Q & A with Dave Snow, Founder Wildland Tours, St. John's, Newfoundland - Labrador, Canada.
Wildland Tours is owner-operated and based in the capital city of St. John's. They offer hiking, bird watching, whale watching, cultural, and history tours. Recommended by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.
YOUR LOCATION HAS THE DISTINCTION OF BEING THE MOST EASTERLY AS WELL AS THE OLDEST CITY IN NORTH AMERICA – YOU WOULD THINK THAT THIS WOULD BE A DRAW FOR TOURISTS. WHY DON'T MORE PEOPLE VISIT? IS IT THE WEATHER?
Newfoundland sticks out into the North Atlantic and is moderated by both the Labrador Current coming down from Greenland and the Gulf Stream moving up along the east coast of North America. Yes, during parts of the year we have challenging weather conditions (fog, wind, rain, snow) but our summers are awesome. In fact the weather here is great from May to December if you ask me! This is an island, so you must come by ship or by plane. We get no accidental tourists.
Yes, it is 30 minutes later than Atlantic Canada. We will occasionally prank our Labrador guests as we travel from Newfoundland to Quebec by ferry - this requires a 90 minute adjustment back - then 5 minutes later we enter southern Labrador (90 minutes forward again to Newfoundland time) before traveling north where the Atlantic time zone kicks in (30 minutes back). I don’t think technology for watches and phones have caught up with this yet.
WHAT SHOULD ONE BRING FOR WEATHER CONDITIONS THAT CAN EASILY CHANGE?
Bring a sunscreen, a hat, good walking shoes, light summer clothing and some heavier outerwear including a rain coat. We arrange our itineraries to ensure comfort and safety. For example, our Newfoundland Adventure Mondays includes a 2-hour boat tour to North America’s largest puffin colony. Usually the weather isn’t a problem, but we can reschedule based on heavy wind or rain forecasts.
Humpbacks and minke whales are the most common to see. Sometimes guests taking our Newfoundland Adventure tour will also see sperm whales, and in 2016 most folks saw fin whales as well as harbour porpoises. You may see orcas (killer whales) while taking the Labrador Ferry or even at a distance when looking down from a bluff above the sea. We do have one special orca research expedition per year. You can read more about this on our website.
AND WHEN IS THE BEST TIME OF DAY FOR SPOTTING MOOSE, CARIBOU, OR BLACK BEARS?
It's usually dawn or dusk for moose - but truthfully they can show up anytime! You may observe caribou quite frequently throughout the day. As for bears, we try to avoid them - at least at close range. We do have a couple of special places where the geography enables us to see black bears from a safe distance.
Actually this varies from year to year. In some years it's whales and puffins - the next year it could be a different adventure. And some years the Viking trip is indeed the most popular. People want to visit L’Anse aux Meadows, a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the place where Vikings established an encampment more than 1,000 years ago. In any event, popular does not mean large groups. We limit our trip rosters to 18 or less so that each guest receives lots of time with our hosts and resource people.
FOR MANY CENTURIES NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR'S ECONOMY CENTERED ON FISHING AND WHALING. WHAT ARE THE INDUSTRIES OF TODAY?
People still fish and look to the sea. There is a multi-billion dollar oil and gas play going on offshore, and we have one large saw mill and several large mineral deposits. The iron for Detroit’s cars comes from Labrador. Tourism is a small but growing part of our economy.
Newfoundland is an island of micro-habitats - there are places where high arctic plants thrive in their most southerly occurrences while other places share fish species with Florida. It is similar with people. From village to village there are Irish, English, or French pockets where old languages, traditions, and recipes still dominate. Labrador is where you find the world’s most southerly Inuit - together with the Innu - those are the Native American populations - and they have their own very special traditions.
While local folks harvest more blueberries than other types of berries, there is a friendly debate and rivalry between partridgeberries [also known as ligonberries] and bakeapples [cloudberries] as the local favorite. There are another half dozen local berries that people harvest, but recently mushrooms and lesser-known wild plants are being added to the mix. Our local shrimp is more sustainably harvested than most places around the world, and though these shrimp are small, they are quite flavorful. Also you should try our giant scallops, fresh cod, and local lobster!
HOW ABOUT A FAVORITE LOCAL MUSIC OR ART FESTIVAL?
The answer to this would require a whole separate interview! Over the centuries musical traditions from around the world have arrived for a little intermixing. The famous movie star Russell Crowe comes here to jam with Allan Doyle and some other local musicians. There are music festivals held all summer long throughout the province but especially here in the city of St. John's.
Simply put, sustainable tourism is treading gently on this good Earth, appreciating it's richness as well as its fragility. We weave those concepts into our excursions. We want to share our values with our guests and set a good example. Our goal is to generate as little waste as possible and leave nothing behind.
We are proud of our research efforts and contributions to the international humpback whale census. There is much data to be collected, and this is important because whales are a good indicator of ocean health. By the end of any tour, I hope that guests will better understand our past and present and will support our continuing scientific studies.
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