Adventure Canada began as a dream. The Swan brothers, Matthew and Bill—and their good friend David Freeze—had been enjoying an adventurous life as white-water rafting guides on the Ottawa River when they came up with the idea of getting a bit farther afield and began taking travellers “off the map”.
By 1988, the young entrepreneurs were taking travellers from the south on backpacking and camping trips to what is now Nunavut. For several years, they learned on the fly—losing money, but learning how to build relationships in the North, learning how to handle logistics, and especially, how to appeal to adventure-seeking travellers. As it turned out, there were plenty of folks eager to get off the beaten trail: life-learners who wanted authentic experiences in less-travelled places. They sought out adventure on the west coast of Canada, too, leading expeditions by horseback in the Rockies. Adventure Canada’s first trip ever was hiking in Auyuittuq National Park, out of Pangnirtung.
Within a few years, a request came in from the Art Gallery of Ontario, seeking to bring a group of forty art lovers to Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Could Adventure Canada handle it?
Of course, Matt, Bill, and Dave said yes—despite knowing there weren’t enough hotel rooms in Cape Dorset to handle the crowd! That’s when they hit on the brilliant solution that has been Adventure Canada’s stock-in-trade ever since: ships. Aboard ships, travellers could eat and sleep in relative comfort without straining the resources of Arctic communities. Aboard ships, passengers could go from place to place in those vast areas unserved by roads. Aboard ships, the collaboration and bonding among the staff created energy and enthusiasm that made for a very special team atmosphere. And aboard ships, learning, exploring, and creating together became Adventure Canada’s signature style.
Before long, Adventure Canada was regularly running trips to three of Canada’s coastlines. In 1993, a dream was born with the launch of the Environmental Discovery Series on the west coast. In 1994, Adventure Canada launched Project Arctic Coast, aboard the expedition cruise vessels of the day: icebreakers, research ships, former navy spy-ships. In 1995, we launched our first trip to the Labrador Coast, pioneering expedition cruising in the fjords of the Torngat Mountains of Nunatsiavut.
In some cases, the vessels they charted came with working scientists aboard, but Adventure Canada soon began hiring scientists—as well as local artists, musicians, and cultural ambassadors—to enlighten clients while steaming from one amazing place to another. Soon, Adventure Canada was working with Canada’s brightest minds and biggest hearts. We brought Robert Bateman aboard to travel the west coast, introduced David Suzuki to cruising the Arctic, and captivated Farley Mowat with the beauty of Labrador. Margaret Atwood has now travelled with us more than a dozen times!
Today, they travel primarily on the Ocean Endeavour, as well as the Island Solitude, La Pinta, and others. These vessels are more comfortable than the older ships but still dependable, versatile, and purpose-built for Adventure Canada’s unique style of travel. As ever, it’s the nimble Zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) that really make expedition cruising the adventure that it is. With a fleet of Zodiacs, we’re never more than a few minutes away from an outstanding landing in the world’s most remote destinations. And the diverse staff of educators, researchers, cultural ambassadors, and creativity never ceases to delight, engage, inform, and amaze passengers.