Land of the Giants
At least twenty mountains in the St. Elias Range exceed 4,000 metres, a few exceed 5,000 metres, but towering over them all is Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak at 5,959 metres.
Then there's the mighty Yukon River stretching for over 1,800 miles.
Vast regions, varied ecosystems and relatively sparse human population make the Yukon a haven for some of North America's most impressive species - grizzly and black bears, wolves, caribou, moose, muskox and millions of migratory birds.
Almost 80% of the Yukon remains pristine wilderness with just over 10% of the territory fully protected.
All three North American bears: black, grizzly and polar are found in the Yukon, but you are much more likely to see a black bear than a grizzly. Black bears live in forested areas, but grizzly bears range from southern forested areas and across the tundra to the Arctic Ocean. Polar bears are seen on the North Slope and Herschel Island. The Yukon grizzly bear population is one of Canada's largest and most stable in North America and the Alsek River corridor in Kluane National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site has been designated a special preservation area. Shorter summers in the north mean that grizzlies must be as efficient as possible in preparing for their long winter hibernation. In the Yukon, grizzlies depend on thick crops of berries and seasonal runs of salmon to fatten up. In an autumn feeding frenzy, a grizzly can eat 200,000 berries in a single day!
Whether you're an ardent birder or a casual wildlife watcher, the Yukon's flyway comes alive as trumpeter swans, geese, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds travel to and from nesting grounds. Birders converge in the Yukon to search for species including harlequin duck, northern hawk owl, wandering tattler, gyrfalcon and three kinds of ptarmigan.
Yukon is also home to approximately 130,000 – 150,000 caribou in one of North America's last remaining large animal herds. The herd was nominated as one of the seven wonders of Canada a few years ago.
Although the Yukon offers some of Canada's most accessible wilderness, civilisation is never far away in one of the Yukon's ten communities. It also enjoys a culture of rich northern tradition and First Nation (native) customs and beliefs.
In 2019, South Africa's legendary Blue Train reinvented its classic Cape Town/Pretoria journey, extending it to a 2-night slow travel experience. Now their Hoedspruit safari departures are set for a complete makeover for 2020, making the journey a round trip including sunrise and sunset Big Five game drives, a boma dinner under the stars and traditional dancing.
Previously, The Blue Train offered an overnight journey from Pretoria to Hoedspruit (or vice versa) leaving guests to check into one of the Sabi Sands/Greater Kruger Lodges for a few nights. The challenge, however, was finding availability for 70 – 80 guests. Now the train will offer its safari departure as a return round trip to the Kruger that will depart Pretoria on day one, arrive at the Kruger National Park the next morning for a full day guided safari including sunrise and sunset game drives. The train will then head back to Pretoria, arriving around noon on day three.
After boarding, guests have a five-course gourmet lunch, followed by high tea at and dinner. Next morning it's an early start as the train arrives at Kruger's Numbi Gate. Safari vehicles with guides take guests on a sunrise game drive including a bush breakfast at an exclusive, unfenced location inside Kruger Park. Guests return to the train for a five-course lunch around noon. In the afternoon, guests head out on safari again, this time in a private 11,0000-hectare concession finishing with a spectacular boma dinner under the stars at Nkambeni Safari Camp with traditional dancing. Guests return to the train at 10 pm which heads back to Pretoria arriving after breakfast.
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. I'm published in national and regional papers / magazines.