Toronto outdoor adventure company expands its reach while maintaining foothold in the heart of the city.
Silently, swiftly, the paddle breaks the water’s stillness. The kayak propels itself forward effortlessly and cuts into the river barely making a sound. Clouds above are reflected in the water. Travelling the Humber River south towards the lake, you notice cormorants scrutinizing you from above; screeching sentries colonized together. Suddenly, to your right, the magic of seeing a deer, if even for a breathtaking few seconds, refreshing itself with a drink from the river. It notices you and in a flash it’s gone.
Undaunted, you continue your way down the river on this rapturous day. Coming ‘round a bend you look up and are surprised when you notice the CN Tower off in the distance. Suddenly you remember: you never left the city.
“It’s hard to believe that there’s this much nature so close to home, but then, that’s entirely the point behind Toronto Adventures,” the family-owned outdoor adventure enterprise that’s entering its 18th year of business, says operations manager Rosaire Cordina, 26.
“You’re seeing a different part of the city and learning something totally new and experiencing something you haven’t seen before,” he says.
Indeed, the company offers a plethora of watercraft training and rental opportunities along the placid beauty of the Humber River, where it’s possible to see critters ranging from beavers and otters to a diverse range of bird life including night herons, egrets and even kingfishers. It’s a unique perspective in the heart of the city and easy to forget that Toronto is actually quite a green place.
And while Toronto provides the core location for most of its activities, the company’s shifted course in recent years, expanding its programming to include everything from stand-up paddle boarding to day-and-weekend excursions, ranging from white water rafting near Ottawa to day tripping along the Beaver river, just south of Collingwood.
“It’s a great canoe trip. We leave nice and early and spend the day paddling the river. It’s a unique river; the valley’s totally flooded…it’s very surreal out there,” says Cordina.
The recent addition of an “adventure bus” has further expanded outdoor trips that include overnight camping in Algonquin Park, hiking the Copeland forest and even dog-sledding in the near north.
The company’s profile now is radically different than when it first started back in 1996, after former dot-com executive Ted Cordina bought a few kayaks for friends and family. For five years the business operated solely as asmall summer enterprise. Pere Cordina eventually bought a trailer and started organizing small events where he charged a small fee. It wasn’t until son Rosaire graduated marketing from George Brown College in 2011 that the company began expanding its reach. Nowadays he joins brothers Mathias and Kyle in overseeing day-to-day operations while cooking up new ideas to attract an ever-expanding clientele.
“We’re always looking for low-impact events that a wide range of audiences can partake in,” he says.
While the company’s programs tend to attract a large number of recent grads who fall into the 25-to-35-age range, Cordina says that a growing demographic is reflected in the 40-to-late-50s bracket as well. “We’ve had kayakers up to 75 years of age.”
And perhaps that’s the great strength of this little gem of an enterprise: Accessibility.
Since its inception, Toronto Adventures has aimed to create all-inclusive adventures accessible to everyone, and that begins with its location beside Old Mill subway.
“Many people don’t drive or own cars so we try to make it accessible to everyone,” he says. “The city’s diverse and we get a whole mix of people, skills and experience. The whole idea is to offer peace of mind; you just have to bring yourself.”
For more information or to book a trip, visit the company’s web site at: http://torontoadventures.ca/