Sandhill cranes (Grus Canadensis) and mallard ducks (Anas Platyrhynchos), George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, Canada

Getty Images/Gallo Images

Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

British Columbia

This 300-hectare sanctuary attracts feathered fowl and curious visitors in almost equal measure. Bald eagles, Siberian swans, blue herons and 264 other species roost here, and there are plenty of opportunities for viewing. Undoubtedly the most spectacular sight is when up to 80,000 snow geese drop by in the fall en route to Wrangel Island, off Siberia’s eastern coast.

October is the best time to catch the early arrival of these birds, when they move around the area in huge, surging flocks of up to 20,000 in search of tasty marsh plants. In contrast, springtime brings millions of Western Sandpipers to the site, as well as beady-eyed hawks, eagles, cormorants, ospreys and other fish-eating wildlife (including seals). All are hungrily following the migratory salmon – a roiling aquatic buffet – to the Fraser River’s mouth. The sanctuary has an observation tower, plenty of wooden hides, 3km of winding paths and a smattering of picnic tables, but keep in mind that there is very little activity here in summer: October to April is the best time to visit. This is not a park, so dress as if you’re heading out on a soft hike and bring some bottled water along to keep you hydrated, plus sunscreen if necessary.

A 40-minute drive from Vancouver, the sanctuary is 13km west of Ladner in the Municipality of Delta. From downtown Vancouver, take Hwy 99 south through Richmond and the George Massy Tunnel and follow the signs toward Ladner. From Ladner, follow Ladner Trunk Rd west to 47A Ave and on to River Rd. Follow River Rd for 3km and cross the bridge to Westham Island. Follow the main road to where it ends in front of some large black gates. The driveway to the left leads to the sanctuary’s parking lot.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby British Columbia attractions

1. Britannia Shipyard

1.46 MILES

A riverfront complex of historic sheds housing dusty tools, boats and reminders of the region's maritime past, this is one of the most evocative, fancy…

2. Gulf of Georgia Cannery

1.59 MILES

British Columbia's best 'industrial museum' illuminates the sights and sounds of the region's bygone era of labor-intensive fish processing. Most of the…

3. Steveston Museum

1.61 MILES

This historic bank building (1905) now serves as a post office, visitor center and small museum offering a concise history of Steveston’s Japanese…

4. London Heritage Farm

1.72 MILES

An 1890s white-painted farmhouse that offers an evocative glimpse into Richmond's pioneer-era agricultural past. Check out the beardy photos of past…

5. Steveston Interurban Tram

2.04 MILES

A richly evocative reminder of the days when trundling red trams used to roll in to Richmond from Vancouver, this century-old artifact has been lovingly…

6. International Buddhist Temple

3.48 MILES

Contrasting sharply with the suburban monotony of Richmond, this elaborate Buddhist temple is a large and handsome structure endowed with a surfeit of…

7. Richmond Olympic Oval

5.22 MILES

The biggest venue built for the 2010 Winter Olympics (it hosted long-track speed skating), this riverfront behemoth has since become a community sports…

8. Richmond Night Market

6.73 MILES

Arguably Richmond's biggest lure is this atmospheric, always busy, Asian-flavored night market that has grown from humble beginnings in 2000 to become the…