JC Travel, Kyiv, Ukraine
Tour operators that like to introduce people to Mother Nature are eagerly awaiting the day they can restart operations, saying this planet is full of interesting and often exotic creatures that will intrigue tourists.
Those tour operators are looking forward to taking wildlife enthusiasts to points far and wide for sightings of wildlife roaming free in its own habitat, without any manmade constraints.
And the next item tells of a tour company that enables people to a visit a part of the world many international travellers might be surprised to learn has a flourishing nature scene, given a tumultuous time in its past.
JC Travel, Kyiv, Ukraine
Julia Kulik’s company JC Travel has tours that should easily be able to convince those who doubt that nature is resilient that they’re wrong.
The Kyiv-based company includes visits to Chernobyl, which generated international headlines 34 years ago when a nuclear reactor meltdown released dangerous amounts of radiation, prompting authorities to evacuate all residents, who were never allowed to live there again.
Tourists who visit it today can see now-empty structures once part of a thriving community and Kulik says they will see plenty of greenery as well.
“It is amazing how nature has been restored in 34 years and now the Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve has been established there,” she says. “There is a great possibility for visitors to see moose, deer, hares, foxes, wolves, eagles, roe deer, and Przewalski’s horses. It takes about two hours to get from Kyiv to the zone and during this time tour guides usually tell all of the important basic information and prepare the visitors for the experience, so they are not surprised when/if they see any of the animals.”
JC Travel is getting ready for the restart of travel, having already developed new tour products, itineraries, offers and a new website.
“We continue working on digital marketing, have started our own JC Travel Production department, and shoot and edit a lot of videos about Ukraine, in particular virtual tours of Kyiv, which are available to enjoy on our JC Travel Ukraine Youtube channel. They are made to inspire and motivate travellers to add Kyiv and Ukraine to their bucket lists, as they are short and informative. So have a morning cup of coffee and tea and spend 5 to 7 minutes to learn something new about Kyiv — this is a wonderful idea. And definitely there are more episodes coming,” Kulik says.
JC Travel is planning a video about Chernobyl as well, adding it is “now one of the highlights of Ukraine.”
Kulik hopes to visit Chernobyl during winter, which would mean she’s seen it in every season.
Meanwhile, Kulik adds that there are other parts of Ukraine that have been blessed by Mother Nature.
“Of course, there are the Carpathian Mountains and basically nature in Ukraine is breathtaking, so there are many more opportunities to see animals, and just to escape city noise.”
The World Expeditions Travel Group
Caroline Mongrain’s almost two decades of working for The World Expeditions Travel Group means she’s had plenty of opportunities to inspire travellers to experience the Great Outdoors, connecting with nature and local culture in a responsible way.
Coronavirus has pretty much put a hiatus on international travel, but not on Mongrain’s work.
“When the coronavirus virus started to spread out, the most significant change to my daily routine was to adapt our communication to the fast-changing situation, to inform travellers on how we are monitoring unfolding situations closely and acting accordingly, so they can feel confident that every action that needs to be taken for their safety will be taken,” reports Mongrain, who’s viewed the likes of mountain gorillas in Uganda, baboons in Ethiopia and exotic wildlife in Borneo.
“As we are all taking a step back from international travel, our current primary focus is on expanding our domestic programs so that travellers can stay closer to home on their next adventure. Our Great Canadian Trails brand, managed by our Ottawa team, offers a wide range of walking and cycling trips, which will become much more of a focus for North American travellers in the near future. As soon as it is safe to do so, I can’t wait to go on a multi-day hike and do some wildlife observation.”
And Mongrain says there is no lack of intriguing wildlife to observe in Canada. “Did you know that the Johnston Strait in B.C. is one of the best places in the world to kayak with orca whales? Bordered by oceans on three sides, Canada is a prime whale-watching territory with over 30 species roaming the nearby waters. In the Arctic, you can spot the unique white belugas, bowhead whales, and the mythical narwhal.
“Best viewed from a safe distance, Canada is home to four different species of bears. In the Rocky Mountains, be on the lookout for grizzlies, in the high north, you’ll find the home of the majority of the world’s polar bears, and black bear can be found in the forests of every Canadian province and territory, except Prince Edward Island. If you’re really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the kermode or ‘spirit’ bear along British Columbia’s northern coast.”
And finally, Mongrain says Canadians have plenty of opportunities to spot antlered animals within our borders
“You’ll have the chance to spot caribou in Newfoundland, which is also home an estimated 100,000 moose!,” she notes. “Stay on the lookout for this animal in the other eastern provinces as well, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and northern Quebec all boast a large population of the huge antlered creature.”
Alana Bradley-Swan began sailing the high seas at the age of 10 and these days of travel having been stilled by coronavirus have her fondly recalling her early seaborne explorations.
And she has made it a mission to help others enjoy seeing remote parts of our planet when travel resumes.
“I fell in love with the freedom and healing travel brings to one’s soul,” Bradley-Swan says. “I quickly realized that travelling to a destination was often a catalyst to wanting to understand a place even more. As director of product at Adventure Canada, I put my heart and soul into developing meaningful travel experience for our travellers.
“Today, in these moments of stillness at home, I find myself reminiscing of first travel experiences. The connection with different cultures, landscapes and most of all wildlife is at the core of my thoughts. I have learned so much about who I am through my travels. Naturally, my heart aches and my mind daydreams for the sense of wonder and exploration that I have become accustomed to living and sharing with our others!”
May was supposed to have seen Bradley-Swan make the transoceanic crossing from Las Palmas, Spain to Tadoussac, Que. to begin the summer season with Adventure Canada’s Mighty Saint Lawrence expedition on June 5, which would have been particularly exciting for her as the whale spotting in the St. Lawrence is always a personal highlight. Tadoussac is at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers and a prime location for whale watching, with up to 13 species of cetaceans being found in the St. Lawrence, including the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet.
“I was so looking forward to welcoming our guests for their first day onboard, in the town of Tadoussac and beginning our St. Lawrence expedition,” Bradley-Swan says. “For travellers, it would be their first time in the region. In the past here, we have spotted dozens (of whales) while out on deck or while Zodiac cruising, all within the first 24 hours of being on the water! Watching the beautiful grace of marine life playing in the water, as we standby and soak it all in, has been a part of my summers for as long as I can remember.
“My thoughts also bring me to exploring the breathtaking fiords of Baffin Island in Inuit Nunanga last year on our Northwest Passage expedition,” Bradley-Swan continues. “One afternoon, while in Icy Arm Fiord, a passenger on deck spotted ripples in the water off the bow of the ship. These ripples turned into six to seven pods of narwhals. Over the next hour we watched these magical creatures molting within the water. I have sailed in Inuit Nunanga waters every summer for the past 25 years, and this was my first time seeing the unicorns of the sea! I had been waiting over a quarter of a century. Finally having the privilege to meet them was a humbling experience. Firsts and memories like these lay etched mind. They surface in my daydreams. I look forward to first moments again.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced Adventure Canada to cancel this year’s Arctic sailings but Bradley-Swan is confident that great experiences await those who enjoy seeing the world when travel resumes, experiences she says can be done in a manner that shows compassion for Mother Earth and her inhabitants.
“Over the past few months at home during this global pandemic, the time has fostered a sense of deep gratitude for the experiences I have had,” she says. “I grew up in a world that always included travel, and now as it is paused, I appreciate the wonder it continues to foster in my memories and daydreams. I am taking the time to digest moments that have shaped who I am and take a deep breath. We do not know what travel will look like as borders reopen, but it will be important that we travel responsibly. That we respect the places, people, and wildlife encounter. As I live through this global pandemic I know the details of the future of travel is still unknown, but I do know we have the opportunity to create new first experiences for our travellers, ourselves and for the planet.”