From sharing home-cooked meals to learning about local traditions, Canada offers a host of indigenous experiences to recommend.
Indigenous tourism offers clients not only the opportunity to learn about the rich history of Canada’s original inhabitants, the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, but it also provides these communities with an important source of income.
For specialist operator Canadian Affair, increasing numbers of clients are searching for indigenous experiences.
“The sense of community complements the other aspects of a trip to Canada, with its amazing natural beauty and cultural values,” says product and commercial manager Stuart Rogers.
“We are seeing this interest increase as society embraces sustainability and achieves a greater understanding of our place in nature. These values are at the core of indigenous communities.”
Here we look at five indigenous tours and experiences to recommend to clients in 2020.
On Canadian Affair’s eight-day Wonders of the Spirit Bear Holiday, clients are immersed in the legend of the Kermode bear – nicknamed “the spirit bear” by the Gitga’at people.
As well as joining rainforest hikes in search of the white bear, clients will hear after-dinner tales about its origins, learning how it has become a symbol and reminder of the hardships of the Ice Age.
“The package offers marine wildlife and spirit bear-watching activities in the Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia,” adds Rogers.
“There is a focus on sustainability too. A big part of indigenous culture is to be in harmony with the land and the spirit bear, which is revered as one of the world’s rarest animals.”
BOOK IT: Canadian Affair offers the Wonders of the Spirit Bear tour from £3,609pp, including a 5% January sale discount. The package is based on a 10 September 2020 departure with Air Transat flights.
The Haida Gwaii archipelago, also known as the Galapagos of the North on account of its complex ecosystem and diverse wildlife, has been home to the Haida First Nations people for more than a millennia.
Intrepid’s new Eight-day Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition explores the region’s history and nature, with hunts for ancient totem poles, opportunities to swap stories with the Haida people over dinner and a voyage into Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary.
“Clients will be led by a local leader, helping make these remote islands more accessible,” says senior product manager Tara Kennaway.
“They will also visit traditional Haida villages that live in harmony with the pristine wilderness in Naikoon Provincial Park, learn about the Haida nation with visits to coastal villages, and [enjoy] shared conversations over home-cooked locally inspired dishes.”
BOOK IT: Intrepid Travel offers the Haida Gwaii islands Expedition from £1,845pp including selected meals, transport and services from a guide. Departures run in June and August 2020.
APT’s new 16-day Winter in the Rockies and Northern Lights trip takes clients on an epic adventure from Vancouver to Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Along the way, they will learn about how Whistler’s indigenous Squamish and Lil’wat nations have co-existed peacefully for centuries through traditional music and stories, before arriving at Aurora Village – touted as one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights.
“Canada has been one of our most popular destinations for a while now, so for 2020/21 we wanted to showcase the country in a different light,” says Jessica Shelton-Agar, APT head of sales.
“We know our guests want to go beyond being a voyeur on holiday – they want to experience the local culture. Clients will learn how different communities live at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and discover their animal spirit, enjoy local delicacies in Jasper and finish with a flourish at the Aurora Village.”
BOOK IT: APT offers the 16-day Winter in the Rockies and the Northern Lights tour from £7,345pp with flights, departing 9 March 2020.
“Our clients are increasingly looking for authentic experiences and to be led by knowledgeable local guides to learn more about the First Nations, Inuit and Metis cultures of Canada,” says Denise Hunn, director of Canada tour operations at Prestige Holidays.
“Across the country, there’s a wealth of these experiences, which can last from a few hours to multiple-night stays.”
For clients eager to immerse themselves in local culture and history, she recommends the operator’s Quintessential Quebec tour, which includes two nights at the Hotel Musee Premieres Nations in the Wendake First Nations Reserve.
Guests can sample traditional dishes eaten by the Huron-Wendat people, with ingredients sourced from the surrounding forest.
The hotel is also home to an on-site museum and the Ekionkiestha National Longhouse, where guests can meet storytellers and guardians of First Nations culture.
BOOK IT: Prestige Holidays has the 11-day Quintessential Quebec tour from £2,598pp, including flights, an airport transfer and car rental.
Price is based on a 20 June 2020 departure.
Clients looking for an extra cultural experience during a city break in Ottawa have a chance to learn about Canada’s First Nations history.
Located in the grounds of Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of History, Indigenous Experiences’ reconstructed First Nations village (tours from £15pp) offers insights into Canada’s original inhabitants through art, music and storytelling workshops.
“We love to showcase the authentic dances, music, food and way of life that our communities embrace,” says executive director and member of Curve Lake First Nation, Trina Mather- Simard.
“Our location on the banks of the Ottawa river, which for thousands of years served as an important trade route, helps us to put these stories in context. Visitors learn about the past, present and future of our rich culture in a beautiful setting with interactive programming presented by our talented indigenous cultural ambassadors.”
BOOK IT: Funway Holidays has seven nights at the Best Western Plus Gatineau-Ottawa from £1,020pp including flights. Travel is based on a 20 March departure.