For many Ocean Bridge youth ambassadors like myself, the program’s Learning Journeys are normally an opportunity to travel to special places in Canada to explore an environment that is new to you, and to immerse yourself in that environment from the lens of ocean sustainability. This year, however, Ocean Bridge’s Learning Journeys looked a little bit different due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions.
While many participants, who come from communities across Canada, both coastal and landlocked, were excited to travel outside of their home provinces to learn about different environments and ecosystems, the current pandemic restricted the journeys to inter-provincial voyages. For myself, living in the Atlantic bubble gave me the opportunity to join some of my Ocean Bridge peers on a local learning journey on the South and Eastern shores of Nova Scotia, the unceded land of Mi’kma’ki. Though it wasn’t the original plan when I joined the program, it turns out I am so thankful Ocean Bridge, which is an Ocean Wise and Canada Service Corps initiative, offered me the chance to re-examine the province I live in in a whole new light, to meet local people who work hard every day to conserve ocean health and promote sustainable cooperation and development.
In early October, we went on a three-day kayaking trip in the 100 Wild Islands. We first learned how to pack properly for backcountry kayak trips, how to waterproof our gear, and paddle in ocean waters. We started on our way, and leisurely paddled from island to island, as some curious seals followed us, their heads popping up to check us out. The water was clear and turquoise, with huge rock islands scattered as far as we could see. It was early October, so the leaves were changing, and the crisp fall air pushed us forward as we got to slowly explore this beautiful part of the province. It was quiet and pristine, and hard to imagine that we were only an hour outside of Halifax. We snorkelled in the ocean as the sun set, and in the last of the light got to catch a glimpse under the surface of a small island cove. It was amazing to see, in such a small section, just how much life and movement there was under the water. When it was dark, we saw bioluminescence in the water, and tried to stir up the waves on the shore to see more of the soft sparkles. The next day, we foraged for mushrooms, and learned about how important fungi are for our landscapes and ecosystems. I felt so grateful to experience and learn about the ecology and environment of this area by spending time with it. My Ocean Bridge peers and I discussed our relationships with the ocean, what had brought us all to this trip, and the projects we were passionate about delivering in our home communities. We got to learn through open conversations with one another, and through the exploration and admiration of the 100 Wild Islands.