old fish as we wade upstream in slow motion. I step on something soft. My foot is standing on a half-rotted salmon. I can’t avoid stepping on countless slippery bodies as I scan the riverbank, surrounded by dense undergrowth, occasionally broken by tunnel-like passages – bear picnic spots. Chewed carcasses are piled up here, many with part of their head missing. The bears are gourmets and only bite off the nourishing brain. It all becomes suddenly real and, for a moment, panic rises. What would happen if a bear suddenly appeared from one of the tunnels? [caption id="attachment_26225" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Still fit and with nerves of steel at 70, Gary Zorn is the founder of Ecotours BC with his wife Peggy (photo: Birgit-Cathrin Duval).[/caption] I push the thought to one side and concentrate on Gary. The riverbed has become deeper, the water now reaching far above my hips. We link arms and wade together step for step through the current. It is an unbelievable feeling to know that we are walking through grizzly bear territory. We have come to observe bears, but now I am the one who feels she is being watched. Gary stands as safe as a steel girder in the current – without him, I would have stumbled countless times in a stinking baptism of decaying fish. Circle of life I ask myself if I will ever be able to eat a salmon steak again, with a glance at the dead and rotting fish. However, their death brings new life. With their mass dying, a lifecycle is completed, for the rotting bodies of fish are full of nutrients including complex proteins, containing nitrogen compounds. These, in turn, form an excellent fertiliser for the trees in the rainforests, and of course cheer the bears up with a sumptuous feast. However today we do not see any of the shaggy brown hides. Are all the bears lying in the bushes after eating their fill? Gary takes us back to the boat. He remains in the water and drags the boat along behind him. We wait, and hope, until we reach a sand bank. A dead salmon is lying on the bank, and an eagle sits calmly atop it. I am holding my camera at the ready: my instinct tells me that something is just about to happen. Then it all happens very quickly: a wild splashing, the eagle flying off startled. A young grizzly bear storms into the water right in front of us, running to the sand bank, snatching the salmon, dropping the catch and jumping impetuously back into the water. He doesn’t notice us, even when Gary moves the boat closer. After a couple of minutes he trots back into the undergrowth without hunting for salmon, nor even deigning to give us a backward glance. We are very close to the pulse of this wild, untamed nature doco come to life, in which the grizzly bear still continues to be the uncrowned king. This isn’t television: we are here live, and very much alive although, once the adrenalin calms down, we are all very quiet. Only the cold rain, which has been whipping me in the face on the journey to the landing stage, lets me sense that this was anything other than a dream. Travel information The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast area (landwithoutlimits.com) lies in British Columbia (hellobc.com) between the Pacific and the Rocky Mountains, characterised by rainforests, lakes, cliffs and precipitous mountains. It is the wild west of Canada, where they are still prospecting for gold today. There are fascinating opportunities here for nature-lovers to observe grizzly bears up close. The largest population of grizzly bears in the interior of British Columbia lives in the Cariboo Mountain Provincial Park. Interested in Canada? We've got an amazing amount of information on Canada, don't forget to check it out.
Rise with the tide at the Bay of Fundy
Go with the flow when there world's most extreme tide happens.
Connect with Nova Scotia’s historic Mi’kmaq culture
Step (or paddle) back into a time of Canadian legend, lore and foundation. According to Mi’kmaq legend, the hero Glooscap used his great powers to transform into a giant beaver and, by slapping his tail in the sea, created the peninsula now known as Nova Scotia. For 10,000 years, these First Nation people have lived on this land, and you can visit the Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site to learn about this Indigenous culture through current generations of Mi’kmaq people. [caption id="attachment_21211" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A traditional Mi'kmaq boat- photo courtesy of Eric le Bel.[/caption] Hear stories from spiritual leaders at Wagmatcook Culture and Heritage Centre, see ancient artefacts at the Museum of Natural History, take a tour of the largest collection of petroglyphs in North America – literally history carved in stone – documenting people, animals, hunting, fishing and, later, sailing ships, men with muskets and Christian symbols. Join four days of family festivities at the Millbrook Pow Wow, and canoe the traditional Mi’kmaq waterway routes. And, of course, visit Glooscap Cultural and Heritage Centre to learn about this mythical figure born from a bolt of lightning in the sand, whose name means “man from nothing”. Get going: For a Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site trip consult pc.gc.ca. [caption id="attachment_21212" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A traditional Mi'kmaq boat- photo courtesy of Eric le Bel.[/caption] Location: Kejimkujik is 197 kilometres from Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Ferries from St John in New Brunswick sail into Digby, which is 86 kilometres from Kejimkujik. “Another park that barely receives a single plaudit back home but in itself could be a fair reason to head to Canada's wild, woolly east coast.” – Craig Tansley << Previous | Next >> Return to the ‘100 Things to do in Canada Before You Die’ countdown var axel = Math.random() + """"; var a = axel * 10000000000000; document.write('');
Experience the thrill of a dog sled ride across Yukon’s frozen lakes
Glide across the frozen expanses of the Yukon powered by man's best friend. No visit to Canada is complete without experiencing the energetic thrill of an authentic ride with a sled dog team across a frozen Yukon lake. Bred to enjoy hurtling alongside their sled teammates across icy expanses, the excited barking of huskies anticipating their next outing will greet your ears before you even see them. [caption id="attachment_20709" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Dog sledding on Annie Lake; Yukon.[/caption] Typical tours involve riding either solo or duo, but in both cases you’ll be taught how to steer up to 16 dogs as they rocket full-tilt across one of the Yukon’s beautiful frozen lakes. With up to 80 centimetres of ice below you covered with a cool 20 centimetres of snow on top, you’ll feel exhilarated as you and your team hurtle from the expansive white bliss of a frozen lake to pull up at your log cabin where a roaring fire awaits. Get going: Mushing is best between November and March. Book a Yukon trip with Adventure World (adventureworld.com.au). Location: Yukon is in the north-west corner of Canada, bordering Alaska. Connecting flights arrive here from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. By bus you can travel the Alaskan highway on a Greyhound. [caption id="attachment_20710" align="alignnone" width="1024"] It's all smile while dog sledding on Annie Lake; Yukon.[/caption] “Sway your hips and move from foot to foot as your yelping, barking team of excitable dogs strain at the leash.” – Nikki Bayley <<Previous | Next >> Return to the ‘100 Things to do in Canada Before You Die’ countdown var axel = Math.random() + """"; var a = axel * 10000000000000; document.write('');
Find rustic royalty at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Action and beauty abounds at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, one of Canada's most unique.
Escape the Aussie crowd on Canada’s secret ski highway
We discover the true heart of Canada in amongst some of its greatest snow spots. This morning a ‘granola type’ (as they call them around here) on the laidback streets of Nelson asked if I’d like a hug because he was giving them out for free. Now a lumberjack type (think Russell Crowe between movie roles) is spitting tobacco ‘juice’ from the corner of his mouth and telling me I’m putting the wrong fuel in my vehicle – except he calls it a ‘vee-hick-al’, like he’s watched far too much Deliverance. I’m guessing he’s not likely to give me any hugs, free or otherwise, and it’s not the first time on this road trip I’ve felt a hell of a long way from the sanctuary of Banff. Enter the Powder Highway Yep, the Powder Highway might be home to one of the highest concentrations of ski resorts on the planet, but you wouldn’t know it here. [caption id="attachment_26181" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The Powder Highway wraps itself around 1000km of the prettiest alpine landscape in North America (Photo: Tourism BC).[/caption] It's called a highway, but it’s actually a collection of five roads that run 1000 kilometres in a circular direction in the very south-eastern corner of British Columbia, and along these roads are ski resorts almost nobody’s ever heard of… hmmm, Red Mountain, anyone? And there’s some that almost nobody’s ever been to – when was the last time Whitewater Mountain came up in your Canadian ski conversation? All up, there are actually eight alpine resorts here, 11 Nordic ski centres, 15 cat-skiing operators and nine heli-ski operators in some of the prettiest alpine landscape on this Earth. [caption id="attachment_26178" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Ski resorts along the Powder Highway are famously low key and offer perfect untracked snow far from crowds (Photo: Tourism BC)[/caption] However there’s far more to the Powder Highway than high-country thrills and spills. No, being here feels like a genuine cultural experience, for I’m not surrounded by Australians here as I am at Whistler. Here, locals wear flannelette even when it’s 30-below, and there are towns on this road that sound like Dr Seuss had some thing to do with naming them – though try rhyming with Spillimacheen and Skookumchuck. [caption id="attachment_26170" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Kimberley reinvented itself with some of best skiing in BC and transformed its town into a little piece of Bavaria (Photo: RCR)[/caption] Find 'secret' Canada I’m avoiding some of the better-known resorts on the road, like Fernie Alpine Resort (see our Ultimate Guide to Fernie), simply because I’d like to disappear into a Canada that’s completely different to Australia, and where no Australians tread. So I start my journey as far south as the highway goes, at Red Mountain – in fact, it’s just six kilometres north of the US border. It’s the oldest ski resort in western Canada. There’s only six chairlifts here, and they sure move slowly. If you’re in a rush, you should avoid this place because nothing, and nobody, moves fast around here. [caption id="attachment_26171" align="alignnone" width="668"] The Kimberley cuckoo clock is the largest freestanding closk of its kind in Canda. (Photo: Herb Neufeld Flickr)[/caption] Locals are a mix of lumberjack types and ski bums who never really grew up and got real jobs. I love the old hippies with their flowing beards that look a little like Willie Nelson – though when I try to follow them down ski runs I discover 50 years of riding these mountains has turned them into backcountry hellraisers who’d ski rings around wannabes 40 years their junior. Happy hours at the Flying Steamshovel are legendary, though for those chasing a tad more culture than four-buck beers, aim your vee-hick-al north another 50 kilometres and visit Canada’s most famous counter-cultural town. [caption id="attachment_26177" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Ski gear lining the platzl at Kimberley (Photo: Mark Eleven Photography for Ski RCR).[/caption] You’ll find Nelson right beside Whitewater Ski Resort. Nelson has to be one of North America’s prettiest towns – built as it is right on the edge of Kootenay Lake and in the shade of the towering Selkirk Mountains. It may look sleepy, but the place buzzes with life – it has the most famous small-town arts community in Canada. Everyone around here is an artist, it seems, except perhaps the guy on Baker Street trying to sell me an ounce of “Canada’s best weed” (or maybe he’s the biggest artist of all). Caution: you may want to stay Nelson is one of those rare towns you feel you could live in within minutes of walking its main street. It has over 350 heritage buildings and a fully restored street car, though mostly it’s the people who make it – while Canadians are famous for their friendliness, Nelson takes the friendly scale to dizzy new heights. [caption id="attachment_26176" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Sunrise at Revelstoke (Photo: Ian Houghton)[/caption] Locals round here favour hemp over flannelette, Birkenstocks over logger’s boots; though just east of here I find a street where people wear Bavarian-style lederhosen. Few Australians head into Kimberley (see our Ultimate Guide to Kimberley), but it’s as stunning a town as you’ll see in western Canada, with its views out over the Purcell Mountains. It was once the site of the world’s biggest lead-zinc mine, but when it closed Kimberley faced economic ruin. To promote tourism, Kimberley re-invented itself as the ‘Bavarian City Of The Rockies’, building a downtown platzl (city square), Canada’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock and introducing the world’s biggest annual accordion championships. Yessiree, you’ll see a little of everything on the Powder Highway. Further north, I find a local out walking his pet pig in the historic streets of Revelstoke (see our Ultimate Guide to Revelstoke): the kind of town where barmen remember your drink, your name and where you come from. Once not much more than a stop on Canada’s Union Pacific railway link, these days Revelstoke is the epicentre of the world heli-skiing industry. But somehow town never forgot its humble working-class origins, even though many of the visitors here are forking out $2000-plus-a-night to stay in five-star heli-ski hotels. [caption id="attachment_26175" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Red Mountain is just 6kms from the US and the oldest ski resort in Western Canada (Photo: Ryan Flett).[/caption] And in this way I think Revelstoke epitomises the Powder Highway. Somehow, in an area of the Rockies so spoilt for ski mountains and stunning alpine scenery, nothing got spoilt at all. Towns still feel decades from being over-run. The road is yours to ride alone, and it’ll take you into the breathing soul of Canada – if you’ll just let it. Exploring the Powder Highway: The Powder Highway stretches from Revelstoke in the west to Fernie in the east, and Red Mountain in the south to Kicking Horse (see our Ultimate Guide to Kicking Horse) in the north. There are three gateway airports to start your Powder Highway adventure: Kelowna in British Columbia, Calgary in Alberta and Spokane in Washington. [caption id="attachment_26173" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Nelson main street. One of the prettiest towns on the Powder Highway, Nelson is built right on the edge of Kootenay Lake. (Photo: Tourism BC)[/caption] If you fly to Spokane, your journey will begin at Red Mountain; if you fly to Calgary you’ll start in Kicking Horse; and if you fly to Kelowna, you’ll begin in Revelstoke. Hire cars are available at all three airports. For more information on the Powder Highway, check out hellobc.com, and the town of Nelson.
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