‘Engaging the senses’: Souris wildlife group offers hands on tourism experience

A wildlife group is hoping to give visitors a taste, literally, of what Basin Head has to offer. 

Beyond the Beach is a new experiential tourism product created by the Souris and Area Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

“The eco-tours that we used to run in the past were mainly just a tour of the beach,” said Frances Braceland, project manager with the organization.

“We used to go into the sand dunes and we used to do the beach scene but it wasn’t engaging all your senses.”

Basin Head eating seafood

Ayden Clinton, Austin Kickham and Maddox Clinton (left to right) try out some seafood snacks at Basin Head. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Engage the senses

Over the winter, Braceland attended sessions on experiential tourism put on by Tourism P.E.I. and used that as the basis for re-designing what the group had been offering.

“We’re going to have the picnic where people can eat,” said Braceland.

“We’re going to have the beach scene where people can get hands on and pick up all the creatures, all the fish and the crabs and everything that we find in the lagoon.”

Basin Head seaweed 2

Frances Braceland holds some of the dried seaweed that will be part of the Beyond the Beach experience. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

At the session, Tourism P.E.I. encouraged all the operators creating experiences to add some kind of food element.

“We really wanted to add eating seaweed into it because when we were at the workshops, they were talking about what natural P.E.I. flavours you can bring to your authentic experience,” said Braceland.

“Eating seaweed has been a big part of the history here and so we really wanted to share that with the audiences and it’s really something people can do now as well.”

Basin Head seaweed dehydrator

Seaweed collected in the area is dried out in this outdoor dehydrator then will be cooked up and served on the tours. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

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Seaweed recipes

Braceland and the others working on the tour have spent the last month fine-tuning recipes. They collected kelp and dulse on nearby beaches and built an outdoor dehydrator to dry the seaweed so it can be cooked.  

They tested out the first recipes on some young family members: sesame seed kelp crisps, fried in sesame oil and sesame seeds on top and kelp energy bars, with maple syrup and cooked in the oven.

“It tasted kind of weird but it was salty mostly and we tasted some granola, I liked the granola,” said Austin Kickham, 11, from Rollo Bay, P.E.I.

“Not much people know what it tastes like because they live in cities and stuff and it would be a good opportunity to know what nature tastes like.”

Basin Head collecting fish

As part of the experience, visitors will get hands on with the creatures collected from the lagoon at Basin Head. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Back to nature

Keila Miller, another project manager, says the Basin Head eco tours have always been a hit.

“A lot of the people who come on these tours are from cities and they’ve never seen anything like this before and us, living on P.E.I., we take it for granted,” she said.

“By doing these guided tours, you’re helping people to get back to nature, to relaxation, the sound of the waves.”

Basin Head collecting seaweed

Three of the Beyond the Beach guides collect seaweed at Basin Head to be put in the dehydration unit and then cooked up for people on the tours. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The Beyond the Beach experience costs $25 for adults, $10 for children, with 5 years and under free.

“When we were at the workshops, we were given a funding formula where you put in all of your expenses and you come out with a number in the end,” explained Braceland.

“So we went for the very bottom number because we’re not looking to make money off of this, we’re a non-profit group, what we want to do is we want to share this area with everybody.”

There are only 11 marine protected areas in Canada and only two that are accessible by land, says Braceland, making Basin Head what she calls “a real jewel”.

“So far people seem really interested in what’s going on and we’re hoping it will really take off and become popular.”