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Ian Kalinowsky, B.A., B. Comm, CFA, CTC, CTM | President & CEO

Who is Ian:
Ian is the President and CEO, having purchased The Great Canadian Travel Company in the fall of 2014 from the founder Max Johnson (est. 1980). The interesting part of having Ian as the President is that he has no previous experience in the business of travel. However, after being uprooted at the age of 10 to live for 4 years in Peru and then 3 years in Guatemala, this experience started a lifelong love of travel.

After attaining degrees in economics, psychology and accounting, Ian built a high net worth money management firm with offices in Winnipeg and Calgary and then sold it to its employees who continue to successfully operate the firm. Ian has been married to Margot since 1985 and they have 2 adult children – David and Derek. Ian and Margot live in Winnipeg and spend a considerable amount of time at their cottage on an island at Lake of the Woods.

TOP 5 travel experiences

  • Have travelled to over 50 countries with Margot, David and Derek
  • Sitting completely alone on a sand dune on the border of Morocco and Algeria – a 2 day camel trek into the Sahara
  • Scuba diving to 80 ft with David amongst a school of bull Sharks (the deadliest sharks in the world) and watching the staggering majesty of these animals
  • Climbing through the early morning mist to the top of Whannu Picchu (the mountain that overlooks Macchu Pichu) to find out the only other person on the mountain was also from Winnipeg (small world)
  • To spend several hours watching 3 male cheetahs stalk, run down and kill an antelope. Despite the violence it was choreographed beauty.

What is Ian’s closing comment:
“Home is where your heart is.” Despite the vast amount of travel and the amazing sites and sounds and experiences in the world everyone has an ingrained notion of “home.” Ask a person “where is your home” and everyone will have an answer that hits deep into their character and soul. Sometime we travel in order that we may better know our home.

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New from Ian Kalinowsky, B.A., B. Comm, CFA, CTC, CTM

Ian’s Best Days Ever!

November 12, 2019 | Ian Kalinowsky

Iceland Scuba Diving – one of my Best Days Ever!

I am a Scuba Diver. I have dived hundreds of times in Mexico, Roatan, Belize, Cuba, Thailand and Canada. But, my single best dive was at the Silfra Dive site in Iceland with my eldest son David.

  Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park. It was formed by earthquakes in 1789 when the tectonic plates tore the earth apart and created this fissure. It is a “living” dive site in that the continents drift apart at a rate of 2cm per year. Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive (or snorkel) directly in a crack between two continents.

The Silfra fissure cut into the underground spring and filled with glacial melt-water from the nearby Langjökull glacier. The water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years before reaching the spring that feeds into Silfra. The water is therefore extremely pure by the time it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake and it allows for underwater visibility of over 100 meters in Silfra. For reference good visibility in the ocean is about 100 feet (33 meters). The underwater visibility of the water in Silfra will rarely, if ever, be surpassed. Silfra is said to have the clearest water in the world. Read More >

Drum Dance Ceremony in Naujaat (Nunavut)

June 24, 2019 | Ian Kalinowsky

Margot (my spouse and tour director for Great Canadian Travel) and I were escorting a group of clients to venture out to the Floe Edge in the community of Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay and translated as “seagull nesting place”) and to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on the summer solstice – June 21, 2018. Naujaat is considered to be a “traditional” community in that they rely on hunting and fishing for their sustenance.

The Naujaat community has built a wonderful “elders’ retreat” outside of the community. It is away from the hustle and bustle of the community and allows for contemplation, quiet enjoyment of each other’s company and celebrations. Our group was invited into the retreat to experience and learn about drum dancing.

  A Qulliq – a traditional, soapstone oil-lamp filled with sealskin oil – was ceremonially lit and placed on a table by a window overlooking the rolling hills and Hudson Bay in the background. It was very calming.

Read More >

Never Setting Sun, Summer Solstice in Naujaat (Nunavut)

June 24, 2019 | Ian Kalinowsky

  Ian & Margot in front of Arctic Circle Marker, Naujaat

I was escorting a group of clients to venture out to the Floe Edge in the community of Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay and translated as “seagull nesting place”) and to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on the summer solstice – June 21, 2018. It was a very special place to be on this particular day, in that Naujaat is located exactly on the Arctic Circle. Read More >

Okavango Delta, Botswana

August 20, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

Repost: We have an escorted Botswana Safari in 2019. For 6 nights, you can experience the Linyanti Concessions and the Okavango Delta with a Great Canadian Travel Group escort!

It is a little unusual to say, “I am really looking forward to going on a wet African Safari.” Most people wonder why you would want to go and sit in the rain. But a ‘wet safari’ is the experience offered in the

Okavango Delta of Botswana and the camps that I had the privilege of staying at in March 2017. Read More >

Airport Wonders

April 05, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

I have the great fortune to travel. In the first three months of 2018 I have flown in 737s, ATRs, turboprops, ski planes, helicopters, and a Dreamliner. I have been on 42 separate flights and will easily surpass 150 for the year. I have been to the largest airports in the world and a small trailer calling itself an airport. Read More >

Into the Belly of Iceland

April 03, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

On my most recent trip to Iceland I had the great experience of descending into the earth on three separate tours that involved ice, lava caves and a volcano. You could think of it as experiencing the hottest and coldest places on the planet all in one comfortable day.  Read More >

Heliskiing in Iceland

March 09, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

“Enormous playground of never skied colours, chutes and wide opened glaciers” is how National Geographic starts their article describing skiing in Iceland.

“Without a doubt Iceland offers some of the most mind blowing heliskiing on the planet,” says snow magazine’s “top 10 Heliskiing experiences in Europe.” Read More >

Iceland – Beer Spa

February 12, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

It is common knowledge that Scandinavians love to partake in the ritual of hot tubs and saunas. In Iceland, which is blessed with an unlimited amount of hot water, created geothermally, hot tubbing or “going to the pool” is a most common ritual. What is uncommon is the newly opened BEER spa! It opened in July 2017 in the northern part of the country, just outside of Akureyri in the Troll Peninsula, the spa is an amazing place. Hot tubs filled with beer that you sit in while simultaneously pouring yourself a craft beer to drink and enjoy. Read More >

Temperatures in Iceland

February 05, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

There is a standing comment in Iceland – “if you don’t like the weather – wait 5 minutes.” I spent 8 days in Iceland in January 2018 and I can verify that the statement is accurate. In the eight days there was a blizzard and 100 mph winds; rain; sleet; fog; ice and glorious sun. But one thing that it was not, was COLD. The mercury did drop to a low of about -5C.

Read More >

A Dinner Invitation

December 05, 2017 | Ian Kalinowsky

Hey there! We would like to invite you for dinner!

Sounds great – when would you like to go?

What are you doing in March?

Um, I don’t know? That’s pretty far in advance.

Well, this place is pretty spectacular and reservations fill up fast.

Sure, I can mark it on my calendar so I don’t book anything else that day – when is it?

Well, that’s the thing. It’s Monday, March 5th, but you won’t be home until the 6th.

I’ve never heard of dinner taking two days…

It’s actually 1000 km North of Winnipeg. I have already made you a plane reservation on CalmAir.

I am intrigued. A thousand km north of Winnipeg? Like Churchill?

Yes, but dinner is not actually in Churchill.

We have to go somewhere else?

Yes, a tundra buggy is going to come and pick us up and head out of town.

Cool so we are going to eat sandwiches in a tundra buggy.

No, in a tent.

What? A tent – isn’t the temperature about -20C?

It’s about -21C today, but the tent will be warm because it’s inside a massive 250-year stone fort.

So let me get all this straight. We are having dinner –  in a tent –  inside a fort – reached by a truck called a Tundra Buggy – after taking a 2-hour flight north from Winnipeg. Anything else I should know?

Oh, the tent is clear so we can watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky, in a location that NASA says is the best on the planet.

This is an amazing surprise. Do I even ask what is for dinner?

Actually, it’s a surprise. Chef Mandel Hitzer, from the celebrated Winnipeg restaurant Raw: Almond, will prepare a dinner inspired by the type of ingredients that explorers, adventurers and First Nations folks would have used in their meals 250 years ago while at the Prince of Wales Fort.

Ok! I’m fired up and ready to go!

One last thing: don’t wear heels.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

August 24, 2017 | Ian Kalinowsky

 

It is a little unusual to say, “I am really looking forward to going on a wet African Safari.” Most people wonder why you would want to go and sit in the rain. But a ‘wet safari’ is the experience offered in the Okavango Delta of Botswana and the camps that I had the privilege of staying at in March 2017. Read More >

The Bird is the Word

August 14, 2017 | Ian Kalinowsky

African Fish Eagle

Our group was going on Safari to the Kalahari Desert; The Okavango Delta and the Linyanti Marshlands. We had all been on Safaris before and we were very much looking forward to spotting the Big Five (Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard and Rhinoceros) and the numerous types of antelopes, giraffes, ostriches and everything else that we could possibly experience. What was not on our excitement or anticipation list was birds. We just had not given birds much thought prior to coming on this safari and as we started out on the jeep that early morning they were the farthest thing from our minds. It is not that they weren’t present: we could hear the multiple songs and could see them flitter around in the early dawn light. It is just that birds had not once entered into any of our conversations or into our trains of thought as to what we were going to experience. Read More >

What to Take with you on Safari – A Comprehensive List

June 09, 2017 | Ian Kalinowsky

The brochure was very specific and it has caused me great concern. 15 KG of luggage is allowed. Are they serious? How on earth was I going to do that?

This is probably what causes the most questions and concerns for our clients when they go on Safari. So having returned from my trip to South Africa & Botswana, where I was on Safari at 3 different camps and spent time in Johannesburg and Cape Town, I thought I would lay out everything I took. Hopefully this gives you an idea that the allowance is really not much of a burden.

Read More >

Iceland Blue Lagoon Spa Day

October 14, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

Wheels up in Winnipeg at 2:45pm, down in Toronto long enough to have some dinner, then 4 hours and 50 minutes later we landed at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. With black lava fields all around it felt a bit like I think it might feel to land on the moon!

Read More >

Food Glorious Food Iceland Style!

October 11, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

What’s the food like in Iceland? We get asked that a lot.  I had the good fortune to sample a variety of local, Icelandic foods during my week here with my family.  It was fresh, a lot local and organic, innovative and all delicious!

One of my favourite eateries in Reykjavik is the Tapas Restaurant. A 16 year old restaurant set in a cave-like setting it’s warm with the right amount of lighting and is very quiet despite being full of people. An amazing group of the most attentive staff on the planet! Great service and the managers knew absolutely every single ingredient in every dish of an extensive menu.

Serrano with fresh figs and chilled honey       Puffin* with blueberry sauce and nuts

*I’m sorry – I know puffins are cute!  But, they’re also plentiful (by the millions here in Iceland in the summer) and are a popular food in the Nordic countries.

Tapas – small dishes served when perfectly done. The three of us shared 10 dishes in total and were full by meal’s end. 10 dishes, 4 glasses of house red, a beer and our bill was ISK21,200 (about US$190/CA$250), which we felt was very good value.

And how could we not try the iconic Icelandic pylsur (hot dog), made mostly from fresh, organic, Icelandic lamb mixed with a bit of pork and beef.  The casing is natural, giving the hot dog a nice “snap” when you bite into it.  Order “ein með öllu” (roughly pronounced “ane meth alt) and you’ll get one with the works – a hot dog in a soft, steamed bun topped with raw white onions, crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep and remoulade, a delicious, creamy sauce made with mayonnaise, capers, mustard, and herbs. You can choose to leave off some of the toppings, but we’d recommend you try “one with everything”, just like the Icelanders do!

Food, glorious food, Icelandic style!

Remarkable Reykjavik

October 05, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

I had the good fortune to stay for a week in the remarkable, capital city of Reykjavik with my wife Margot and our son David.

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Thanks to Elfa Bjork, manager of one of the apartment properties we use for our clients, we stayed in a beautiful, centrally located, two-bedroom apartment. Read More >

Scuba Diving and Snorkelling, Silfra, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

October 04, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

I had a few extra days before and after a conference I was attending in Iceland so my wife, Margot and one of our sons, David, decided to come along for a vacation in this amazing country.

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On October 2nd, David and I went scuba diving and Margot went snorkelling and experienced the clearest water in the world.  We were diving in a rift between the North American and European tectonic plates in Thingevillir Park, at a dive site named Silfra. Read More >

Cuba – Our mojitos already had mint

July 26, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

After reading this very interesting article (it’s not as negative as it sounds and is well worth a read!), I realized that now, more than ever, really is the time to get to Cuba!

If you want to get to Cuba “before it changes,” you’re already too late

The article talks about the nostalgic, but not always realistic, remembrances of the Cuba of “then”; the positive and hopeful changes seen in the Cuba of “now”; and the probably, and not always positive, imagined Cuba of “later”, that is post-influx of American tourists and their dollars.

There are a variety of ways to visit Cuba sooner rather than later.  Fly on a scheduled airline or charter flight and book accommodation in the lively and passionate capital of the country, Havana.  On a sun package that includes charter airfare and hotel accommodation, usually at one of the variety of popular tourist beach locations, and maybe a couple of local tours thrown in.  On an escorted, small group tour that gets you away from the touristy beach areas into the countryside.  Or on a cruise that sails around the island, stopping at a number of diverse and interesting ports.  All of these options are great for the variety of people that want to visit Cuba.  And don’t worry, it really isn’t too late!

       Carolina, a tourist from Chile, jumps while having her picture taken by a friend before a tribute to revolutionary leader Che Guevara in front of the Cuban Interior Ministry (MININT) in Havana's Revolution Square October 8, 2013. Forty-six years after he was captured by soldiers in a Bolivian jungle and executed the next day, the Argentine-born Ernesto Guevara De La Serna, AKA, 'Che', is still a national hero in Cuba where he joined Fidel Castro in an armed uprising that ousted a U.S. backed dictator in 1959. Tuesday will be Guevara's 46th death anniversary. The words on the building read: "Onward to victory, always".

How many ways can you visit a Polar Bear?

February 25, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

So you know you want visit a Polar Bear but you need to figure out the way to visit that works best for you? Well there are actually several ways that one can have a polar bear experience and I will lay out them out here for you, defining the differences between each one. Read More >

One of my favorite restaurants in Reykjavik

January 16, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

“Tapas” is an upscale restaurant very close to the harbour in Reykjavik. Would be a great place to go with a group as the portion sizes were very large. There was also a “chef selection” of 6 items that cost 7500 ISK (about $75 CDN). Various groups that I spoke to found the food, and the prices, to be exceptional.

  1. Saltfish with chorizo in a tomato and date sauce.
    1. The highlight was the tomato and date sauce which absolutely shined and provided an exceptional level of taste to the saltfish. Pairing a fish with a sausage was also very interesting and it was the chorizo that was in fact “saltier” than the saltfish which given their respective names would not have been expected.
  2. Rack of lamb in a samfaira and mint sauce
    1. Done medium rare the lamb was exceptional. I would have preferred if the mint sauce was a little “more minty” as it seemed to lack that bite that comes from using enough mint in a sauce.

I had only 2 of some 60 possible tapas selections and it would have been a true pleasure to have dined their every night. It is “underground” and you have the feeling that you are going into a cavern or a cellar. The manager was exceptional as I was the only single diner and he seemed to spend a fair amount of time talking to me about the food.

I will definitely be dining again on my next trip.

Tapas in Iceland, where I went and what I loved

January 15, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

“Icelandic Tapas” was a small restaurant in downtown Reykjavik that served their offerings in jars. You could buy a “single” jar or there was a 4 jar or a 6 jar price or a “chef 6 jar” offering. I selected the 6 jar offering but chose them myself. Read More >

Light and a “Room with a View”

January 14, 2016 | Ian Kalinowsky

No this is not a critique about the movie “Room with a  View” but rather the view outside my 5th floor window of this exceptional hotel  apartment that I stayed at for 5 nights in January.  It is located right on the main shopping street Laugevegar 18 and the manger Elfa was so bubbly, friendly and helpful that it really felt like home. The fact that I had a full kitchen really helped and given the prices of everything in the restaurants (a cup of black coffee is 450 ISK – about $4.50 CDN), a kitchen would prove very valuable for anyone.

Another ideal feature is the 4th hot tub on a very large deck. After a day of hiking or shopping what a better place than to lounge in this 10 person (I am guessing since in January I was the only person ever in it). This is the view from the hot tub, the evening of 16 January, 2016.

Iceland is not cold (at the depths of this stormy week the absolute low was -10C and the temp during the day hovered just below zero), but it is unusual to have sunrise at 11:04 and sunset at 4:09pm. I took the following series of between 9 am and 11:30am just before the sun burst out. This was not an unusual sunrise to experience the week that I was there. It is often commented on that the light during the winter months in Iceland is almost ephemeral and is a photographers delight. I am not a photographer but it just seemed different – I am not sure what that means – just different.