Rustic wood cabins interconnected by wooden walkways stand amid a network of fountains, mountain streams, and small waterfalls. Dense forest and blooms of emerald ferns spread out in all directions. The train whistle and drum beats echo through the trees. At Klahowya Village in Stanley Park, natural scenery opens up to authentic representations of British Columbia's First Nations and Métis cultures through its attractions, performances, and artisan marketplace. As guests arrive, knowledgeable First Nations guides in native dress usher guests into the park, where they can start by taking in the sights or boarding the miniature covered Spirit Catcher train for storytelling journeys past forest tableaus.
Young dancers and actors in traditional dress stage cultural performances every Friday through Sunday throughout the summer, and coffee by Spirit Bear Coffee Company keeps visitors warm year-round. In the indoor marketplace, First Nations and Métis artisans proffer pieces of handmade visual art, jewellery, apparel, and other crafts. The nonprofit Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia operates the park as part of its aim to create a sustainable and educational showcase of Aboriginal culture for visitors and local residents.
As the sun’s rays reach across British Columbia, breakfast is being served, coffee and all, in the middle of Shuswap Lake. Though it's been cooked aboard one of Waterway Houseboat Vacations’ watercrafts, the diners devouring their morning meal still have the overwhelming sense that this is what it feels like to spend quality time in the wild. That combination of coming together as a group while communing with nature is Waterway Houseboat Vacations’ raison d'être and has been since its founding in 1968.
Dedicated to outfitting aquatic sojourners with the most lavish, well-equipped vessels possible, the company's proprietors had their own fleet of houseboats built up in their Sicamous-based boat yard. Each masterpiece of engineering is embellished with luxurious amenities such as hot tubs, fireplaces, and gold-plated shoulder parrots, each of which fight for boater attention with lake-adjacent activities such as swimming, hiking, water-skiing, and fishing. While eager to introduce visitors to the scenic beauty of the Shuswaps, the company simultaneously aims to uphold a dedication to environmental stewardship, preserving their beloved home with initiatives that include stocking boats with biodegradable soap and spearheading a comprehensive recycling program.
A tiny ripple glides along the smooth-as-glass water, alerting captain Pete to the fact that he and his passengers are about to have company. Sure enough, within seconds a group of glossy black fins breaks through the sea in a silent, synchronized ballet. A native Washingtonian who has spent his entire life on the water, captain Pete orchestrates San Juan Excursions to grant guests the chance to go head-to-head with nature in moments such as these. As marine naturalists certified by the Whale Museum’s Naturalist Training Program, captain Pete’s crew of passionate guides take to the peaceful waters of the Puget Sound to entertain boatloads of guests with informative facts about area wildlife witnessed during excursions.
The team’s passion for nature informs its low-impact approach to whale and wildlife watching, which is exemplified in the Odyssey, the company's tour boat. Originally a U.S. Navy search-and-rescue vessel forged in 1941, the craft is fueled by biodiesel when possible and maintains a low propeller RPM to minimize the Bono moans it releases into the water column. Though San Juan Excursions specializes in whale watching, it also sends adventurers forth to explore the waters on their own steam during sea-kayak tours.
It often takes 12 minutes just to leave the house, remember you forgot your keys, and go back for them. In the same amount of time, Island Express Air’s signature snappy flights can shuffle passengers all the way from Abbotsford to Vancouver. The airline also services Victoria and Nanaimo with their fleet of professional aircraft, outfitted with cutting edge XM Satellite GPS technology that keeps pilots apprised of weather and terrain clearance.
The airline complements its regularly scheduled local flights with airborne sightseeing tours. From the windows of intimate planes equipped with a maximum of 10 seats, tourists drink in views of the Gulf Islands, Mount Baker, and other landmarks, dipping low enough to glimpse whales as they power-wash the plane’s underside with their blowholes. Alternatively, the airline’s private charter flights can whisk passengers to a destination of their choice.
Even as it soars across the deep, clear blue waters of Lake Okanagan, the Lake Lounge keeps its passengers, crew, and cooperative stowaways connected to a bevy of land-based pleasures. A comprehensive sound system blasts pleasurable beats throughout its two decks, and three flat-screen TVs reaching widths up to 50 inches broadcast the passengers' choice of entertainment. On the lower deck, vaulted ceilings soar over dinner tables and an electric fireplace keeps the room warm in colder weather, and on the open top deck passengers bask in lake breezes and take in panoramic views of the water and evergreen-coated shoreline. When not focused on the scenery, they step across an elevated dance floor lit by multicoloured lights or discuss their favourite childhood pet fish over tipples from a fully stocked bar.
Dinner-cruise passengers sup on a daily-changing menu that cycles through regular entrees such as cedar-plank salmon and peach barbecue chicken. As the Lake Lounge sails past opulent lakeside homes and the city skyline, the sun colours the sky as it sets and the stars sleepily stumble into place to form their constellations. The ship's crews also host wedding receptions, family reunions, and birthday parties on the dual decks.
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