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Local tour guide combines ecotourism with culinary experience
An Osoyoos-based tour guide is betting there are visitors who would enjoy mixing a visit to the natural life of the South Okanagan with a taste of fine wine and cuisine.
Greg Byron, of Great Horned Owl Eco-Tours, has recently teamed up with chef Chris Van Hooydonk, of Artisan Culinary Concepts, to offer tours combining exploration, organic foods and wine tasting.
“It’s something that the traveller wants today,” said Byron, 62, who has been providing other tours since he moved to Osoyoos in 2007 after retiring as a certified management accountant.
“They want to have these experiential tours. This tour will do all that and I think it’s something that’s going to meet with a lot of good reception in the marketplace.”
Byron believes that nobody else is doing a similar tour in this area, combining the introduction to the unique arid ecosystem with the food experience.
While the trips can be customized, they begin by teaching and showing visitors Canada’s only desert – the antelope brush eco-system with its dry grasslands, sagebrush and many species at risk.
The new tour builds on previous eco-tours that Byron has offered.
As an environmentalist with a strong interest in nature and ecology, Byron can talk about the plants, animals and birds of the region.
He is also passionate about local culture and history, telling guests about First Nations culture, mining and prospecting and other events and traditions that have shaped the past of the region.
His previous tours have included walks in the desert and grasslands, trips to the high alpine on Mount Kobau, climbing Anarchist Mountain, bird watching and a tour to the Mascot gold mine at Hedley, that includes a chance for guests to pan for gold in the Similkameen River.
Byron has offered wine tours in the past, but his connection with Van Hooydonk is new.
Previously an executive chef at Burrowing Owl, Van Hooydonk has more recently branched out on his own and bought a farm property that has been renovated to include a kitchen and dining room able to provide a quality gastronomic experience.
“We first met last year when he left the Burrowing Owl,” said Byron. “We started to have a discussion about how we could help each other. It’s sort of evolved to this new level. I think that it fits because we’re both thinking and talking about the same sorts of things – good quality food, organic food.
“We talk about the 100-mile diet and what better place to do it than the South Okanagan.”
The tour also makes stops at three unique vineyards, where guests can sniff and sample savory wines.
The South Okanagan is special because it includes five major ecosystems and all of them can be included in an eight-hour tour, Byron said.
“We have the desert here, we can grow all these wonderful foods,” said Byron. “The South Okanagan is an incredible place.”
For more information, visit: www.OkanaganEcoTours.com or call 250-495-0695.