Peter Barrett

180 Travel Agents from 10 countries, 10 provinces in nine days. What could go wrong? Ask the consultants and they’ll describe the Destination Canada MegaFAM as a “remarkable experience”.

They lurched down rivers in rubber dinghies, marveled at indigenous know-how and flew around this stunning country in helicopters and seaplanes – there was barely a moment to catch our breath.

Here’s how (some of) it went down:

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Australian agents pose in front of the bus before white water rafting in BC.

Your KarryOn correspondent arrived in Vancouver with 20 Australian Travel Agents at 7.30am, before being whisked north to Squamish, an outdoor British Columbia adventure Mecca. Karen McNally took out the first award of the trip thanks to Destination BC, a portable phone charger – it was recognition for how far the Perth agent had travelled.

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Agents pose for a group photo with Wes, a local tour guide, at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Once checked in at our comfy digs – Executive Suites Hotel & Resort – we took a ride on North America’s steepest gondola, the Sky to Sea, refueled with lunch, and went walking in the trees with local indigenous guides.

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Briefing by Canadian Outback Rafting in Squamish included what to do in the event of capsizing.

While the two days in BC were spent kayaking, heritage mine-visiting, mountain biking, white water rafting, scenic flight-taking and craft brewery touring, eating well soon became a real feature. Two highlights were the excellent breakfast  at Fergie’s Café and watching the AFL Grand Final at Norman Rudy’s (special thanks to the barstaff for handling our Aussie invasion!).

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Agents and a rainbow at Yellow Dog Lodge.

A 4.00am start on the third day had Agents back in Vancouver where we split up and were sent far and wide across the country: to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Alberta, Yukon, Nova Scotia, Ontario and with a few remaining in British Columbia.

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Agents posing in front of the Cheakamus River, Sunwolf Cabins, Squamish.

Itineraries were jam-packed with local delicacies and unique experiences, too many to mention in full. But here is a taste. Toni Perrin (Travel Managers) was impressed by the nature at Blachford Lodge, deep in the remote Northwest Territories. “You really feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, it’s quite restorative.” She enjoyed hiking and learning about what First Nations people use for food and medicine in the wilderness. “We even harvested a few of the cranberries that came after the first frost,” she says.

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Agents & staff pose for happy snaps at Yellow Dog Lodge.

Scottish Agent Craig Tait (Travel2, Glasgow) spent time in Whistler, a town known as a winter ski playground but also incredibly popular with extreme sport enthusiasts the rest of the year. “The diversity of it was amazing,” he says. “It was just a beautiful little village town…then you’ve got Blackcombe Mountain, which is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done. When you get up to the top you can just look over the town and see these little green lakes, which are unique to Canada – I’ve never experienced them anywhere else.”

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Agent Matt Chisholm moonlighting as a doorman for Howe Sound Inn & Brewing.

In Edmonton, Candice Holt from Toorak Travel & Cruise had fun in the newly opened Studio Bell Museum for music, did a progressive lunch tour and then took a train ride around Heritage Park Historical Village. And just out of Calgary, she visited the dinosaur capital of the world, Drumheller. “That was very cool and would be great for families, I think. You name it – T-Rexes – we saw it all.”

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Agent Tim Sherman looking uncharacteristically sophisticated, dinner at Howe Sound Inn & Brewing.

Agents were finally reunited at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto for the last two days of the trip. But there was no time for pause, with a full day of sightseeing, harbour tours, gin tasting, an aquarium visit and group photos in front of the 3D Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square. Then it was time to frock up for a meal in the CN Tower’s dramatic revolving restaurant, the 360, followed by a taste of Toronto’s nightlife and bars.

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Agents sun themselves underneath the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario.

In the morning, some Agents filed into the Chelsea’s conference room for the final day’s briefing noticeably more bleary-eyed than others. We heard from Tourism Toronto’s Johanne R. Belanger spruiking her “modern, progressive, inclusive, idealistic Canada” and others, while Agents were particularly thrilled to see Go-Pro footage they had taken in their groups edited into awesome, one-minute films.

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Agents enjoying breakfast at the Hilton Toronto.

There were prizes for best social media posts, some closing remarks from Destination Canada’s regional managing director, Rupert Peters and then it was time to say goodbye. Needless to say, there was plenty of love in the room, with plenty of hugs and even the odd tear. The CSP MegaFAM turned out to be MegaUNFORGETTABLE.

READ: 10 reasons why Canada is so hot right now

READ: Fishing, hiking & star-gazing in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories

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