Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa are all popular safari destinations. But, they’re also far from Toronto and Ottawa. Spending 24 hours on an airplane with kids is no one’s version of a good time.
Luckily, one of the many wonderful things about Ontario is the abundance of beautiful wildlife. In fact, you don’t have to go farther than a few hours north of Toronto, to the Haliburton Highlands, to take the kids on a Canadian safari.
What to Look Out for on Your Haliburton Highlands Safari
- Moose: Moose, the largest member of the deer family, have an antler span that can reach up to 6 feet. They eat up to 73 pounds of vegetation a day. Moose are wild animals and the best way to show them respect is to give them space. They can be hard to spot, especially from a distance (the safest way). If you don’t think you’ll get lucky enough to see one in the wild, you can visit Hershe the Moose at Haliburton Forest. Rescued in 2011 after his mom and sibling were killed in a car accident, Hershe lives on four acres at Base Camp and loves visitors.
- White-Tailed Deer: Found all over North America, white-tailed deer can jump over two and a half metres vertically and nine metres horizontally (that’s as long as a school bus). White-tailed deer have four-compartment stomachs like a cow, making it easier to process foods that other mammals can’t eat. Your best chance to try to see a fawn is in spring but they’re hard to spot; a fawn’s spotted coat acts as the perfect camouflage in the forest underbrush. So while you’re on a nature hike through Haliburton Forest remember to tread quietly and carefully and stay vigilant.
- Snapping Turtles: In case the name didn’t tip you off - these turtles bite! So, just like on African safari, don’t get close enough to give them the chance.These feisty turtles hibernate through the winter by burrowing deep into mud and leaf debris, or under logs or overhanging banks. These animals are mostly nocturnal, so when they come out in spring your best chance to see them is during an evening walk or hike. Plan your own at Haliburton Forest, or ask us when our next organized evening walk or hike is leaving.
- Beavers: The beaver is synonymous with Canadiana and for good reason: beavers are found in every single province and territory, with an especially high population in Ontario. The beaver’s best known feature - its tail - is the ultimate multi-tool: operating as a rudder to steer the animal back home when its limbs are occupied with logs; providing balance when carrying those heavy branches above water; and, acting as a security system. Beavers slap their tails against the water or ground to warn others when danger is near. Look out for these busy little guys around water; explore over 100 lakes and ponds as well as 400 wetlands at Haliburton Forest for beaver and other water-loving creatures, including many types of fish.
- Wolves: Wolves understand the importance of family; that’s why they live and hunt in packs. When you hear a lone wolf howling, the animal is communicating with the rest of its pack. A howling group could be sending territorial messages from one pack to another. You can hear, see, study, and learn more about wolves at Haliburton Forest. The Wolf Centre is a 5000 square foot facility dedicated to teaching visitors about wolf behaviour. The wolves that live at Haliburton Forest, while born in captivity (the original wolves were donated in 1993), are 100% wild - they aren’t familiar with people. So, the Wolf Centre is the closest you can safely get to this wild animal in nature. The Wolf Howl, a free activity on Thursday evenings between July and August, allows visitors to experience wolves communicating with each other, something most people go their whole lives without ever hearing.
Remember that African safari rules still apply on your Ontario safari trip:
- Keep your distance - all living creatures deserve our respect and space. Getting up close to animals won’t enhance your experience; it may agitate and scare the animals you encounter and that’s unsafe for everyone.
- Leave the wilderness as you found it - everything you bring with you on your wilderness adventure should leave with you, especially food.
- Be prepared - get to know the area you’re visiting, and the animals you hope to see there, before you visit.
- Don’t expect to see everything in one trip - wildlife is unpredictable and Haliburton Forest in the Haliburton Highlands is huge at over 100,000 acres/400km2 of private forest. Enjoy what’s in front of you and if you really feel like you’ve missed out you can always come back.
To prepare for your Ontario safari, download The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Bucket List, and find activities to enjoy in the wilderness - not just in spring but all year round.
http://mentalfloss.com/article/59461/10-gigantic-facts-about-moose; https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-white-tailed-deer; http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=469200; https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-beaver; https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/g/gray-wolf/