Hey Everyone, Let’s Go Snorkeling…In Manitoba?

Snorkel with the Belugas in ManitobaYep, those crazy Manitobans have lost it. The cold has finally gotten to their brains. They must figure they’re part of the tropics or something. Apparently, when you visit Churchill, known for its polar bears, you can toss on your snorkeling gear, dive into the Hudson Bay, and swim with the belugas.

Oooo Dive into the Hudson Bay? Must be cold enough to freeze your knickers to your backside right? Well, it isn’t warm like it would be in the Caribbean, but it’s certainly warm enough to enjoy.

The whole activity starts every July by the arrival of an estimated 3,000 belugas to the warmer waters of the Bay and nearby rivers. They’ll stay here in order to give birth to their young, feed, frolic, and sing until the middle of August, when they return to their northern home.

If you’d like to witness this for yourself and listen to the beautiful songs of the belugas and their calves, you’ll want to visit Sea North Tours, who offers tours ranging from two to three hours long. A little scared about getting in the water with these graceful animals? Don’t worry. Wildlife and tour experts assure the public that these animals are not dangerous in any way.

The adventure starts out with everyone in wet or dry suits taking a relaxing boat ride out to the whale’s favorite spots. Once there, you’ll be instructed to put on the rest of your gear and hang onto a rope that will allow you to drift along or be pulled gently behind the boat, in the crystal clear water. (You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any gear with you. All of it is available for rent!) This method also makes it possible for non-swimmers to have the same experiences.

The mammal music is stunning, but as remarkable as that is, it isn’t what most people seem to remark about first. One trait that makes these animals so popular to swim with is their level of humanity and interaction.

When they swim upside down and cock their necks to look at you, you can see that they are as interested in you as you are in them. They look at you and communicate so much with their eyes. As Doreen Macri of Sea North Tours says, ‘They are almost speechless when they get back to shore.”

This activity is ideal for almost anyone’s vacation since there’s no age or size limit. You’ll also find this adventure is extremely affordable. If you’d like more information, visit the Sea North Tours website or Travel Manitoba.

Just a few quick notes:

Just because Saturday is 40th Anniversary of 7-11’s Slurpees in Canada, a useless fact for you: Winnipeg consumes more Slurpees per capita than any other city in Canada.

A big thank you to Cathy, Manager of Media Relations at Travel Manitoba for diligently sending info and keeping me up to date on what’s going on in the province. It’s greatly appreciated. You’re a real gem!

(This post can also be found at Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/snorkeling-manitoba/)

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80 Million Year Old Fierce Sea Creature Found By Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fiece Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Fierce Ancient Sea Creature Discovered by the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

©2008Angie Haggstrom

In the town of Morden, Manitoba sits the very exited staff of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. The source of the excitement is the discovery of an 80 million year old mosasaur no far from Miami, Manitoba. The eerie prehistoric creature is said to be the biggest find in the province in more than 25 years.

The skeleton is estimated to be between 10-12 metres long and was thought to be the king of the ocean back in the day. The creature is believed to have breathed air. In its skeletal jaw, the creature sported teeth just over 5″(13cm). Even with massive teeth like that, the mosasaur could dislocate its jaw willingly to devour larger meals. The centre’s curator believes it may be an earlier relative of the snakes, a crocodile with fins, or a Komodo dragon that inhabits the earth today.

The mosasaur, named Angus, won’t be lonely at the centre. The centre has another mosasaur named Bruce who was discovered in 1974 at Thornhill, Manitoba. Other fossils have also been discovered in the same area Angus has been sleeping for millions of years making the area a priceless find.

Perhaps most interesting about this story is the fact that the ancient monster was discovered by visitors and summer students to the center during a public dig. The Discovery Centre holds all sorts of different programs and workshops not only for children and intern paleontologists, but also for the general public. They hold digs where members of the public can accompany professionals into the field to look for real dinosaur bones and not fake ones buried in the sand like with many programs. The centre also offers trained volunteer positions to those staying in the area.

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre holds approximately 600 different objects from the late Cretaceous period. The centre focuses purely on marine reptile fossils although it does house many different fossil plants, minerals, rocks, and invertebrates. The centre is open from 1-5 every afternoon all year around. At the time of this post, they only charge $6 per adult, $3 per student, and $12 per family. What an inexpensive afternoon!

For more information, please visit the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre or you can learn more about Mosasaurs on Wikipedia.

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/80-million-sea-creature-canadian-fossil-discovery-centre/)

Crocodiles and Antique Aircraft: An Insider’s Guide to Brandon, Manitoba, Canada

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Brandon, Manitoba is one of my favorite places to travel. This city gives you a sense of freedom and just seems to have the perfect thing for everyone. It’s small, picturesque university is truly one of the best. The people here are supportive and friendly. The shopping is absolutely fantastic – city prices with small town service. Besides, where else can you see crocodiles and amazing aircraft in the same vacation.

If you are traveling through on the number 1 (Trans-Canada), you will notice a large yellow airplane on the north side of the highway. Turn north here. If you are going to stop anywhere, this is a great place. The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is a massive building is filled with real, genuine airplane and vehicles used by the British Commonwealth from 1939 to 1945. Even though I’m not much of an airplane fanatic or war history buff. This museum was really something to see and we will definitely be going again.

The airplanes and vehicles are fantastic. Each one of them was fixed and rebuilt by volunteers who really are the stars of this place. When we arrived, a friendly and knowledgeable staff greeted us and we were could walk through at our leisure. This was great considering we had my son with who had more interest in some things and less in others. We ran into a volunteer who was putting together another airplane and he provided us with a lot of first hand information about the planes and vehicles throughout the building as well as how these planes are recovered and pieced together. He really made the tour fantastic. They do have an online tour available.

If you happen to drive down 18th street in Brandon, make a stop at the Daly House Museum. The house once belonged to Brandon’s first lawyer and mayor, and a children’s shelter. Where this museum truly shines is that it was built in 1882. This house is absolutely filled with pictures, furniture, and artifacts from the city’s past. We spent a lot of time hearing about the many different stories are held in the house. You can see the time and passion that was put into the research and preservation of each piece.

A short drive east of Brandon is the Canada’s National Artillery Museum. Found at CFB Shilo, it is a great way to see and learn about the armed forces and peacekeepers that have served all over the world. You can get a taste of what there is to see and do by visiting the Virtual Artillery Museum of Canada.

Westman Reptile Gardens

Westman Reptile Gardens

On the way back, stop at the Westman Reptile Gardens. The center is a wealth of crawling creatures including spiders, snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and lizards. The people at the center are extremely knowledgeable in the field and are really friendly.

For outdoor enjoyment, the Elenor Kidd Gardens are really well done and have a different look and feel each time you visit. Ducks Unlimited and Brandon Tourism run the Riverbank Discovery Center. It is a great place to learn about the Assiniboine River system. You can walk through the ponds on the trails, grab souvenirs, enjoy an afternoon relaxing and even have a picnic. It also connects to Dinsdale Park along the bank of the river. There is a train car for the kids to explore and plenty of other fun things to do in the area while enjoying the fresh Manitoba air.

If you think these places are great, just wait till you see the shopping, dining and accommodations in Brandon. We’ll explore those tomorrow. In the meantime, if you would like to see what else the city has to offer and visit Brandon Manitoba online they have a great website that includes a list of what’s going on in the city each day.

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/crocodiles-antique-aircraft-insiders-guide-brandon-manitoba-canada/)

The Great Migration is Upon Us! Shorebirds and Endangered Species Heading for Chaplin Saskatchewan

The Piping Plover - Saskatchewans Endangered Species

The Piping Plover - Saskatchewan's Endangered Species

Click Here to Hear the Piping Plover

©2008AngieHaggstrom

More than 100 000 birds descend on Chaplin, Saskatchewan, Canada every fall for breeding as well as a gathering site where they will prepare and rest for the long journey south for the winter. This might now sound that amazing until you see the sheer numbers of birds and variety of species that collect here starting in September.

This area has become so vital to the survival of songbird species, the area was designated as a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in 1997. (For those who are like me, not an avid bird watcher, this is the highest reserve designation possible and is one of only five in Canada.) More than 30 species have been recorded in the area. In some instances, more than half of the entire population of a species can be found in the area at once. This brings forth scary thoughts especially when it comes to the large number of endangered species here such as the Piping Plover.

Four lakes (Chaplin, Reed, Old Wives, and Fredrick) are all within close proximity to each other make the area the ideal location for large bird populations. In fact, not far away is Cabri and the South Saskatchewan river. Here large numbers of bald eagles and geese nest every year.

The Chaplin Lake itself is a massive saltwater lake that literally sits in the middle of the prairie and the second largest in Canada. This lake not only attracted birds, however. A sodium sulphate also operates in the area a short distance away. It is easy to spot. The company uses the heat from the sun to evaporate the water and leave behind the crystal white mounds and streams that mar the area. It smells terrible, but it really is interesting to see.

These birds are truly remarkable, and with so many important species and rituals occurring in one place, it is also one of the most important locations in North American. Without this area, hundreds of species would be gone from this planet forever. If you would like additional information on the Chaplin area’s reserve, you can visit the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network or visit Saskatchewan Tourism.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/great-migration-shorebirds-endangered-species-chaplin-saskatchewan/)

New Baby Giraffe Introduced to Calgary Zoo Visitors

*This is a video of the new baby giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo. Lots of great images and information!

©2008Angie Haggstrom

June 29th, 2008 brought a new life to the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada after a long 15 month pregnancy. One week later, on August 5th, loving mom Carrie and her beautiful unnamed daughter stepped out into the sunshine of their African Savannah side pen. Zookeepers will introduce them slowly to their herd to ensure that everything goes smoothly with a minimum amount of stress on the baby and the herd.

Fifteen-year-old Carrie is very loving and caring mother, but she is also very private and protective of her beautiful baby girl. The little unnamed calf is flourishing under her mother’s care and very curious about her new surroundings. She is the second calf born at the zoo, and with the string of unfortunate deaths the zoo has been experiencing, she is a welcome sight to all.

New animal babies are always good news, but for conservationists and animal experts, a new baby giraffe is very important. In the wild, giraffe numbers are continuing to dwindle, but the species is not endangered. Best of all, the baby giraffe isn’t the only new baby at the zoo. A one year old baby elephant named Malti and a three month old baby gorilla named Yewande are also residents of the Calgary Zoo.

The Calgary Zoo, which began in 1929, is the second largest zoo in Canada and features more than 1000 animals and approximately 290 different species. The entire zoo is divided up into a series of different ecosystems that allow you to travel the entire globe in one afternoon.

There is an Arctic and Antarctic exhibit complete with animals that are both alive and extinct including dinosaurs and penguins. Austrailia, Botanical Gardens, Eurasia, the Dorthy Harvie Conservatory, and the African sections include both indoor and outdoor exhibits that are complete with vegetation, animals, and climate that mimic the real locations. If bats and other nighttime creatures are your thing, be sure to check out the ‘Creatures of the Night’ exhibit. Be warned however, the reptile and nighttime exhibits aren’t the greatest places for those who are extremely squeamish.

Children and adults both love the zoo’s Primates exhibit. All sorts of primates can be seen playing and interacting in the exhibit. The Prehistoric Park is also another popular exhibit. The life-sized dinosaurs roam through a recreated ecosystem. Last but not least is the vast Canadian Wilds exhibit. Be sure to make note of the actual size of the elk, moose, and bears in the exhibit — Let’s just say that television is very deceiving.

The Calgary Zoo has a lot more to offer its visitors. With admission running between 8-18 dollars, the zoo is actually one of the most inexpensive ways to spend an afternoon. Pretty amazing considering the costs of running the zoo and caring for all the animals. The zoo also provides all kinds of interactive programs and educational activities that prove to be a valuable and memorable experience for all. Finally, the zoo also accommodates large groups and functions. They also have an “Osprey Cam” where you can see right into the bird’s nest. (The hatching video is FANTASTIC!)

If you fall in love with the zoo, consider sponsoring an animal or giving a donation for yourself or giving it as a gift to someone!

*NOTE: The Calgary Zoo is hoping to release a video of the giraffe’s birth online. If they do (and it is locatable), I will provide the video or at least a link so that you can also witness the birth!

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/baby-giraffe-calgary-zoo/)