- Private Guiding
We want you to join Ghost Bear’s Jill Cooper and Simon Jackson for a unique, high-tempo and fun private excursion into the heart of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. By creating intimate and tailored experiences built around your expertise, interests and time, we offer field trips for adults that combine immersive storytelling with an unparalleled opportunity to understand and observe Rocky Mountain wildlife.
Simon has worked with, and on behalf of, wildlife for more than 25 years. Jill was a high school teacher for a decade and has led acclaimed field trips around the world. Together, they have spent the last decade immersed in the Canadian wilderness, documenting the stories of animals that call this landscape home and working to inspire a new generation to find a better balance between people and nature.
Bridging their skills as naturalists, advocates, educators and photographers, Simon and Jill offer storytelling and education-focused field excursions into the place of their hearts and aim to create experiences that inspire curiosity and instil a deeper appreciation for nature.
Simon and Jill believe that photography is the most powerful lens through which to reconnect with nature. When done responsibly and with purpose, it slows time and allows us to better appreciate the complex social structures, unique behaviour and even the joy expressed by wild animals.
Together, you will not only seek to find wildlife, but also learn about the ecology of the region, the stories of its inhabitants and the issues that impact their future. And by learning or renewing strategies for successful, ethical wildlife observation and photography, it’s hoped you leave better equipped to be a voice for wild creatures.
All proceeds from Ghost Bear field trips support the development of Nature Labs.
A great introduction to wildlife ecology, a half-day session is perfect for someone on a tight timeline while visiting the mountain parks. Together, we’ll cover core techniques used to document wildlife behaviour while we search two or three hotspots that will give you the best odds of coming away with a great animal story to share visually. By the end of the session, the goal will be to equip you with a better understanding of the Rocky Mountain ecosystem and how best to observe wildlife in the region.
From dawn to dusk, we’ll extensively cover the Rocky Mountain landscape in search of wildlife – focusing on a specific species or taking a more general approach, based on your interests. And with our local knowledge, we’ll work to provide you with the best odds of having a quality animal encounter during our limited time together, while exploring different eco-regions within the mountain parks. We hope to leave you with a better understanding of this wilderness and the stories of the animals that call it home, while also equipping you with new skills and techniques to enable you to better capture responsible wildlife stories.
With more time, we can provide you with the best possible experience in the mountain parks – increasing your odds of having your dream wildlife encounter. We’ll search extensively for the species of most interest to you and provide a detailed understanding of their ecology, behaviour and movements on the landscapes. And by covering multiple eco-regions, you’ll have a strong sense of where to find wildlife and how to capture the most compelling stories in the field. While in the field, we’ll also spend time (if of interest) discussing techniques to better enable you to share your story – from image post-processing to social media strategies to effective advocacy.
Spring (late April – early June): The birth of a new season brings renewal to the Rockies. Spring is the best season for grizzly bears, as snow at higher elevations brings the bears down into the lower valleys and offers observers the chance to document unique behaviour. It’s also a time when many animals are giving birth, making spring also the best time to photograph ungulate young and predators and prey at work.
Summer (late June – August): The warmth of summer also brings wildflowers, cloudscapes and magic light that make it an ideal time to document animals in the landscape. During berry season, bears are omnipresent and throughout the summer, ungulates frequently linger near water.
Fall (September – early November): As the colours of fall take hold of the landscape, ungulates take centre stage. Moose and deer are common sights and the elk rut transports you, seemingly, into a land before time. Dramatic behaviour, beautiful coats and large antlers make this one of the best seasons of the year.
Winter (December – mid March): With few people and no bugs, it’s hard to beat winter – even with the potential for arctic-like temperatures. The snowy season transforms the mountains and brings wildlife into the lower valleys in search of food, offering the best chance at finding the more elusive creatures: wolves, martens and otters.
At the age of 13, Simon founded the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition in the quest to unite the voice of young people to save Canada’s endangered white Kermode or spirit bear. Through the Youth Coalition, Simon gained the support of such high profile figures as Dr. Jane Goodall and the Backstreet Boys in the process of building the world’s largest youth-led environmental movement, a global network of more than 6 million in over 85 countries.
After two decades of work, the spirit bear is now saved, thanks to the work of diverse stakeholders coming together to establish one of the largest land protection measures in North American history.
For his efforts, Simon has received several honours, including being awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, being named as one of the 100 Angels of the Earth by UNESCOand, most notably, being honoured as one of Time Magazine’s sixty Heroes for the Planet – one of only six young people selected from around the world. His life’s work was the focus of an internationally televised movie, Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story.
Simon is an accomplished motivational speaker with agency Speakers’ Spotlight and an award-winning photographer and a widely published writer. Having contributed images and chapters to eight books, he has also had hundreds of essays and opinion editorials published in newspapers, magazines, academic journals, web sites and textbooks around the world – many underpinned by his photography. Simon has served as a columnist for CBC.ca and the Huffington Post and recently co-authored the book A Geography of Hope: Saving Primary Forests. His writing led him to being named a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers.
His varied work has enabled Simon to travel coast-to-coast-to-coast to share the lessons from his journey, as his powerful story is a reminder that one person can make a difference. Indeed, Simon’s storytelling ability, combined with his extensive relationships with community leaders, is the foundation on which Ghost Bear is built.
For a decade, Jill worked to create connections between technology and nature as a high school geography and media arts teacher, promoting experiential education and leading numerous excursions, including a science-focused field trip to Nicaragua.
When she found resource gaps, Jill worked to fill them – first off the side of her desk and eventually in the full-time pursuit of system-wide education resource development. Jill has advised the establishment of a school council for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and helped design of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition’s award-winning education program. And for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity she worked to build a new multi-faceted training program that seeks to better equip teachers to execute STEAM techniques.
No matter the project, Jill’s hallmark has been an approach that strives to be fair in her research and communication: Presenting unbiased facts to ignite a passion in others to think critically, work collaboratively and demand better of themselves and our world.
For each endeavour Jill has journeyed, she has proven an understanding of how to develop innovative programming from development to curriculum integration to classroom implementation. It’s this unique insight that is at the heart of Ghost Bear’s projects.
All proceeds from Ghost Bear field trips support the development of Nature Labs.