With a huge expanse of land and a comparatively limited population, it is no surprise that Canada houses many, many living things across the various terrain that we have to offer. People tend to think of Canadian wildlife in terms of native mascots—grizzly bears, moose, beavers—but our nation hosts many more in the lakes, mountains and forests of The Great White North. For the nature and wildlife lovers out there, that means a lot of area to explore and a lot of wildlife to consider.
Guided tours are great because they provide a safe, informative, fun and successful experience that would probably not be the case as an unseasoned Canadian trying to find these animals on your own. If you haven’t witnessed an orca jump across a backdrop of icebergs, seen a bear of any kind, or heard of the ‘unicorn of the sea’, the narwhal, we’ve gathered information on the best tours in Canada to start your wilderness adventuring.
Frontiers North’s Big Five Safari, Manitoba
Frontiers North Adventure has been operating for more than 30 years in Churchill, Manitoba, also known as the polar bear capital of North America. With reviews and social responsibility pledges that make them a “guiding foundation” rather than a tour company, it is no doubt that they offer one of the most inclusive wildlife tours in the country with “The Big Five.” While most tours will guarantee or suggest that one or two species are the target, this tour will have you whipping your binoculars and cameras out more than the rest. “The Big Five” refers to the province’s five biggest mammals, which are moose, black bear, bison, beluga whale, and polar bear. The seven-day group tour starts in Winnipeg and ends in Northern Churchill via a series of prairie drives, boats, and buggy rides. More info: www.frontiersnorth.com
Knight Inlet Lodge, British Columbia
With a stack of great user reviews and travel website accreditation, Knight Inlet Lodge is often named one of the best bear tour companies on the West Coast. Glendale Cove, where the lodge is located, is home to one of the largest concentrations of brown bears in Canada. From May to October, the lodge offers 2 to 3 night or 4 to 6 night tours that include lodge accommodations. Tours include a floater plane trip to and from the lodge, multiple hikes, options to kayak alongside Grizzlies scooping fresh salmon out of the water, as well as daily marine-life watching tours, and bald eagle sightings. More info: www.grizzlytours.com
Gatherall’s Puffin & Whale Watch, Newfoundland and Labrador
About a 25-minute drive from downtown St. John’s, Gatherall’s runs daily tours out of Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. Gatherall’s 90-minute affordable adventures run from May to October, which is when you’re likely to spot whales, icebergs, and puffins. In fact, Gatherall’s tours through the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, which is known for hosting the largest concentration of Atlantic puffins in North America. The surrounding waters also have some of the best food for whales, which you’ll be most likely to spot from mid-June to mid-August. More info: www.gatheralls.com
Algonquin Park Canoe Trip, Ontario
Believe it or not, Algonquin Park is sometimes touted as one of the best locations to spot a moose in the world. Whether you’re looking for a one or five-day adventure, Voyageur Quest specializes in canoe trips from May to October. Algonquin is a home to many other native species, so it’s likely that you will see a lot of the other Canadian wildlife on your bucket list while taking this tour. Testimonials and videos from the canoe trips show patrons gliding across pristine waters next to doggy-paddling moose—does it get any better than that? More info: www.voyageurquest.com
Baby Seal Watching, Chateau Madelinot, Quebec
The area surrounding Quebec’s magnificent archipelago, the Iles de la Madeleine, also happens to be the birthing grounds for baby harp seal pups. Yes, harp seals are the ridiculously cute, fluffy white ones that tend to stir up their share of controversy, too. A three-day tour with Chateau Madelinot in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence seems to be a thrilling experience for nature and cute-animal lovers, who are able to get close enough to take selfies with seal cameos. The seal pups are only in their uber-cute form for a couple of weeks each year, so the tour typically runs in February or March. Nearby, snowshoeing, ice-fishing, and skiing destinations are plentiful. More info: www.hotelsaccents.com
Sturgeon River Ranch, Saskatchewan
A tour with the family-run Sturgeon River Ranch is an authentic Prairie province experience as well as a lesson in Canadian wilderness. Prince Albert National Park is home to what Sturgeon claims is the only remaining natural bison habitat; many in Canada were placed in gated parks for protection from predators. A three-day tour with the cowboy owner, Gord, or one of his wranglers, has you sleeping in a tipi, a lakefront yurt or a boreal cabin after days filled with horse-back riding through the park in hopes of running into the 400-plus bison that call it home. Tours run year-round, with the option for snowshoeing in the winter. More info: www.sturgeonriverranch.com
Sunwolf Eagle Viewing Float, British Columbia
The Mission, Brackendale, and Squamish areas of B.C. have the greatest concentration of bald eagles in an area of a few kilometres. This wilderness tour is for the bird watchers, and more specifically those that feel their bird-watching suffers in the winter months. The eagles arrive mid-November, so Sunwolf runs their Eagle Viewing Floats from December to mid-February. Floating slowly on a raft through rivers proves an interesting vantage point, especially considering that the eagles are definitely more interested in what’s beneath you—that sweet, sweet B.C. salmon. More info: www.sunwolf.net