Supporters of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust are trekking through the Icelandic wilderness in search of lessons that can be applied to Nova Scotia's wild spaces.
Nine Nova Scotians are hiking through Iceland's Fjallabak Nature Reserve, both as a fundraiser for the Trust and also in an effort to learn from Iceland's burgeoning wilderness tourism industry.
"Nova Scotia and Iceland have some similarities, a little bit with latitude and climate, but we're [both] blessed with great natural resources that are right next to where people live," Wally Berg, the trip's lead guide, told CBC's Information Morning on Thursday.
'Appreciating those wild spaces'
Laura Hussey-Bondt is one of the participants on the hike. She said the experience of trekking through lava fields and sheep pastures made her appreciate the natural beauty in Nova Scotia.
"What it all comes down to is getting out, enjoying nature and really appreciating those wild spaces that we have, and that goes for here in Iceland as well as back home in Nova Scotia," she said.
"It sort of reminds you how important those places are and how important is the work done by groups like the Nova Scotia Nature Trust."
Tourism fuelling recovery
Iceland was one of the countries hardest hit by the 2008 financial crash. But the country has largely recovered — its economy is now one per cent bigger than it was in 2008 — in part due to a thriving tourism industry. Over 1.7 million tourists visited Iceland in 2015, five times the country's population.
Berg said that despite high volumes of visitors, Iceland is an accessible place for outdoor enthusiasts.
"The public bus system here is amazing," he said. "A person with a backpack can get on a bus and go out to a trailhead and hike."
'There's no conflict'
Berg said mountain huts along well-known hiking trails also allow hikers to explore the wilderness — since camping in the wild is not allowed in nature reserves — in an environmentally sustainable way.
Berg said the integration of wilderness tourism into other types of activities on the land is a useful lesson for Nova Scotia.
"All around us there are sheep farmers and there are old farming families living the life they've always led, but there's no conflict between appreciation of nature, wilderness experiences and the life people lead here."