There’s a wild world out there—isn’t it time to see it up close? And why not see untamed lands while on an eco-adventure? Ecotourism isn’t just some buzzword or travel fad, it’s a way of life in Canada. With ecotourism, you:
- Visit natural sites
- Use renewable resources as you travel
- Promote local culture and support family-run businesses and tours
Get to know the country up close and personal. Here are the top 15 eco-adventures in Canada:
Seascape Kayak Tours, Inc.
Deer Island, New Brunswick
Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse marine life of Deer Island as you kayak out on the open sea with the skilled instructors at Seascape Kayak Tours, Inc. Plus, you can feel good that the tour company is hyperaware of ecotourism practices. Owner Bruce Smith won the New Brunswick Department of Environment’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 for environmental leadership, and the company was nominated for the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award. Why all the praise? The company keeps groups small to minimize environmental impact; they recycle, compost, and reuse anything they can; they assist in annual coastal cleanups; they encourage communications between travelers and native coastal locals; purchase locally grown food; and use biodegradable cleaning products. It’s the perfect way to see the spectacular Bay of Fundy region with a clean conscience.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
To paraphrase Drake, you started from the bottom now you’re here—at the summit of a frozen waterfall. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is one of the oldest and most trusted mountaineering, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and rock climbing companies in the country. The coaches are all certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and are eager to help you learn how to ice axe your way up a frozen wall, ski in open country, or use your hands and feet to propel you up a rocky bluff. Furthermore, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures follows the Leave No Trace policy and considers respecting the natural landscape a part of their core values. Bonus: After ice climbing, local culture awaits in Downtown Canmore, an ideal home base where you can dine, shop, and rest between outdoor adventures.
Maple Leaf Adventures
Maple Leaf Adventures doesn’t throw around the word “ecotourism” like cheap confetti—they truly mean it. They operate their tours with several guiding principles: small groups that leave zero to little impact on the environment, a local focus that works in agreement with First Nations territories, and a mission to help guests actively experience the landscape. They also have all the proper permits, volunteer their time to conservation causes, and are certified by Green Tourism Canada. When you take a tour to witness whales, black bears, and isolated island wildlife, you can rest easy that you’re getting one of the best eco-adventures while respecting nature.
Canadian Rafting Adventures
Alberta, BC, Yukon
You say you want an adventure? A real honest to goodness adventure? Then sign up for an epic whitewater rafting tour with Canadian Rafting Adventures. This tour group offers single- and multi-day rafting trips through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon, where you’ll see sights and wildlife just beyond your oar. Plus, Canadian Rafting Adventures is a leader in ecotourism. They follow the Leave No Trace principle to a tee, only provide small tours, use a compass and map to eliminate marking or flagging the environment, use existing campsites, walk single file on the trails, avoid animals during mating season, and donate 5-percent of profits to the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition to help protect the Sacred Headwaters.
Deep in the heartland, Manawan is a place full of natural wonders and beauty. More importantly, it’s run by the Manawan Aboriginal tribe who preserve their culture as they show others how to respect and enjoy the land. Try out snowmobiling, fishing, and canoeing while you’re in town and get help from experienced tour guides. You’ll also want to sign up for the beaver dam tour and the astronomical night ride. As Rihanna might say, you’ve never seen stars shine as bright as diamonds.
If you were the kid who was never afraid of the basement and walked into the dark with your head held high, you’re going to love the Bonnechere Caves. This family-run tour takes you into the depths of Ontario’s caves. Here, you’ll pass through a labyrinth of exquisite rock structures and examine fossils of sea life that existed before the dinosaurs took their first breath. You don’t need Doc Brown’s DeLorean to travel back in time; the Bonnechere Caves are an adventure all their own. Plus, don’t overlook the present day in Eganville (the Jewel of the Bonnechere) and the stunning Ontario Highlands when you’re ready to go above ground.
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
The owner of Ocean Ecoventures, Simon Pidcock, was practically raised on the ocean. He owned his first boat by the age of four and grew up on a wooden boat repair yard. From there, he spent his life fishing, sailing, and getting to know the wildlife off Vancouver Island. These days, his tour company provides whale watching tours with only a handful of passengers at a time so you can best see the humpback, grey, and orca whales, sea lions, and porpoises as you wrap around the coastline. When you return to land in Cowichan Bay with your appetite in tow, head to Country Grocer or True Grain breads to support local businesses with sustainable practices.
There are things that seem crazy, and then there are things that seem like a crazy good idea. Polar bear safaris in Churchill, renowned for its access to unique and once-in-a-lifetime sights, are in the latter category. Owner-operators of Churchill Wild, Mike and Jeanne Reimer have family ties to the rugged landscape that go back for generations. Today, they offer Sustainable Tourism Award-winning polar bear safaris, photography tours of caribou, moose, and black bears, with options to kayak with beluga whales and watch the aurora lights.
Lac La Martre Adventures
Lac La Martre, Northern Territories
There are lots of fish in the sea, so they say, and sometimes you need to throw some of them back. Such is life with Lac La Martre Adventures. They are the only lodge on the Lac La Martre and grant fewer than 100 fishermen a year to cast off in the depths. To preserve the average fish supply, the adventure group has a strict catch-and-release policy. You can take a picture with the big whoppers and eat anything less than 10-pounds, but anything beyond that gets to live out its days until nature takes its course.
North Star Adventures
Operated by Aboriginal owners, North Star Adventures employs many native Yellowknife and surrounding area people, born and raised in the Northern Territories. Each winter night, you can count on your tour guide taking you to the best spots to watch the aurora. During warmer months, you can go on buffalo viewing parties and fishing excursions, all while breathing in some of the cleanest air in the country. As a rule, the tour company works hard to create a sustainable environment to promote and preserve First Nations culture.
Great E.A.R.T.H. Expeditions
There’s no need for Tinder when you’re looking for your next big love: Mother Earth is all that and a bag of chips. And to love the earth is to explore it—which is exactly what you’ll be doing with Great E.A.R.T.H. Expeditions. With various destinations around Nova Scotia, you can sign up for a day of kayaking and hiking to get to know the wildlife peeking through the landscape. Their eco-adventures are also educational, so you can learn about the folklore and history of the coastal areas. Stay and play in Halifax, and see the famously explorable Cabot Trail while you’re at it.
Likely, British Columbia
Likely, BC, is a quintessential rural Canadian town, beautifully situated at the mouth of Quesnel Lake. Rich in wildlife, there is no shortage of activities for nature lovers. If you like big bears and you cannot lie, Ecotours BC has what you need. Sign up for bear viewing tours (by hikes, jet boats, and even 4x4s) to see the enormous animals up close. Or, if you prefer things with wings, you can also try out the guided birding tour, see wildlife from a back country hike, or witness sea life from a kayaking jaunt. Ecotours is run by Gary and Peggy Zorn, who have over three decades of experience in the tourism industry and are firm believers in the Leave Only Footprints policy, leaving zero waste behind on their tours.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
If you don’t like talking to strangers, you’ve just never met the locals around St. John’s. CapeRace offers 7-10 day tours where you can travel at your own pace, see the sights you want to see, and really get to know the locals as you travel the area. Hike the North Head or the East Coast trails by day and explore lively George Street at night. Other activities include culinary tastings, boat tours, and birdwatching. CapeRace doesn’t want you to learn about St. John’s and surrounding areas in a museum; this tour company wants you to get to know the people and places in real time.
Black Feather: The Wilderness Adventure Company
Various destinations in Canada
Name something outdoorsy that you’ve always wanted to try, and you can give it a whirl with Black Feather. Sign up for multi-day tours that include canoeing, kayaking, skiing, dog sledding, and hiking. Sign up for the Nahanni River tour to witness the awing Virginia Falls or Algonquin dog sledding from South River, ON. And while you witness the wild terrain, rest assured that Black Feather is doing its best to protect the natural landscape. The tour company was rewarded the Silver Level of Environmental Stewardship from Green Tourism Canada for their sustainable efforts.
Eco-Adventures 306 Collective
Cypress Hills, South Saskatchewan; Elk Ridge, North Saskatchewan
Ready to zig and zag through the forests of Saskatchewan? Well, hold on tight, because Eco-Adventures 306 Collective is known for their spine-tingling zip line through the foliage. This collective is also environmentally conscious. Their trails are designed with erosion in mind; the zip lines are built to blend in with the natural surroundings; and aside from the zip line poles, everything is completely removable. Stay in Maple Creek and wander the historic downtown on your Cypress Hills excursion, or take in the serene natural beauty of Waskesiu if you opt for the Elk Ridge tour.
When you’re ready to go on your next adventure, make it an eco-friendly one. Sign up for a tour that not only puts you in nature, but protects nature as well. Eco-adventures are calling your name. Answer the call!