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travel / travel magazine / summer 2007

Lakeside

Eco tours of Georgian Bay

Heading north from Toronto, the promise of adventure lies just beyond the most distant suburb. As the bushy foliage of central Ontario merges with the hardy conifers of the north, Georgian Bay slips into view — a deep, dark-blue inland sea that is an awesome remnant of the glacial forces that carved this landscape.

Georgian Bay connects the rambling expanse of Manitoulin Island in the north with the craggy cliffs of the Bruce Peninsula. In between, the bay nudges the borders of Killarney, Parry Sound, Muskoka, and Midland, while weaving through traditional territory of the Huron, Ojibwa and Mohawk peoples.



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TRIP TIPS

To book your Zodiac Wilderness Fly-Out Adventure on Georgian Bay, email Robin Tapley at robin@naturetrails.ca or call (705) 789-1399. Tours (2 nights, 3 days) run through July and August, and prices range from $500 per guest for the basic trip to $1,500 per guest for a trip with all the frills. Spaces are limited for trips in summer 2007.

For travel information about Georgian Bay, visit www.ontariotravel.net/greatdrives or call (800) 668-2746.

The Pointe au Baril lighthouse (est.1889) is open to summer visitors from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays. Visit lighthouse keeper Emmaline Madigan to learn more about the region's rich history and to sample her homemade butter tarts. To learn more, go to www.lhdepot.com and search for "Pointe au Baril".

To learn more about the natural history of the region, go to georgianbayecomuseum.com.

For information about Massasauga, Killbear or Killarney Provincial Parks, or to reserve a campsite on Georgian Bay, visit www.ontarioparks.com.

For help planning your trip to Muskoka, check out www.discovermuskoka.ca.

It's a landscape that captures the imagination and strength of the Canadian spirit. Wild, rugged, and startlingly beautiful — Georgian Bay is a sanctuary for the wandering soul.

But it's also a first-rate playground for the adventurous-at-heart. Just ask Robin Tapley, a dedicated naturalist with more than 20 years' experience navigating Georgian Bay and beyond. Captaining a Zodiac — a sturdy, inflatable rubber dingy with a 90 horsepower outboard motor — Tapley guides visitors on overnight trips through the maze of inlets and channels that flank the bay.

Tapley's tours take visitors along a coastline that is largely inaccessible by car and introduces them to the ecological history of the region.

The tours also offer a range of typically "Muskoka" experiences. Well-heeled adventure-seekers can treat themselves to exotic meals and luxurious accommodations at any of the local resorts, while those looking to commune with nature can tour by water and camp with a knowledgeable naturalist.

The Zodiac trips are limited to five or six people, so guests are invited to customize their adventure. Stop for a swim in the middle of a deep bay, scour the shore for berries and wildflowers, or wander into the past with a visit to the historic Pointe au Baril lighthouse. At the end of the day, cozy up to a crackling fire and fall asleep under the stars to the sound of the water lapping the shore.

Julia Kilpatrick

About naturalist Robin Tapley

Robin Tapley is a bush pilot, self-taught astronomer, ornithologist and national and international expedition leader. He roamed the woods on his family's property in Muskoka's magnificent Lake of Bays as a child, and has led excursions to the Yukon, Antarctica, the Galapagos, Madagascar and Costa Rica and many Canadian destinations. He was the Newfoundland Circumnavigation Expedition Guide in 2003.

Eco-tourism or nature-based tourism is hardly unique to Canada. Tapley calls it, "the fastest growing segment of the travel industry worldwide. I can't help but be proud and excited that I was leading green adventure treks over twenty years ago, well before they became hot."

Tapley is also an environmental consultant who has worked with the Canadian Wildlife Service, The Tourism Company, Land of Lakes Tourism Association, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMP) and the Canadian Tourism Commission. In addition to developing educational materials and wetland inventories, he is a sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit.


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