Exploring the World’s Largest Freshwater Island


The rythmic chanting of the men gets louder as our campfire blazes to life.

It has been a beautiful, but tiring afternoon on horseback while exploring Manitoulin Island–a 1000 square mile patch of land on Lake Huron in northern Ontario–and now, after a long day in the saddle, I sit back, close my eyes and lose myself in the heartbeat of the music.

The performers, also our guides for the afternoon, are members of Manitoulin Island’s First Nation community – the aboriginal peoples who make up a majority of the islands 12 000 permanent inhabitants.

Manitoulin, which separates the larger part of Lake Huron from Georgia Bay, is the world’s largest freshwater island. It also claims the record for having the largest lake (Lake Manitou) within a freshwater island in the world. And, if you can also manage to digest this information, Treasure Island in Lake Mindemoya is the largest island in a lake on an island in a lake in the world.

In pre-colonial times, the native Anishnawbek people considered this island to be sacred, naming it Manidoowaaning, meaning: ‘Island of the Great Spirit,’ which was later morphed, via French and English, into ‘Manitoulin’. The story goes that the Creator, the Great Spirit, chose this fertile island as his own special place in the world.

In touch with the wilderness. Photo by Paul Steyn

In order to preserve and promote their cultural heritage, some of the island residents have put together a set of unique wilderness experiences that they call the Great Spirit Circle Trail. The experiences are designed to delve into the history and culture of the region and its original inhabitants.

“The sound of our drums must be like a heartbeat,” says our guide, Falcon, after their —> Read More