Research Trip to Canada: Wildlife and National Parks
July 18, 2022

We drove very early one morning from Edmonton to Elk Island National Park for the day, to research bison. There was nobody around, so it felt like we had the park to ourselves. We went for a lovely walk through thick foliage, talking loudly so we didn’t startle a bison. We saw quite a few, but for research purposes the best one to photograph was an elderly male happily feeding and hanging out by the side of the road.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any beaver, but there was lots of evidence of their existence all round the lakes and we could see their lodges on the surface. We also saw a Canada goose with goslings, and a skunk walking along the roadside. Luckily, we avoided being sprayed! It was also lovely to see so many red squirrels, unlike in England where they have been pretty much wiped out by the American Grey.

It was a really wonderful park to visit and a real highlight for me.

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At Jasper National Park, also in Alberta, we had a guide. We assumed we would be walking, so dressed for the occasion in camouflaged coloured clothing and big walking boots, carrying backpacks with our water bottles and cameras. When we arrived, we were greeted by a man in flip-flops who told us we were to remain in our car as much as possible when seeing the animals, and watch from there!

It was surprising how many animals we did see from the side of the road, just going about their business. Several elk – the male with big furry antlers – some bighorn sheep, a black bear with cubs, and a grizzly.

Jasper was a beautiful wild park with the most fantastic views, all best seen in the early morning or late afternoon.

Highway 93, the road from Jasper to Banff National Park, also known as Icefields Parkway, was spectacular. Although the weather wasn’t perfect, the 144 mile journey didn’t disappoint. The scenery was extraordinarily beautiful as we drove by mountains and waterfalls, forests, rivers and lakes. We kept stopping to get out and take it all in! We passed the Athabasca Falls, the Sunwapta Falls, Mistaya Canyon and Peyto Lake.

Lake Louise was also incredible, but sadly ruined by a hotel, park and ride, and far too many tourists!

Our final three days were spent at Farewell Harbour Lodge on Berry Island in the Broughton Archipelago Marine Park, British Columbia. It is just a small plane and boat ride away from Vancouver Island, in the stunning scenery of the Great Bear Rainforest.

We enjoyed delicious food and were looked after by very friendly staff. The also lodge provided knowledgeable guides to take us on foot or by boat to see the islands and the wildlife and tell us all about the conservation work that is being done to preserve and protect local flora and fauna. We spent most days afloat or on foot safaris, followed by a 5pm club swim in the freezing lake! Not everyone was game … I only plucked up the courage on the very last day!

 

While we were at Farewell Harbour Lodge, we also visited two indigenous village sites. To the north, the ancient village of ‘Mimkwamlis of the Mamalilikulla First Nation, and to the south, the Da’naxda’xw First Nation village of Tsatsinukwomi. It was an honour to be able to visit these places and gain some insight into the traditional life and culture of the Kwakwakaʼwakw people.

We saw an amazing array of wildlife. From a grizzly bear while we were on a walking safari, to a black bear swimming from island to island. We saw humpback whale, orca, Dall’s porpoise, sea lions and sea otters. We even spotted a bald eagle!

A huge thank you to Steppes Travel for organising this brilliant trip!

 

READ MORE about the first part of my research trip to Canada, where we visited the Korite warehouse and mine and learnt about Alberta’s official gemstone, ammolite.