Canadian Holidays: Top Tips for Nature Lovers

The Daily Telegraph, February 28, 2012

Nature and wildlife enthusiasts won't want to miss out on these fantastic experiences whilst on holiday in Canada:

1. Watch bears at Glendale Cove, British Columbia

This spot, on the British Columbia coast, has a high concentration of grizzly and black bears. The most popular times to see them are April, when mother bears emerge from hibernation with their cubs, and early autumn, when the salmon start running – but not fast enough to escape from hungry bears keen to fatten themselves for winter.

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2. Go whale-watching, British Columbia and Nova Scotia

British Columbia’s Pacific coast and Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast are marine-mammal heaven. In the east, humpbacks – the most acrobatic of whale species - and the endangered North Atlantic right whale come to feed alongside finbacks and minke, dolphins and porpoises. In the west, there are plenty of cetaceans off the west coast of Vancouver Island and orca-watching from Vancouver itself. Plenty of boat tours are on offer in both locations.

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3. Spot moose in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

This is one of the top moose-spotting venues in Canada and you don’t have to travel far from your vehicle to find them. During May and June, the moose are attracted to the main road – Highway 60 – that runs through the park. After a hungry winter, they come to lick the salt, spread during the snowy season, from the tarmac. Canoe safaris are also available.

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4. Marvel at the salmon run, Ontario

In early October, salmon living in Lake Ontario run up the Humber River to spawn. The most convenient spot from which to watch – or fish for them - is the Etienne Brule Park in Toronto, through which the river runs. Remember you’ll need a licence to fish for salmon.

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5. See polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

The best time for seeing polar bears is late autumn, when about 1,000 animals congregate near Churchill. The Churchill River freezes early, allowing them access to the feeding grounds of Hudson Bay. However, viewings are also possible during the summer months, when the bears are forced on to land.

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6. Look for muskoxen on Banks Island, Northwest Territories

Aulavik National Park, on Banks Island at 73 degrees north, is home to the largest concentration of muskoxen on Earth; 70,000 live here. One popular way to see them is by paddling the natural wildlife corridor of the Thomsen River, although it’s a 15-day undertaking.

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7. Search for barren-ground caribou, Quebec

Nunavik, in northern Quebec, is home to the Leaf River Valley herd, the largest barren-ground caribou herd in the world – more than 400,000 animals. The herd’s migration range is vast and its criss-crossing paths can be seen across Nunavik. A portion of the herd’s calving grounds lies in the Parc National des Pingualuit, where caribou can be seen from May to July.

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8. Photograph puffins in Newfoundland

North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony – more than 260,000 pairs - spends the late spring and summer at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just off the Avalon Peninsula. There’s also a large colony of storm petrels as well as black-legged kittiwakes and common murres. Boat tours to the islands include watching for whales and icebergs.

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9. Admire the ice floes, Nunavut

From April to July, the Arctic Ocean ice breaks and the floe edge – the area where the frozen ocean meets the open ocean – teems with wildlife.

Visitors are rewarded with sightings of walruses, narwhal, seals and sometimes even polar bear cubs, while icebergs frozen into the sea ice keep camera shutters clicking.

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10. Admire the autumn colours around the Dempster Highway, Yukon

For just a week or two in late August or early September, the vast Arctic tundra surrounding the Dempster Highway – a 460-mile gravel road that runs from Dawson City to Inuvik – screams with colour. From scarlet to amber and yellow and pink, the colours are so vibrant that it’s hard to believe they’re natural.

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