Safari – Canadian Style – Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada

Around 5 hours west of Winnipeg is a little-known part of Canada that’s well worth the effort of reaching. Riding Mountain National Park does attract its share of visitors. Sadly, most of these are there to shoot the wildlife, rather than admire it.

We visited the park as an aside before our trip north to Hudson Bay. It’s been 10 years, but I’m pleased to see that our wonderful hosts Jim and Candy Irwin are still operating their ranch-stay business in park. They are the only ranch in the park that is not a hunting ranch, and having lived in the park for most of their lives were only too willing to share not only their knowledge but also their passion for their surroundings with us.

So what made it so memorable? We saw many animals in a short time – the three bears were an obvious highlight, and were well worth sitting in the cold for hours for. A wolf, eagles, beavers and bison graced us with a fleeting presence. The landscapes were haunting. Desolate, with fading fall colours and a dark ominous sky that told of the incoming snows that eventually fell on our final day. Meanwhile our evenings were spent in the comfort of the ranch, where we were well fed and were able to share our day’s stories with the other guests.

One thing I’ll always remember – we stayed around 2km from the ranch house, so Candy gave us use of her car to get to and from our lodgings at night. We had to operate the street light by the cabin and be noisy as we moved from car to house to alert any bears of our presence, which was a new experience. And on our last day, Candy informed us casually that the day of our arrival she had washed the bear prints from the windows of our bedroom. Good timing to tell us that on our way out, I would say!

(Oct 1999)

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