Our Chief Customer and People Officer, Ian Dines, recently travelled to Canada and Alaska. Here he shares his experiences and travelling tips, and why these places should be on everyone’s wish-list. Although the weather of these two destinations is unpredictable (pack wisely!), there’s one thing that’s guaranteed – you’ll be blown away. There’s simply no shortage of wish-list experiences for those who really want to immerse themselves in nature – be it by foot, train, boat or helicopter.
Spend time in Vancouver
A breathtaking, portside metropolis that really ticks off the wish-list, Vancouver is favoured by foodies and culture aficionados. With its mountainous backdrop and fringe of sandy beaches, it also draws outdoor enthusiasts who are eager to take advantage of the unspoilt natural surroundings.
The nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a particular highlight, especially given the fact that you must cross a bridge above the gushing Capilano River to enter. Once on the other side, a guide will lead you through the rainforest canopy while you keep an eye out for black bears before walking along the granite cliffside and taking in the panoramic views.
Journey on the Rocky Mountaineer
Those in favour of slow travel will revel in a train ride aboard the world-famous Rocky Mountaineer. This privately owned luxury rail service operates exclusive routes through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The design of the warped windows means you can soak up the incredible views unhindered from a spacious reclining seat.
The train will follow the tracks along the North Thompson River past Mount Robson, Pyramid Falls and Yellowhead Pass and towards Monashee and Caribou mountains. Canadian moose, grizzly bears and bald eagles are just some of the local wildlife that call this region of Canada home, and hopefully you can spot them before arriving at the city of Kamloops.
Enjoy a whale watching experience
Seeking out the whales of Alaska was another experience topper of mine, and a boat tour is an ideal way to go about it. With a guide at the helm, you can sit back and soak up the panoramas from the water while on the lookout for these spectacular mammals gliding around you.
From around May, thousands of whales, including humpbacks and grey whales, start arriving following a long migration period from Hawaii and Mexico to feed in the nutrient-rich waters of Alaska. These species of whales will stay here until September, but orcas can be found in this area throughout the year. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some calves too (we did!).
Ride a helicopter above the Alaskan glaciers
Sometimes taking to the skies for a bird’s eye view makes all the difference, and this is especially true when it comes to seeing the remote glaciers of Alaska. The waterfront city of Skagway has a heliport and serves as a popular base for setting off on excursions. You’ll be kitted in glacier boots before venturing high above the region interspersed with cavernous valleys, ice-capped mountains and soaring glaciers.
This tour usually lasts around 40 minutes, and you’ll fly over the well-known Chilkat Glacier, ringed by waterfalls, Ferebee Glacier or the remarkable ‘river of ice’, known as the Meade Glacier. The helicopter will then touchdown atop one of the glaciers, where you’ll have the once-in-a lifetime opportunity to explore this natural marvel on foot.
The highlight of my trip was the helicopter ride from Skagway to the top of the glacier – this was a “pinch me” moment that I’ll never forget. I loved both Canada and Alaska – there’s no place on earth quite like these destinations, and this was the perfect way to spend my 40th birthday.
Our top six books that feature Canada and Alaska
Casket Cache by Janice J Richardson
Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill
The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Wind is not a River by Brian Payton
Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner