Fossil-rich Alberta area will be the site of first tour
Photos courtesy of: Andy Best; Travel Alberta and Roth & Ramberg; Travel Alberta – Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Zach Vanasse’s new Toronto-based tour company will be showing people Alberta terrain that’s home to the likes of weighty bison, bears, moose, and a host of other large and sometimes carnivorous creatures.
And also landscapes in that same province that were once the domain of predators that dwarfed any of the above large mammals, including Tyrannosaurus Rex, labelled Tyrant King by scientists and which Michael Crichton described as the most fearsome predator to ever walk this planet in his bestselling novel Jurassic Park.
Vanasse has just founded Dinosaur Trips, which he believes is the first travel company devoted exclusively to dinosaurs and paleontology, and delivering what he says will be “unparalleled access to the world of dinosaur museums and parks and fossil digs.”
Digs that will literally help unearth Alberta’s dinosaur-rich past will be done under the watchful supervision of skilled paleontologists, with Vanasse saying his company’s itineraries will be able to accommodate people ranging from aspiring paleontologists to those who are simply somewhat curious about the types of creatures who were the focus of Crichton’s entertaining but fanciful novel about theme park dinosaurs running amok.
The first Dinosaur Trips small group departure, Badlands & Beyond, will explore Calgary, Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Grande Prairie, Wembley, Canmore, Kananaskis, and Banff from July 2-13.
The 12-day / 11-night itinerary will enable participants to search for dinosaur bones with famed paleontologist Dr. Philip Currie as part of a four-day fossil dig program that supports the work of the Dinosaur Research Institute, a non-profit charitable organization funding dinosaur research in western Canada.
Badlands & Beyond guests will also take part in Dinosaur Trips’ exclusive programs at the iconic Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller and in Dinosaur Provincial Park. The trip wraps up with a few days spent relaxing — and experiencing some adventure – in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis.
Dinosaur Trips will return to Alberta this fall for a series of family focused trips exploring Calgary, Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and the Rockies.
“These trips are designed to thrill both hard-core dinosaur enthusiasts and the general public,” says Vanasse. “Much like you don’t need to be really into archaeology or history to enjoy exploring Egypt or Peru, for example, you can still be in awe of the history — or prehistory, in the case of Dinosaur Trips — and scientific research that you can explore and experience in those destinations. When I conceived of the idea for Dinosaur Trips, it was with the goal of creating the kind of destination experiences that both myself — an amateur dinosaur enthusiast — and my wife — who didn’t care about dinosaurs at all — would have both enjoyed.”
The company’s first trip will feature the four-day fossil dig that gives guests the rare opportunity to join the Dinosaur Research Institute and renowned scientists Currie, Dr. Eva Koppelhus, and Dr. Corwin Sullivan for a real dinosaur dig, learning about the dinosaurs of northern Alberta from experts. All proceeds from that portion of the trip go directly to the Dinosaur Research Institute, funding further dinosaur research in the West.
Vanasse labels Alberta an incredible destination for dinosaur fossils, which is why he selected it as Dinosaur Trips’ first destination. “It has a rich narrative history of paleontology with some Wild West-style action thrown in, and some of the most spectacular and famous finds in fossil history. And the Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of the best, if not the best, dinosaur museum in the world.”
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is in the central Albertan community of Drumheller, found in the Badlands.
Alberta has long attracted paleontologists, thanks to parts of the province being home to impressive fossil beds.
“Alberta has dinosaur fossils from the Cretaceous Period, or more specifically, primarily from the last 15 million years of the age of the dinosaurs, about 66 to 81 million years ago,” Vanasse says. “The largest of these include Tyrannosaurus and Edmontosaurus. And you’ve also got the iconic Albertosaurus. Roughly 60 to 70 different types of dinosaurs have been found in Alberta, so it’s impossible to say for sure what we could see, or even discover, but there is plenty out there. That’s the thrill of the fossil hunt!”
Vanasse admits to having been fascinated by dinosaurs as a child, an interest heightened by Jurassic Park and the movies the book spawned, even while acknowledging that the entertainment industry “played with science a bit,”
He’s convinced that there are plenty of others who share his interest.
“I think the general public is very interested in dinosaurs,” he says. “There’s something that captures the imagination about these almost mythical seeming animals that grew to their incredible sizes. There’s a reason the Jurassic Park movies remain so successful to this day. People love dinosaurs. My favourite part of having founded this company so far is telling people about it and seeing their eyes light up at the word dinosaurs and the idea of joining a fossil dig.
“And there’s been ebbs and flows in public dinosaur interest over time, from the dinosaur-mania of some of the first major fossil discoveries like the first T-Rex ever found in the 1900s, to the Jurassic Park movies contributing to a golden age of paleontology that we live in today. Go into any natural history museum and check out their dinosaur section. I promise you it’s the most packed of any section by far.
“However, I do think the world of paleontology and dinosaur science/research can feel pretty inaccessible to the rest of us on the outside of it, which is why I want to give people this access point to a really fascinating and exciting world.”
Vanasse says Dinosaur Trips is developing itineraries to Latin American, European, and African locales known for rich fossil beds.
And he adds that it’s time to unearth more dinosaur fossils, something that he’s confident will be welcomed by scientists and a curious public alike.
“It’s been 66 million years (since some dinosaurs prowled the planet),” Vanasse says. “Why wait any longer.”