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Fall on Pelee Island

IMG_3993For most people, the passing of Labour Day means a big change in our day-to-day lives. It marks the time when the kids go back to school, when fall starts unofficially, and Canadians collectively lament the frigid winter months that they know lay just beyond the horizon. Brr. On Pelee, we feel change in the air as well. Here, the kids are back to school, just like on the mainland. Not only have those attending Canada’s Most Southern School on Pelee Island began their fall semester, but so, too, have many of the summer students that became key facets of the community over the summer. Many have left to continue their education elsewhere. Some of the summer residents have also begun to fortify their cottages, pack up and ship out. While it’s sad to see some of our friends go, this is not to say that this is by any means a lonely time on Pelee Island. Autumn, in fact, is one of the most exciting seasons on Pelee.

Despite the fact that we know winter is coming, we also know that fall weather brings a welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity we were feeling only days ago. Cooler air makes it more comfortable to enjoy the beautiful outdoor spaces we have here, especially on the many sunny, breezy days we have this time of year. This weather also brings on the beautiful colours associated with the changing of the leaves at this time of year, and on Pelee we are fortunate to have about 2,000 acres of protected spaces where these colours can be enjoyed at their best.

The waning of the summer crowds and cooler weather also means that these are some of the best days for viewing wildlife on the island! Fewer people visiting the trails here means that those who do are much more likely to come across some of the more elusive animals that we take pride in on Pelee. This is also the time of year when birds are migrating south for the winter and the Pelee Island Bird Observatory is busy every morning catching, cataloguing and banding the hundreds of species of birds that will stop by on their long journey to their overwintering habitats. More than 100 species of birds had already been observed by the end of August, including hummingbirds, warblers, flycatchers and many others, making this an exciting time for anyone with even the mildest interest in birds. Monarch butterflies are also making their way past the island on their migration to Mexico, and can be observed in numbers greater than 100 at Fish Point, though it is common to see them all over the island.

Overall, there may be fewer people on the island these days, but that doesn’t mean that the season is over. All the businesses on the island are still open – eager to serve the people that will come to visit during the autumn months before closing up shop for the winter. Fridays and Saturdays remain busy, with the fun continuing long into the night around campfires and at the island’s restaurants. Soon, it will be time for the pheasant hunts, and the island will experience another great influx of people continuing into November. So yes, winter is coming. Winter is always coming. But for now, there’s lots of time left to Explore Pelee and enjoy all that the island has to offer this fall.

For more information about things to do on Pelee this fall, visit the websites of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, the Municipality of Pelee, or, better yet, give us a call at Explore Pelee, and we’ll make sure you have the adventure of a lifetime on Pelee Island!

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Erin Says Goodbye

blogpic2What an incredible summer it has been.  Pelee Island is such a magical place, filled with charming people, beautiful landscapes, and a plethora of opportunity. Having the chance to work as the Operations Manager for Explore Pelee this summer has been a truly unmatched experience.  I have grown so much over the past four months, and I am unable to express how thankful I am.

Explore Pelee is a fabulous company to work for.  The amount of people you meet each and every day certainly keeps things interesting, and no two days are ever alike.  We have the chance to interact with people from all different walks of life, and geographical locations, coming from different backgrounds and different professional industries.  The best part of interacting with our customers, is the fact that we are given the opportunity to make their day – and that is what we strive to do.  If a customer doesn’t leave us with a smile on their face, it is because they are sad that their time with us is over!

It is incredibly difficult to narrow down to my favourite moments of summer 2015, as the whole summer has been good to me.  One that definitely stands out is when I had the absolute pleasure of guiding ninety-two year old Erma around Pelee.  She said she was trying things she had never done, and Pelee was one of them! She was excited, engaged and an all-around awesome addition to my tour.  All of the tours that we get to give are light-hearted, educational and most importantly, fun!

The other services of Explore Pelee include, property management, environmental education for students, shuttle service, and networking events.  Being able to learn about efficient coordination has been very valuable to my professional development, and Explore Pelee has also allowed me to improve upon my time management, public relations, customer service, and public speaking skills. The learning opportunity provided by Anne Marie and Explore Pelee is one that will carry throughout the rest of my professional life.

Although my time working on Pelee has come to an end (after three unforgettable summers!), I will always cherish my time spent here, and I will always continue to return as a visitor. I truly believe that Pelee is a special place, and our clients see it too.  Whether you spend a day, a couple nights, a whole summer, or an entire year, Pelee will definitely leave you with a lasting impression.

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Why we do what we do!

If you haven’t heard of CaptureSimon Sinek, you are part of a group that is growing smaller by the second. Simon is an ethnologist by training who has become a global phenomenon, so much so that he was invited to address the United Nations. He also has a TED Talk with more than 23 million views. His success hinges on a few simple ideas, and he has developed a way of explaining why certain leaders and companies in the world stand out from the rest – He calls it the “Golden Circle”. As he explains it, every company in the world knows WHAT they do. Apple, for example, knows that they make computers. Some companies also know HOW they do it. Apple makes beautifully designed, user-friendly computers.

What’s most important
is the WHY. Very few people or organizations know WHY they do what they do. For Sinek, WHY refers to what your purpose, cause or belief is. “Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?” he asks. According to Sinek, those that stand out are the organizations that start with the WHY and work their way out from there. In the case of Apple, they start with the idea that in everything they do, they believe in challenging the staGolden Circletus quo and doing things differently. That is their WHY. HOW they do that is by making products that are beautiful and user friendly. WHAT they do is make great computers. This, Simon Sinek argues, is what sets them apart from all the other computer companies out there. It’s what makes Apple so successful. This is also why people like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers were successful in their endeavors. They knew WHY they were doing the things they did, and so they attracted people who had similar beliefs, ultimately leading to their successes.

At Explore Pelee, we find Simon’s theories inspiring, and decided to take some time to reflect on why each of us do what we do.

 

Anne Marie:

Owning and running Explore Pelee has been a dream come true. I always wanted to work for myself and do that somewhere I wanted to live, use my education and live on a cool island!

After losing my mother at the age of 27, I didn’t know what else to do but move to Pelee Island and start fresh. Sometimes following through with those crazy ideas does get you somewhere.

I love meeting new people, I love adventure, I love exploring the outdoors and enjoying the simple things in life. And I love living in small communities where you know your neighbours, don’t have to lock your house or car. I trust people and if I need anything, it’s a phone call away. This season has been amazing with a stand-up team who ‘get it’. At times, I feel like my vision for Explore Pelee has changed to meet the needs of the industry. I started Explore Pelee with my dad’s old mountain bike from Canadian Tire and a hand painted sign that said Explore Pelee. I’d stand outside rain or shine and meet the ferry gathering up people who wanted to tour around the island. Eight seasons later, Explore Pelee has taught me a lot. I am also passionate about teaching others what I know and helping others reach their potential fulfilling lives. This one life has so much to offer, as long as you are willing to stick your head out and give it a go!

 

Erin:

When breaking down Explore Pelee, it is simple to determine our WHAT and our HOW.  WHAT: providing astounding island tours to visitors of the island and HOW: is by hiring enthusiastic, quick to learn and excitable staff. But WHY do we do what we do, and WHY are we successful in what we do? Speaking for myself, my WHY comes from the desire to provide a quality service to those who visit Pelee, and also comes from the desire to teach others about the historical and ecological value of Pelee.  It is true that our staff could be working elsewhere, but it is also true that we are far more fulfilled working for Explore Pelee.  We spend our days outdoors, living active lives, spending time with fantastic customers, and we have the opportunity to teach others, while also learning new things everyday.  It sounds like a dream job, and quite frankly, it has been.  The WHY for me becomes incredibly simple, WHY I work for Explore Pelee is because it makes me excited to go to work, and that is far more valuable then any paycheck.

 

Astri:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit nutty about nature. I was that kid who had terrariums full of snails, spiders and caterpillars. I usually had a snake in my pocket and praying mantises on my shoulders. As pets I kept crawfish and other weird critters. As much as I loved the company of my animal friends, what was most exciting was the times when I could get other people excited about them as well. WHY I do what I do is to feed my passion for natural environments and getting people excited about them. I love making people happy every day and presenting them with new and exciting experiences. HOW I do this is by presenting myself as an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and reliable guide to their experience. WHAT I do is work as a guide with Explore Pelee.

 

Vince:

There is no harder question to answer in the world than “Why?” There is always another “Why?” after you have answered the first one. It may be a troublesome problem but it has given certain people the drive and passion to do things that are outside the scope of normal people’s lives. Why move to an island that most people have never heard about? Why work long hours trying to please complete strangers? Why live on an island where the grocery store closes at 2 pm? Why live a life where dial-up internet is still a thing? I have come up with several answers to these questions, but continue to come up with more questions. However, I’ve found that my favourite answer to this question is: “Because I can.” Life is for living and the best way to this is to continue searching for new experiences, new challenges, and new adventures. That is the reason why I chose to work as a guide for Explore Pelee and live on this island. In this industry, nothing is ever the same, nothing is ever easy, but at least you can always find something that gives you the answer you are looking for.

 

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Lessons From My First Week on Pelee Island

Life can be hard. Especially when you have just finished 8 years of post-secondary education and have no idea what you want to do with your life or how you ever plan to deal with the horrifying prospect of paying back your student loans. So, as is common practice with new graduates, I did my best to put on my big girl pants and get a grown-up job in the city. It was miserable. So I tried a different job. Still miserable. Then, on a whim, I applied for a job at Explore Pelee, spoke with Anne Marie, and within 24 hours I had planned to move to Pelee Island and be a tour guide for the rest of the summer. That was about 2 weeks ago. Having spent one full week on the island, here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. There are lots of people in the world who wear many hats from day to day, working different jobs, volunteering, and dividing their time between other endeavors, but I have never been to a place where this is more evident than Pelee Island. People and places tend to serve many different purposes from one day to the next. Our Mayor, for example, is also an accountant and the owner of the bicycle shop, Comfortech. The town hall building, built in 1911, was at times used as a jail and and event venue, but is now the Pelee Island Heritage Centre. One of the old quarries is being used as an amphitheater for live music on Sundays. At Explore Pelee, we not only offer the island’s best tours (the world’s best tours, if you ask me, but I am admittedly biased) we also provide accommodations AND Canada’s most southern taxi service.
  2. You are only as good as your phone book. Living on an island with a permanent population of only around 300 (and even less in the winter) means that many of the things mainlanders take for granted are woefully out of reach. No, we do not have a Tim Hortons. Or a McDonalds, or a Canadian Tire, or a big grocery store chain. We do have one gas station, but it’s only open until 2:00 pm (closed Sundays) and fueling up can cost almost twice as much as the mainland. We also don’t have CAA, so if you lock your keys in your car, as I did on my first day of work (OF COURSE!) you better hope you have the phone number of someone who is good at breaking into cars. Luckily, Anne Marie knows everyone and it only took about an hour to solve the problem.
  3. “Traffic” is a relative term. City dwellers are familiar with the aggravation associated with endless rows of stop signs, red lights and traffic jams. On Pelee, there are no traffic lights. The landscape is dotted with a few stop signs and yield signs where the roads meet, but we don’t usually have traffic jams. At least not in the typical sense. Here, “traffic” is a couple of wild turkeys crossing the road with 20 or so of their hatchlings. It’s a great blue heron swooping in front of your vehicle as you try to make a turn. It’s a turtle meandering across your path. It’s a snake sunning itself on the asphalt in the afternoon sun. Often, it’s also the Explore Pelee passenger van stopping on the roadside to explain a point of interest to a tour group, or a group of cyclists making the 34km trek around the island.

There are many other lessons I could mention, but the bottom line is: Pelee Island is one of the most fun, unique and interesting places I have ever been. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted this job, but it’s clear to me now, only one week in, that it was an excellent decision to take it. Based on my experiences so far, life on Pelee will be challenging at times, but the rewards will far outweigh the risks. Life seems a lot less hard when you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty, depth of history and wonderful people. I can’t wait to see what kinds of adventures the rest of the summer has in store.

See you at the dock!

Astri

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Pelee Island Adventures

Though this is only my second week on the job, touring Pelee always has something new to offer. Being able to show people the value Pelee can provide on a more personal level is always refreshing. I love being outside, so naturally my favorite aspects have to do with the wildlife. On our light house walk we encounter turtles, snakes, and birds, all before reaching the beach. Occasionally we encounter the worst of Pelee’s traffic jams, crossing turkeys.
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Discussing invasive, extirpated, and endangered species, while enjoying some of our protected forest zones has to be a highlight for me. The last few weeks have been a little wet here but a little rain never slows us down. Couples and groups are still booking tours and we remain busy. Regardless of the weather, we always find something interesting happening, rain or shine come on out and Explore Pelee.

Until next time,
Andrew Nogueira

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Busy as a Bee!

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We have been busy!!! Large groups have been keeping us busy the last week, and it has been such a fun and fast-paced week. Our first group this week was a group from Great Canadian Tours who traveled from all over Ontario, to come together on Pelee Island. It was definitely an experience watching a coach bus maneuver its way through the narrow streets of Pelee, props to the driver!! (He did a fantastic job). The group was composed of 46 senior citizens, many of which had never traveled to the island before. They enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the Pelee Island Winery, and then we boarded their bus with them and took them on their tour!

Our next group was a group of grade six students from Gore Hill Elementary School. Our tour with them was a biking tour of the island. They too, enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the winery, and then got back on their bikes. They got to explore the downtown area, the west pump house, the cemetery, the Vin Villa ruins, and Sunset Beach (where they had a rock skipping contest). They then got to finish off their adventure with some ice cream from Cone Heads. An adorable kid from the class even gave us a 30-cent tip!!! (We didn’t want to spend it all in once place, so we’ve saved it for a special occasion). They were a really fun group, and we were privileged to spend the day with them!!

The next day we were mainland-bound and off to Point Pelee National Park in Leamington, to meet a group of grade nines from Kennedy Collegiate. This was my first time at Point Pelee National Park, and it was a great experience. The park is so much larger than I imagined, and I love how it is designed to showcase the various types of habitats and ecosystems. I found that the park posed many similarities to Pelee Island, and this made it easier for me to interact and engage with the students in this new environment. The students were given activity sheets and got to walk to the tip, have lunch on a beach, and roam the boardwalk. They also got to end their day with ice cream. They were an enthusiastic bunch who were eager to learn, and it was a pleasure to guide them!

Overall this has been an incredibly busy couple of days, and now its time for the weekend! The pace may not slow down, but the summer keeps getting better! Although school groups will be coming to an end with the end of the school year, our large tour groups will continue to make their way to Pelee Island to spend some quality time with myself and the rest of the Explore Pelee staff.

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Ciao for now,

Erin Carpenter

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Just the beginning…

 

These first couple weeks have most definitely not been dull!!! From broken down tour vans, to taxi madness, the start of the season has definitely prepared us for anything heading our way! Working for Explore Pelee has definitely changed my perspective on the day-to-day operations of a small business, and how demanding it can be. Learning the tour script was my first challenge, but came easier than I had imagined (and now I feel like a island pro!!!!!) – still trying to memorize Hulda’s Rock though – I’ll get back to you when that is complete. This post is going to focus on my three favourite moments of the summer so far:

NUMBER ONE: My first favourite moment was getting to see the bald eagle’s nest for the first time! (First of many, might I add). I had never witnessed such an incredible animal in its natural habitat, and being able to watch the Eaglets appear over time in the nest has been an amazing and unforgettable experience! I will continue to be curious about bald eagles, and I am excited to learn more about them.

NUMBER TWO: My second favourite moment was when Anne Marie and I were on a tour up at the Lighthouse. This tour was significant because we actually saw a Blue Racer snake hanging out on the rocks up there. In all the years that Anne Marie has been guiding tours to the Lighthouse, she has not come into contact with any Blue Racer snakes in that area of the island. The snake was incredibly beautiful, and I feel privileged to have witnessed one in the wild, as they are an endangered species.

NUMBER THREE: My third favourite moment was when I got to travel to Windsor with Anne Marie, to BREW Brewery to participate and help out with one of the Co-ed LIFT Series. This event provided me with an opportunity to understand the LIFT Series, and it also presented me with a networking opportunity. The LIFT Series truly do bring together a group of like-minded, enthusiastic, and successful people who want to share their experiences, and gain new ones. I feel so fortunate to have been able to participate in that event, and I hope to assist in the planning and execution of many more!!

Overall, this summer has been off to a great start, and I am thoroughly excited for what comes next! I know as the summer continues, the experiences will only get better and by the end of it, I will have a huge array of new stories and knowledge!!

Ciao for now,

Erin
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