Nfld. & Labrador

New adventure tourism business launches amid risky season

It might not come as a surprise that a man who journeyed across a frigid Greenland ice sheet isn't averse to a good challenge, even one in the middle of an economy-crushing pandemic.

A Wilder Experience sets up shop in Cape Broyle

Rene Ritter is the owner of A Wilder Experience in Cape Broyle. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

It might not come as a surprise that a man who journeyed across a frigid Greenland ice sheet isn't averse to a good challenge, even one in the middle of a economy-crushing pandemic.

Canada Day is Day 1 of Rene Ritter's new business, A Wilder Experience, in Cape Broyle.

"For me, personally, my personality is 100 per cent or dead stop," said Ritter, standing alongside the calm waters off the Southern Shore.

"Why not just go for it and keep a positive attitude and hopefully things will work out? If they don't, I can say at least I tried to make it work."

When Ritter learned Stan Cook, a legendary Southern Shore outfitter, was retiring in 2018, he thought the timing couldn't be better.

Ritter and his young family had moved home to Newfoundland from Nunavut, and he was looking for a good opportunity.

An outdoor survival expert and adventurist, Ritter's new business is in line with his passion for the outdoors.

A Wilder Experience is offering sea kayaking as of July 1. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

He purchased a home right across from the ocean to use as a base camp, and hired an operations manager and guides.

And then … COVID-19 happened.

"This has been in the works for a year, more than a year, [so] obviously like a lot of people in businesses, we were blinded by what the public health crisis has brought to us," he said.

Physical distancing at sea

Tourism has taken a huge hit because of travel restrictions that keep international tourists from entering the country. Newfoundland and Labrador will open the so-called Atlantic bubble on Friday, and only visitors from the other three Atlantic provinces can enter without having to self-isolate. Visitors from other provinces and the territories may enter only if they obtain an exemption in advance, and even then they must self-isolate. 

The provincial government, however, has acknowledged the strain the pandemic has had — and will continue to have — on a province so reliant on visitors. The government has launched the Stay Home Year campaign to encourage people within the province to enjoy local tourism.

Ritter says adventure tourism in the great outdoors is just the stress-reliever Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need after months stuck inside their homes. 

"We are also absolutely welcoming of people from other provinces as well and … we are taking the required precautions to keep our guests safe, and we hope our guests will do the same," he said.

Ritter's young son Wilder has been the inspiration for many things in his life, including the name of his new business. (Submitted by Rene Ritter)

Operations manager Erica Harvey said she has been busy developing a COVID action plan, but says the business lends itself to physical distancing.

"Right now we're offering daily sea kayak tours. We're offering two half-day tours and a sunset tour," Harvey said.

"Eventually we are also going to offer packrafting and hiking."

The business already has bookings for the next few weeks — a trend Ritter hopes continues throughout what may be his first, and most challenging, summer.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

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