To have a complete travel experience in Montreal area we decided to visit the Yamaska National Park, well known as a wonderful family escape whether you are camping, just came to enjoy the beach, like to hike or bike.
That morning weather outlook promised some rain and cloudy, so the beach option was not on the list, so we opted for a bike ride.
We did not bring our bikes, so had to rent – you know that feeling when you take someone’s else bike – I hope it’s good… – well, the bikes were not just good, they were great – all in perfect condition, had all the proper gear installed and ready to roll!
The Yamaska National Park is located on the Choiniere Reservoir, is represented by great variety of trees, small animals and birds. The park was created in 1983 and is a perfect for all kinds of activities combined in one great location – boating, paddling, fishing for those who prefers to be on the water and hiking, biking, camping as an addition and for those staying on land. The water is very clear, we saw a lot of small fishes close to the shore.
The beach is well equipped with water bikes, kayaks and paddle boards… we would be very happy to try them all, however at that time decided to go for a bike ride to explore the trail which is about 19 km and runs through he forest for some distance along the shore and later through the woods.
As navigation help we also got i-pods with map, detailed information about the location and some interesting facts about where we were in real time!
Yamaska National Park
Address: 1780 boulevard David-Bouchard, Roxton Pond, QC J0E 1Z0
Phone: (450) 776-7182
During the last couple of years the topic of visiting Quebec was coming up several times in our discussions. Finally in May 2017 we booked a hotel and planned out the itinerary that would include some of the places that we thought would be interesting for everyone in the family.
The main destination was Quebec City and its beautiful downtown was so well preserved and such a distinct French heritage. We spent most of our time just strolling the streets, window shopping and watching the street performers who really amazed us with their skills – fire jugglers, drama characters and musicians…
One of the destinations that excited our kids most was the Granby Zoo, which is about 3 hours drive from the downtown Quebec, and about an hour from Montreal. We were welcomed in the nice reception hall, got our tickets and went to explore the animal world.
Right as we entered there was a gigantic size dinosaur’s head and a line up of kids willing to climb inside of it! No matter how big or small – they were very about the opportunity to see the real size dinosaurs! And there 21 of them right in front of you, so be very careful – but don’t try to feed or pat these creatures!
Enough of the dinosaurs – the kids forgot about dinosaurs right at the sight of the farm animals. And there were lots of them – pigs, sheep, and goats – so friendly and ready to make friends!
After some hugs exchange with farm inhabitants we decided to go see some of the exotic creatures on display.
Oceania seemed to be a good place to start – first the stingrays and the variety of tropical fish and then all way around the Australian continent to see black swans, parrots, emus, and kangaroos. Stingrays seem to be attracted to the hand emerged in the water – some of them will come and allow us to gently touch their backs…
The Kangaroos were too busy to discuss any matters of their life, so the visit to the Oceania Garden was quite interesting as it is extremely rare you get to see kangaroos that close and with no fence!.
We entered the aviary and right away we were surrounded by many colorful parrots! For $1 you can buy a special nectar – just hold the cup tight and they will sit on your hand and drink it!
We spend some good time there – the parrots are so colorful and it is such a great experience to see them so close.
But there was a lot see and the time was limited.
Our next destination was Africa! Who doesn’t like to observe the grace of big cats, see elephants shower using trunks, slowly moving zebras and giraffes, and the hilarious monkeys?
One of our major observations about Granby Zoo was the design of the areas, nice fences that imitate greenery and well maintained grounds. We later learned that Granby Zoo received an Award for the Energy Consumption Reduction Efforts project that was implemented during the renovation of 2005-2010.
The Zoo is well mapped and organized – it was no problem to find any continent or animal of interest. And yes, the zookeepers definitely speak many languages, no worries if you don’t speak French!
After Africa we had just a bit of time to make a short tour of South America. We stopped by llamas who stretched out their necks asking for treat…
it was a lot of fun to feed them some green leafs that we found on the trees around; we were impressed by the spread of the wings of the Andean Condor and spent some time waiting for the alligators to wake up from the afternoon nap; finally one of them yawned and slowly moved towards the water… at the end of the South American trail we saw a powerful jaguar, at the moment it was quite relaxed and not interested in any aggression.
On our way to South American continent we made a snack stop at “Le Marcher”. The restaurant offers a variety of foods and drinks and nice dining area; there is also a large area outside with tables under umbrellas.
Next to the Restaurant there is an Amusement Park – where kids found some free rides while we were resting our feet; there is also an Amazoo Water park that offers quite the variety of water rides, not now however… we may visit it some other time when the day will be hot enough for water fun…so long for now, the Zoo is closing and we are tired enough to get to our hotel and have some dinner.
Wake up the wild … “Steak and Carrot for breakfast”
“Africa Lion Safari” said the road sign… At 7:45 am the place was empty – no-one around… in a couple minutes a friendly fellow came up and gave us directions.
We had to fill some forms and sign it – so just in case if we are eaten by the lions the park is not responsible (no kidding!).
The bus was very comfortable with large windows and choice of seats!
We are going to feed the animals! Well, we will first see the cheetahs and lions, so we can’t really feed them – just watch! Thus the forms and the bus – all to make sure we behave and well protected.
Cheetahs are living in groups usually formed by siblings – we saw four brothers playing and enjoying the morning. Their neighbour was the single male cheetah, in the next area we saw couple others… They live in a fenced area, so that the groups do not interfere. Cheetahs are territorial and will fight for their area. They are the fastest runners and can develop the speed up to 76 kph. They got nice spotty coats that help them hide and strong lean bodies with long legs. Very gracious animals!
We are driving to the lion’s area! The keepers put pieces of good (AAA!) meat in different spots around large area. Lion can eat about 7 lbs of meat once a day, usually in the morning. They will play and nap during the day… morning is the most active time of the day. So here is the signal – all ready, lions are coming! First we see two of them… they come at a slow pace knowing that the food is waiting for them… here is a large male lion – his mane makes him look really big and powerful. It takes five years for the mane to grow to its full size. Females also look really strong – large paws, strong neck and gracious body. They quickly found the meat and picked each a good piece… not without a fight for same piece of meat. Their canines are about two inches and the tongues are really rough – they can clean the meat off the bone like sandpaper!
In wild, males do not hunt – they protect the group while lionesses are hunting; they can kill an animal three times their size.
Next we saw the white lions – they are very rare. The colour of their fur is not really white, they are not albino, they do have some beige in the fur, just light; and their eyes have nice light yellowish colour. Strong and gracious –
We leave the lions and go to the next area, but before we change the vehicle – now we are in the open trailer and we got two buckets – one filled with carrots and the other with fresh lettuce – we are going to feed giraffes! It was a chilly day with periods of rain and some wind… may be the cooler weather made animals more active? Giraffes were wandering around and slowly approached the truck as soon as we stopped. “Take a carrot in your hand and stretch the hand out… do not pat them, they get scared and can go away” – we were told by one of our guides.
Baby giraffes can only eat lettuce – their teeth are not strong enough… That was a lot of fun! Feeding carrots to giraffes! And that is what we did for the next hour or so until our buckets got empty! Their tongues are purple and can reach 20 cm. Giraffes like to eat juicy leaves from the trees and for this their tongues can twist around the branch and strip off the leaves. They did it with carrots twisting their tongues around if we hold it a bit away sort-of teasing.
Next to giraffes area we saw rhinos and antelopes: some grazing and some wandering around. Rhinos eat really fast – they are constantly chewing, the grass there is so short… they look fat, but is their skin that makes folds on their backs, not fat. Rhinos like to lay in a mud, it helps them to keep the insects away. Their spine is very fragile, so have to lay on one side then another. Their friend is a small bird that usually follows rhino picking bugs from its skin. The bird alarms rhino in case of any danger – rhinos got weak small eyes and can’t see well so if the birds fly up it alarms rhino.
Antelopes were grazing peacefully… some had very long twisted horns. The antelopes got a very interesting body system allowing them to adjust to the high Africa temperatures. The body temperature can rise up to 40C, which allows them to control perspiration and avoid dehydration.
We also saw some zebras walking around; they nicely get along with antelopes, giraffes and rhinos sharing a large pasture. We saw pile of rocks in a middle of the field – artificially created to reflect the natural habitat.
Giraffes saw our truck and came again for more carrots and lettuce!
It was time to go back! We were ready for our breakfast – it was waiting for us in the restaurant. Nice pastries, fruit, juice and warm waffles with whipped cream – all was beautifully served to us.
Later on we went to explore the rest of the park. We saw elephants swim in the pond, took a tour on the boat around the islands with various types of monkeys, saw parrots and bats.
I never saw a bat so close! It was hanging from the keepers arm and eating some fruit. Their digestive system allows swallowing food while handing. Their wings have a unique ability to repair it if they get a small damage quite fast.
Next we saw a show where parrots could sort out colours, say some words and one by the name Fernando could sing “O’Canada!”.
After a long day we were finally back to Hamilton Sheraton.. It was nice to relax in the swimming pool after the rainy day filled with fun and full of unexpected.