Why visit Sable Island?

A recent article in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald (Missassauga firm plans to offer tours to Sable Island) describing Adventure Canada’s planned Sable Island 2014 voyage seemed to spark opposite reactions among some readers.

One response was positive: our phones rang merrily, as eager travellers from Nova Scotia and across Canada rushed to book beds aboard our cruise trip to the iconic island.

After all, Sable Island (a 41-km-long sandspit in the North Atlantic) has been a dream destination for many people for many years.

The other response was tentative, at best, and at times downright negative. Some comments on the Chronicle-Herald article, and feedback via email at our own site, expressed concerns (in some cases, assertions) that our visits might do more harm than good.

It’s gratifying that people are concerned about Sable Island. We understand that concern. We’re a small, family-run business with just 12 full-time employees. We’ve been specializing in trips to remote, sensitive, and often pristine places for 25 years because that’s what we care most about. Our passengers choose Adventure Canada because of the emphasis we place on respect for our surroundings.

Dozens of communities and parks in the Celtic Isles, Newfoundland & Labrador, the West Coast, Galapagos Islands and the Arctic can attest to the benefits of our way of travelling, in small numbers, with a focus on education, culture and the environment.

Here are some of the reasons we feel it’s important visit Sable Island in similar fashion.

1. Taking travellers to wild places makes them stakeholders and stewards. We travel with researchers, ornithologists, archeologists, anthropologists and other experts who educate us and our passengers about the places we visit. This is a crucial aspect of our trips and one we take great pride in. Our passengers come away from our trips as passionate advocates for the communities, cultures, and environments we visit. We also collect a $250 Discovery Fee from every passenger to help support important cultural and ecological causes in the areas we visit.

2. Parks need visitors. With federal funding always at issue, every park needs to demonstrate its public purpose. Sable Island, Canada’s newest National Park, is no different; visitors (in proportion to the park’s capacity) are an important way for the park to meet its mandate of giving Canadians a connection to the natural world.

3. While remote, Sable Island is already fairly well-travelled. Various scientific and private concerns—including previous cruises—have visited the island over the years. There is an airstrip on Sable Island that has been continually used for access. Now that the island is a National Park, it is bound by stricter policies than the ones mandated previously by the Canada Shipping act.

4. Parks Canada visitor policies, and our practices, will ensure as low an impact as possible on Sable Island, its flora and fauna. Our ship will be moored offshore; our passengers will be tendered to the island by low-impact Zodiac boats. Passengers will be housed in the ship at night, and during their visits will abide by the no-trace rules already in place for visitors to the island. That provides strict limits on where they can wander, and of course, a no-interference policy regarding the island’s animals, including the famous horses. We’ve actually worked with Parks Canada in the past to help clean up Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador, and we’re looking at similar opportunities for Sable Island, where plastic waste, for example, is a growing problem.

5. We’re working closely with Parks Canada to make this work. Our visits provide test case opportunities for Parks Canada to inform its management planning process—which the park is legally required to do. They must have a plan to ensure visitor experience, ecological integrity, outreach education, etc. developed in consultation with partners, stakeholders and the public. Having partnered with Parks Canada in the past, we have a relationship of trust that will help them meet their goals.

Remote and mysterious, Sable Island deserves all the attention and concern shown by the reaction to our planned excursion. But more than that, it deserves to be appreciated, protected, and advocated for as one of Canada’s very special places. That’s why Sable Island is a national park today, and that’s why we’re planning to visit.

Whether you choose to travel with Adventure Canada or not, we hope you’ll understand and appreciate the role we are looking to play in preserving Sable Island’s wonderful legacy.