Sable Island is set to welcome its first visitors as a national park next month, but the national park title hasn't made it any easier to get to Nova Scotia’s most remote spot.
The small, isolated sliver of land located 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax is home to about 400 wild horses, descendants of animals brought to the island during the late 1700s. It's also the breeding ground for seals and birds.
Sable Island officially opened as a national park reserve in 2013.
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This year marks the first time the island has been open to the public but there are actually fewer people registered to visit this year than usual — and those who do go, will be under tight restrictions.
Sable Island visitor restrictions include:
- Visitors must stay at least 20 metres away from wildlife, including the horses and seals.
- This year there will be no overnight stays on the island as the few buildings there are being renovated.
- People must register ahead of time and get permission from Parks Canada.
- Visitors must participate in an orientation session before venturing out on the island.
- Visitors must have a detailed itinerary.
- Everything you need must be brought with you and all garbage must be returned to the mainland.
There’s also the unpredictable weather to contend with.
Mark Butler, with the Ecology Action Centre, said some have raised concerns about opening the park to the public.
“A lot of people were concerned that we could love Sable Island to death, that you would just get too many visitors trampling over the Island,” he said.
But that hasn't happened, at least not yet.
Just five groups have registered to visit the island this season, about 50 people in total so far.
In the past, the island has averaged 250 visitors each year.
“In an average year, you often even get more people registered than are often even able to make it just because the fog comes in or trips don't successfully get there,” Jonathan Sheppard, Sable Island National Park manager:
If the weather and other restrictions aren’t enough to deter travellers, the flight to the island isn’t cheap.
“A flight out there costs something like $5,000 so that's out of the range of a whole lot of people. So it largely is for the elite traveller,” said Butler.
Those elite travellers will start arriving on Sable Island in mid-June.