Strathcona Wilderness Institute

Past Events


Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre opens June 30th!

The winter snowpack in Paradise Meadows has gone and flowers are blooming in the subalpine.  Strathcona Wilderness Institute is happy to announce that it will be opening the Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre at Paradise Meadows on June 30th for the summer season, with normal operating hours of 9am-4pm.  Summer programmes include Nature Walks and Hikes with expert naturalists and guides every weekend through July, August and September, starting on the Canada Day weekend  – the first Nature walks will be on July 2nd ( see below) and the first hike will be on July 8th ( the full schedule will be out shortly). These are free events, guided by volunteer experts, as Fundraisers for SWI.   Self-guiding brochures can be obtained at the Centre for the Boardwalk loops in Paradise Meadows, and wheelchairs and the Trailrider are available for those whose mobility is restricted.

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire awareness, appreciation and stewardship of the natural world through education and participation.  The Institute works through a cooperative agreement with BC Parks at two locations in Strathcona Park – the Wilderness Centre at Paradise Meadows and the Buttle Lake Information Hut – offering a range of programmes and publications for visitors to the Park.  Last year the Wilderness Centre saw over 11,000 visitors, about 70% of which were from beyond the Comox Valley, including 8% from overseas.  All activities are conducted by volunteers, with some help from students employed through the Canada Summer Jobs for Students programme. All walks, hikes and public presentations are free, but we greatly appreciate donations, since fundraising is crucial to keeping the Centre open.  And we would warmly welcome those who enjoy being in the Park to consider joining our crew of volunteers.

SWI Guided Nature Walk – Season opener:

SUNDAY JULY 2nd 1.00 pm Paradise Meadows in Bloom.  A guided tour around the Meadows loops identifying the subalpine flowers in bloom. It will be a leisurely 2+ hours walk, dogs on leash with permission. Meet at the Wilderness Centre, Paradise Meadows.

FMI and to register, email Alison:



Members of the public are invited to attend the upcoming Annual General Meeting! There will be annual reports, the election of the 2017 Board of Directors, and a presentation by Dan Strickland on the Gray Jay Project in Strathcona Provincial Park. Please join us and find out more about the great work that SWI has done and will continue in the upcoming year! 

7:00pm on June 6, 2017

At the Florence Filberg Centre (downstairs Evergreen Lounge) in Courtenay


Be sure to join us for the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival tour for a selection of top picks from this years’ critically acclaimed mountain films from around the world. This fundraiser event is hosted by Strathcona Wilderness Institute, with proceeds supporting our mission to inspire awareness, appreciation and stewardship of the natural world through education and participation.

Friday, April 28 @ the Stan Hagen Theatre (North Island College)

2300 Ryan Road, Courtenay

7:00-9:30pm (doors open at 6:30pm)

$15 – Adults, $5 – Children 12 and under

Buy tickets at the door or online at: 


Oli A red

SWI is pleased to present

How the Mountains lost their Whistle”

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 26th 7.00 – 9.00 pm 

ROTARY ROOM, Florence Filberg Centre (Lower Floor)

411 Anderton Avenue, COURTENAY  V9N 6C6

  TICKETS $10  ($5 under 12s)  at the door 

Doors open 6.45 pm.

Presentation Overview : Our backyard mountains are home to one of the world’s most critically endangered mammals. The Vancouver Island Marmot, once numbered fewer than 30 individuals in the wild. Today, through recovery efforts led by the Marmot Recovery Foundation, the population is growing, but this uniquely Island species continues to face significant challenges. Come, learn more about the Vancouver Island Marmot, its struggle to survive, and the work underway to help the species re-establish itself in Strathcona Park.
For more information visit the Foundation’s Website :

Mama & pup 1


ADAM TAYLOR , Executive Director of the VANCOUVER ISLAND MARMOT RECOVERY FOUNDATION will give this illustrated talk on  the background history and recent updates on the activities of the Foundation.  His background includes leading land conservation and programs to recover other endangered species on Vancouver Island, including bats, turtles, snakes, and slugs.

Adam Taylor (1)


Marmot Hollis by A Taylor _sm

Marmot Willow


OCTOBER 28th, 7.00 – 9.00 pm

STAN HAGEN THEATRE, North Island College,  Courtenay, V9N 8N6

Cost – $10 per person, half price for students, at the door .

Doors open at 6.30 pm.

SWI is pleased to present

Koos Van Sittert

giving an illustrated talk:

” In Search of Snow Leopards and Other Rare Things: A Journey to Remote Locations around the World”



Overview of the Presentation

Found only in the remote high rocky terrain of the Himalayas, the elusive Snow Leopard is one of the rarest animals on the planet and is on the IUCN’s Red-list of threatened species.  Exact numbers for the shy animal are hard to determine but it is estimated there are between 3500 and 7000 of the cats in the wild. The Snow Leopard, known for its beautiful, thick fur, has a white or soft gray coat with ringed spots of black on brown. The markings help camouflage it from prey. With their thick coats, long and heavy fur-lined tail and paws covered with fur, Snow Leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold and dry habitats in which they live.

To see one in the wild is an extremely rare event. In 2014, our guest speaker Koos Van Sittert decided to try his luck. Travelling to Ladakh in Northern India, a semi desert area between the Himalaya and Karakoram mountains, Koos set out in the fall when cooler weather push the cats down to relatively lower altitudes and before the snow makes it difficult to travel. While exploring the Rumbak Valley in the Hemis National Park, an area that offers easy access and good opportunities to see indigenous species, Koos had the most amazing luck to see and photograph a Snow Leopard, although only fleetingly, at close range. Koos will relate his experience and what it feels like when you see this endangered cat.
Koos will take us on a journey to other remote locations around the world where he has searched for rare and endangered species over the last 3 years. He trekked through the mountains of Bhutan and Arunchal Pradesh, and while there searched for the Tragopan. These birds are commonly called “horny pheasants” because of two brightly coloured, fleshy horns on their head that they can erect during courtship displays. In the Ruwenzori mountains on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) he climbed 5109 m Mount Stanley, Africa’s third highest mountain. There he searched for the Ruwenzori Turaco. Although not globally threatened, its range is restricted to the slopes of Mount Stanley. On another trip he went deep into the heart of the DRC looking for Bonobo’s, formerly called the Pygmy Chimpanzee but an endangered great ape, and the mystical Congo Peacock found only in the Congo basin. Earlier this year he went to Ethiopia and hiked Ras Dashen, the country’s highest mountain, and found Ruspoli’s Turaco and the Bleeding Heart Baboon. Finally, although not in search of wildlife, he challenged the ocean by sailing across the North Pacific from Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands with another local adventurer Steve Millar, a distance of 2100 nautical miles in 21 days, on a 36 foot sail boat.


Some of the Exotic Birds:

Blyth’s Tragopanblyths-tragopan

Ruwenzori Turacoruwenzori-turaco-1

Congo Peacockcongo-peacock