SEASCAPES – Fall 2009
The newsletter for the SKT community
Seascape is Sustainable Award Finalist!
Seascape Kayak Tours has been named a finalist for the National Awards for Tourism Excellence, presented by the Globe and Mail. We were selected as one of three finalists for the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award. Our nomination was submitted by the New Brunswick Government and the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.
“We are extremely honored to be considered for this important recognition and appreciate the support and confidence placed in Seascape by our provincial government in nominating us,” said Bruce Smith, who founded Seascape 15 years ago. “This is the kind of award that makes us all winners because it heightens public awareness of sustainable travel practices, benefiting the tourism community not just locally, but on a global scale.”
As a finalist for this prestigious award, we have been invited to a gala reception and dinner on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at the Delta Brunswick in Saint John, New Brunswick. A highlight of Canada’s Tourism Leadership Summit, the ceremony allows Canada’s tourism industry to recognize those people, places, organizations and events that have gone above and beyond to offer to superior tourism experiences to travelers in Canada. Read full press release here.
Celebrating 15 Years of Being Green
Seascape celebrated 15 years of sustainable ecotourism over the Labor Day Weekend with three days of paddling, guided tours, beach cleanups, local food, a bit of champagne and an advisory council meeting to discuss the strategic vision for the company’s next five years. Minke, Finback, Right and even Humpback Whales were active in the Bay of Fundy throughout the long weekend and spirits were high.
“It was great to have a close knit group of old and new friends with us for this special occasion,” said Bruce Smith, who founded the company in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, in 1994, operated both there and on Deer Island for several years, and in 2006 moved the headquarters to Deer Island exclusively because of the superior wildlife experiences groups can enjoy there. “As always, I am amazed and inspired by the level of commitment demonstrated by so many who understand the precious resource we have in the Quoddy Region, and how important it is to keep working together to protect it.”
Seascape is Site Coordinator for TD Cleanup
Seascape Kayak Tours is looking for a few more seriously committed hard-working paddlers to help us with the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup this Sunday, September 27. Kayak groups will paddle in the Bay of Fundy from our base on Deer Island and collect trash and recyclables on Helena Island, Bean Island and possibly Casco Island. Volunteers should bring their own sack lunch, and plan to arrive at Seascape’s headquarters on Deer Island no later than 10 a.m. Sunday. We will provide warm beverages and snacks. Our kayaks and safety equipment will also be provided at no charge.
Organized by the Vancouver Aquarium, the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is an annual event that brings together hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are concerned about the state of our oceans and shorelines. This year, Seascape is the Site Coordinator for a cleanup of the shoreline surrounding Deer Island. Those wishing to volunteer should call 506.747.1884 to sign up. Enjoy a wonderful day of paddling and help us make Deer Island a better place for the many whales, seals, porpoise and sea birds who call it home.
Seascape Launches New Product Line in 2010
Beginning in April of next year, Seascape will add a series of exciting new paddling destinations to its existing quality sea kayaking offerings in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Costa Rica. Working closely with local operators who share our sustainable tourism philosophy, we will offer one or two special adventures each year to very unique marine environments that will provide incredible paddling experiences. Based on our connections and client interest, some destinations we are presently pursuing are Haida Gwaii, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Canada; the Canadian Arctic; the Caribbean coast of Panama, Central America; Chile, South America; Greenland; and Lake Malawi, Africa. If there are other destinations you would like us to look into, please let us know.
The first of these new products will be offered on the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico, in April 2010. Baja has been selected as the first destination because of Seascape’s close relationship to the region and to a number of excellent outfitters. Bruce, who has guided and instructed a number of paddling programs in Baja, will co-lead this adventure with Steph White, a colleague who has guided in Baja for more than 20 years. A local Mexican guide will complete the leadership team. The trip will involve paddling a remote portion of the coastline between Loreto and Lapaz, and conclude with a grey whale trip on the Pacific Coast. Details on the Baja adventure will soon be available here on our web site. The group size will be limited to 8 participants. If you are interested, please get in touch soon; booking deadline is January 15, 2010.
Rainforest Alliance and Seascape Join Forces
Seascape Kayak Tours and the Rainforest Alliance have established a partnership to promote tourism operations that are recognized by the Rainforest Alliance as having achieved minimum sustainability requirements – either by becoming certified or by participating in the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Tourism Program. The Rainforest Alliance provides tourism entrepreneurs and community-based businesses in Latin America with the tools and training they need to become more environmentally and socially sound, and to gain access to and be more competitive in the marketplace, while contributing to the conservation of the local culture and nature.
By signing a cooperative agreement with Rainforest Alliance, Seascape agrees to motivate our affiliated business enterprises to conserve biodiversity and reduce tourism’s negative impacts. The agreements offer staff with these affiliated lodges and enterprises the opportunity to receive training on effective business management and the requirements of sustainable tourism certification programs. By booking a trip with a verified sustainable business, you can do your part to ensure you are bringing positive benefits to the local ecosystems and communities that you will visit.
Newfoundland Goes Above and Beyond
Seascape operated multi-day camping and kayaking expeditions as well lodge-based experiences both in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland over the summer. The Newfoundland trip, June 26-July 23, got off to a rough start when one of the participants’ planes hit stormy weather and returned to New Brunswick. The group on the ground in Newfoundland made the decision to wait for her and, nearly 48 hours later, the missing group member finally arrived. From then on, everyone bonded in determination to have an amazing experience. And they did, amid whales, icebergs and even some warm and sunny weather.
“The friendliness of the Newfoundlanders was amazing… and the Seascape staff supported me through the frustrations of my airplane woes with customer service that was exemplary,” said Jane Touchie of Fredericton, NB. “The Seascape kayak experience offers something I have never encountered before: A real reverent relation with the sea, land and wildlife that went beyond ‘leave no trace’ camping. We endeavored to connect to the wild place on a spiritual level. We weren’t just paddling, we were being there, in the moment.” Read Jane’s blog here.
Costa Rica Multi-Day Trips Filling Fast
You have three dates to choose from if you want to join a multi-day kayak trip on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica in the year 2009: Nov. 22-29, Nov. 28-Dec. 6 and Dec. 27-Jan. 4. Many other dates are available for 2010, the first one being Jan. 22-30.
Guided by Bruce Smith, these intimate kayaking and camping tours depart from the spectacular Curú Wildlife Refuge and offer a campsite on picturesque Playa Quesera you’ll never forget. Tour participant Jennifer Harter described it this way: “Quesera Beach is definitely amongst the most unspoiled beaches I’ve visited in Costa Rica, creating a surreal castaway feel. This place is a true gem, a small cove of white sand and the most intensely toned waters, surrounded by yellowish stone walls and remarkable rock formations. I couldn’t believe we were on the Pacific coast; I felt like we had just arrived on a secluded Caribbean cove.”
The first two trips include a two-night stay in a wonderful mountain retreat near the area of the Turrialba Volcano. Bella Vista Ranch is comprised of a series of simple cabins linked by a raised walkway and set into a hillside overlooking the volcán and several other montañas.
All these Pacific trips include accommodation at the tranquil boutique hotel Tambor Tropical the nights before and after the kayaking portion of the trip. Seascape recently began what will be a long-term collaboration with the small hotel, our southern base of operations, to institute a number of green practices. Tambor Tropical plans to incorporate sustainability initiatives such as recycling, the use of environmentally friendly products and more energy-conscious procedures into its day-to-day operations over the coming year.
Yoga / Paddling Combos Pose New Challenges
Imagine being part of a small group, kayaking in the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean and practicing yoga on white sand beaches beneath beautiful palm and almond trees. Sound easy? This trip in the warm, tropical setting of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, is open to paddlers and yoga enthusiasts at all levels of experience, but don’t think for a moment it isn’t challenging. Before and after a day of paddling guided by Bruce Smith, sunrise and sunset yoga sessions will be led by certified yoga instructor, Laurice D. Nemetz, a yoga teacher and dance/movement therapist in New York. You can choose from January 9-17 or May 14-22.
This summer, the first yoga and paddling weekend combo based on Deer Island, entitled Ebb and Flow, stretched everyone in new ways despite a rainy start. “Sunday, appropriately named, did bring in brilliant sunshine,” said Lauri, “and we saw this magical world again in a different way with the vast expanses of land and sea around us. We discussed the concept of ‘santosha’ or contentment, of riding the waves of everything. Like a paddle over rough waters, we do quite a lot better when we let ourselves be content; it isn’t about denying our ups and downs, but being at one with the ride.” Read Lauri’s blog here. Next year’s Ebb and Flow weekend will take place August 6-9.
Turtles Gain Ground, Thanks to Volunteers
According to David Clemmons in The VolunTourist Newsletter, “[Sea Turtles] have an uncanny ability to win the hearts of droves of people, causing said bipeds to travel to places like Costa Rica, Mexico, and elsewhere to assist their four-flippered friends.” Now, Seascape too will offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with giant leatherback turtles – and contribute to their continued well being. We are partnering with a conservation project called SEE Turtles that is a matchmaker for tour operators and non-profit organizations that help to protect turtles and secure their nests and eggs from poachers.
On our new Turtle Twilight trip, our group of paddlers en route to Tortuguero National Park will guard nesting turtles, learn to identify turtle tracks, count the number of eggs, record tag numbers and assist with relocating the eggs to the local turtle hatchery. They may also safeguard the hatchlings on their first unsteady journey to the ocean. After the turtle experience, the group will continue paddling in Tortuguero’s mysterious rainforest environment for the next four days. Contact us if you have an interest in this special conservation vacation planned for late April. Learn more about volunteering with sea turtles here.
Guide in Training Flips Over New Experience
Have you ever considered learning to be a kayak guide? It’s definitely not for everyone, but some people actually come away from a week-long intensive of kayak safety and wilderness first aid training feeling, well, like they have “turned.” Turned a corner? Turned over a new leaf? Or just … turned over? Consider these censored excerpts from the waterlogged journal of Frank Postma and decide for yourself.
In the 2008 Guide/Safety course, I was a newcomer and had wriggled my way out of having to take a dip in the icy Bay of Fundy water by being quick to volunteer to be one of the rescue boats and taking lots of photos of the other rescues, not willing to lend out my camera to others, for obvious reasons.
On Day 1 of the weeklong 2009 course, I knew my number for a dip in the bay was up, and an escape from the inevitable was not in the stars. Bruce had a plan and I was a wet and cold part of that plan.
Monday afternoon was to be spent on the water, practicing paddle strokes, forward and reverse sweep strokes, edging, leaning and the knee-hang, the stationary high and extended brace, the sculling brace, the draw stroke and the side and “T” rescues of turned over kayaks, both singles and doubles.
Tammi had a new wetsuit, Katinka had a new dry suit and I had the new Kokatat Tempest Pants and Anorak combo. Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to going overboard and, if my suit was dry enough, to making the rescue a challenge for both Tammi and Katinka. After all, it’s best to know you can deal with the worst.
After getting comfortable with the various braces and specialty paddle strokes, it was time to take a dunk. I went first and Bruce did a parallel rescue, Tammi and Katinka taking it all in, after which both Tammi and Katinka flipped over and over, each time to be successfully rescued yet once again. What a team! The final rescue that afternoon consisted of Katinka single-handedly getting both Bruce and Tammi back into a double.
By the end of the week, on Day 5, we had done multiple rescues, solved hard route-setting problems, paddled in challenging conditions, and were deep into wilderness first aid training, including simulated emergencies. It was time to hit the water one more time before wrapping up the week. The role playing for this final exercise featured Tammi as lead guide, Katinka as assistant guide, myself as an apprentice, and Bruce in his dry suit (not a good sign) in a single as a loud, irritable, impatient, impolite, hyper, egotistic and over-confident solo paddler, “Mr. Smith,” looking to get the best bang for his buck. (It became clear on this final day why Bruce had at one point considered acting as a career.)
Katinka was launched first, then Mr. Smith, who took off at his own speed and following his own course, Tammi in hot pursuit, followed by yours truly. Within five minutes, Mr. Smith, on a mission to shake us, went overboard. I was the first responder to come alongside. It was one of my best approaches to date, only to be set off course by Mr. Smith forcefully kicking the back of my boat as I lined up. Not to be shaken off, I back paddled and started instructing Mr. Smith as to what to do to be rescued.
Unfortunately, “Mr. Smith” had a cut over the entire palm of his right hand and was “bleeding.” The use of his hand was lost and so he could not properly hoist himself out of the water. Awaiting Tammi’s arrival, I started to pull Mr. Smith in with all my might. Quite the task as he was not cooperating, his hand hurting, his mouth running off. This guy was no fun. We initially managed to get him out of the water and onto his boat, but not into the cockpit. After some more pushing and shoving and continuous stern verbal instructions, we had him turned around and in.
Next thing I know, he’s out of the boat and in the water again, this time accompanied by Tammi, whom he had conveniently pulled off balance. Great!…now we have two people in the water. Katinka rushed over to assist Tammi to get back in her boat. In the mean time, I was hanging onto Mr. Smith and his boat, the former having by now gone both hypothermic and comatose.
After we had Tammi back in as well as Mr. Smith, now out cold and slumped backwards over the stern of his boat, we commenced pumping the water out of the cockpits so as to regain some stability. Smith’s shaking was on the increase and so we had to make a decision: Keep pumping or raft up on both sides of his boat for stability and tow three singles to the nearest beach. We opted for the latter.
Upon landing, we lugged Smith out of his boat, upon which the demon experienced a miraculous recovery and we finally had our old Bruce back again.
During our debrief, it was clear that the experience of the cold Bay of Fundy water, regardless of the high quality suits we were wearing, is invaluable. It makes the desire to have the groups in close proximity to the guides at all times self-explanatory.
A very educational, team building, fun-filled challenging week had unfortunately come to an end. And, thankfully, so had Bruce’s evil twin.
NOTHING COMPARES TO EXPERIENCING THE BAY OF FUNDY THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD.
All copy for Seascapes is written and / or edited by Frances Figart. Photography for this issue was provided by Neil Osborne (turtle); Frank and Katinka Postma; Jane Touchie (Newfoundland); Tineke van Heuveln, Bruce Smith and Frances Figart.