5th Blog Anniversary and 20 Best Pictures of 2020

As I look back at 2020, I think to myself - what a year! Definitely the one to remember, for better or worse. Despite all the challenges tha...

As I look back at 2020, I think to myself - what a year! Definitely the one to remember, for better or worse. Despite all the challenges that COVID-19 and our response to it have brought to our lives, this year turned out to be quite fruitful for me, travel-wise. By mid-March, before everything got shut, I had already completed 12 flights. Obviously, the pandemic slowed things down to a crawl, but it concurrently opened up a great deal of local travel opportunities. Biking, hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking became a thing for so many people in 2020. We finally got to visit the most iconic places in British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies - something that has been on our bucket list for almost a decade. I’m really hopeful that 2021 will allow us to return to a better state and catch up on overdue celebrations, re-connections, travels and in-person events. Wishing you and your families a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

1. Omega Park, Quebec (January 2020). 
Canadian safari at its finest. Located in Montebello, Quebec (halfway between Montreal and Ottawa), this private drive-through park features both native Canadian and introduced animals such as elk, deer, caribou, wolf, black bear, fox, boar, bison, beaver and others. The most fun, of course, is to feed elk and boars with carrots. If you're planning to visit, bring lo-o-ots of carrots, at least 40 lbs. No kidding! You won't regret as these animals are numerous and hungry, especially during low seasons when there are less visitors. 

2. San Francisco, California (February 2020). 
I'm glad we made a quick stopover in San Francisco on the way to the Big Island of Hawai'i. Although it was a bit windy, we still very much enjoyed our little ramble along the Coastal Trail around Sutro Baths. Warm and sunny weather without snow was such a delight comparing to what we normally experience in Ontario in February. How do you like this giant bush of calla lilies?

3. Waipio Valley, Hawai'i (February 2020). 
Waipio Valley was the only sunny place on our first day on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Everywhere else I checked within a reasonable driving distance, it was pouring at lower elevations and snowing at higher elevations. I know - snow is quite surreal for Hawai'i, but it does happen at a top of the largest volcano Mauna Kea. Mind you - the elevation is 4,207 m / 13,803 ft! Stay tuned for a full article. 

4. Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau, Hawai'i (February 2020). 
This extremely charming gecko with a strange name - gold dust day - is native to Madagaskar, but can be found everywhere on the Hawai'i islands. The lizard feeds on insects and nectar and is otherwise pretty harmless to humans. The non-marine flora is not very diverse like everywhere else on islands so remote as Hawai'i. Stay tuned for a full article. 

5. Punalu Ľu Beach, Hawai'i (February 2020). 
If you're up to checking green sea turtles off your list, you should definitely visit the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. While no one guarantees you'll see these animals (it's not a zoo after all), the place is magnificent and definitely worth a visit. Black sand grains there made of lava are considerably larger than you would normally find on other beaches, so you can feel how it rubs off you bare feet. Stay tuned for a full article. 

6. Green Sand Beach, Hawai'i (February 2020). 
Papakolea Beach or Green Sand Beach is a geological anomaly. There are only few ones in the world. The green colour is given by a mineral called olivine, a by-product of a volcanic activity. The place is stunningly beautiful and as remote as the Big Island can get. It takes quite a bit of effort to get there. If walking on a dusty road is not your cup of tea, you can take a shuttle truck. When you finally reach a beach, it looks nothing like you would expect from Hawai'i: windy, dry and desolate. Stay tuned for a full article.

7. Lava Fields in Puna, Hawai'i (February 2020). 
The lower Puna eruption of 2018 lasted seven months, destroyed 700 houses, buried 1,600 acres of land, and injured 24 people. Molten lava "crossed" the Hawai'i route 137 which connected the villages of Kapoho and Pahoa. By the way, a new eruption just started on December 20, 2020, so hurry up to see it while it's active. Stay tuned for a full article.

8. Lynn Canyon, British Columbia (February 2020). 
What I love the most about Vancouver is that you can experience the nature at its best right within the city limits. Take Lynn Canyon as an example: it features the rarest type of a rainforest on Earth - the temperate rainforest. You will enjoy walking past giant ferns and cedar trees covered with thick layer of moss. Lynn Canyon also makes a great free alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. 

9. Myakka River, Florida (March 2020). 
Myakka River State Park is Florida's best kept secret. One one knows exactly why such a large number of alligators congregate there (I counted over 50 of them), but it was definitely worth waking up early that day to get one of the 30 permits from the park. In case you're wondering if it's safe to visit - I think so:  fish is abundant in those calm warm waters so alligators have plenty of food. Plus we, humans, are stinky for those giant reptiles, so they would rather go on a little fast than preying on humans. But I agree - standing right next to a bunch of alligators with no viewing platform adds to an adrenaline rush. Stay tuned for a full article.

10. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (June 2020). 
Parc national du Mont-Tremblant with its sparkling lakes, pristine rivers, sandy shores, delicate mountains, unspoiled forests, abundant wildlife, and rich history offers prime outdoor recreation opportunities for its visitors year-around. And the best way to experience them all is to stay within the park boundaries - in a tent or any other roofed accommodation. The full article - Should You Go Camping at Mont-Tremblant during COVID?

11. Perth, Ontario (June 2020). 
Tourists and locals alike recognize Ontario not only for its big-name attractions like Toronto or Niagara Falls, and not even for hungry mosquitos and black flies in the springtime, but also for its pretty, historic towns. Carefully preserved in time and maintaining they original 19th century look, many of them compete to be named the quaintest or the coziest town in Ontario. Perth is one of them. Stay tuned for a full article.

12. Victoria, British Columbia (August 2020). 
Victoria has such a pleasant weather and such a laid-back vibe, so most Canadians dream to retire there. I can even compare Victoria with my favourite part of California - the coastal area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The air is surprisingly dry despite the fact that the city is sitting by the Pacific Ocean.  Spend your afternoon at Victoria's beautiful Inner Harbour - very nice place for strolling, people watching or just relaxing on the lawn in front of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 1 of 3)

13. Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta (August 2020). 
If you've come all the way up to visit Banff National Park, you can already pat yourself on the back.  The park is quite a drive unless you are flying to Calgary. But your job isn't over until you see Moraine Lake at sunrise. The moment when the sun gently touches the mountain peaks towering behind the lake with its golden, almost reddish rays will take your breath away. Simply put - Moraine Lake is the more picturesque mountain lake in Canada and perhaps in the whole world. So is it worth waking up at 5 am to catch sunrise? Absolutely! Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 2 of 3)

14. Louise Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta (August 2020). 
Most people are drawn to Lake Louise for its surreal turquoise colour. The reason for such a colour is pretty simple: a flour-like sediment is carried in the glacier melt and washed off to the lake. Then the sun light bounces off these sedimental particles yielding what we see as blue and green hues. Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 2 of 3)

15. Jasper National Park, Alberta (August 2020). 
There are two groups of people: those who prefer Banff National Park over Jasper National Park, and those who prefer Jasper National Park over Banff National Park. But the truth is: while they are different, they are equally beautiful and worth exploring. But if you're trying to see Jasper National Park in just one day (who would want to do that?), be ready to wake up early in the morning and drive all the way to Maligne Lake to catch a morning boat tour to the famous Spirit Island. Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 2 of 3)

16. Yoho National Park, British Columbia (August 2020). 
I can give you a plenty of reasons why you should include Yoho National Park in your Banff-Jasper itinerary, but I'm sure that naming just a few will be more than enough to convince you to visit this  beautiful national park. Emerand Lake is literally of emerald green colour. I've seen some other lakes in North America and Europe that claim to be "emerald", but this one is definitely as close to the truth as it can get. Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 3 of 3)

17. West Kelowna, British Columbia (August 2020). 
Okanagan Valley is remarkable in many ways. For starters, Kelowna, the largest city in the valley, receives over 2,000 hours of sunshine and only 28 cm / 11 inch of rain per year. Sunshine defines the valley's unique weather patterns that appeal to so many people in Canada. Some communities in the valley such as Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Kamloops are even considered the best places to live and retire in Canada. Read the full article - The Ultimate British Columbia and Canadian Rockies Road Trip (Part 3 of 3)

18. Algonquin Park, Ontario (September 2020). 
Driving in the fall can be an experience on its own. Hit the road less travelled and see what is awaiting you beyond the next curve. Try taking a backroad instead of a major highway if time permits. Read the full article - 7 Tips for Chasing Perfect Fall Colours in Ontario.

19. Niagara Falls, Ontario (October 2020). 
Unlike summer, autumn weather and a time of the day can be more forgiving when taking pictures. The reason you can take great pictures right at midday is the angle of the light. It's simply tilted all day long, so there are no harsh shadows. I would also encourage you to plan your autumn photoshoot at sunrise or sunset to capture the best colours. Midday sun won't be able to create such a dramatic scene. The scene you will never get bored with - the Niagara Falls. Read the full article - 7 Tips for Chasing Perfect Fall Colours in Ontario.

20. Rideau Lakes, Ontario (October 2020). 
The Canadian province of Ontario may be lacking snow capped mountains, sandy oceanfronts, tall grass prairies or arid deserts, but one thing that all western provinces are envious about is the Ontario's iconic fall colours. Mild temperatures and not too much rain make the leaf peeping season last longer than anywhere else in the country. Read the full article - 7 Tips for Chasing Perfect Fall Colours in Ontario.

Blog Anniversary Pictures:

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