Make memories and find peace with an alpaca walk

Joyful. Calming. Peaceful. Therapeutic. These are words one might use to describe how it feels to take a walk with an alpaca. Cousins to the more widely known llama, alpacas are incredibly cute, with large round eyes, absurdly long necks and soft puffy fur. Although they are typically found in South America, Grotto Gardens recently added two alpacas to their Family Fun Farm at Maple Creek. Now, visitors to southwest Saskatchewan can reap the benefits of interacting with these charming animals.

Our family recently visited Grotto Gardens and we were immediately captivated by all that the farm has to offer. We fed goats, rode a tractor train, enjoyed laughing during Goat Yoga, tasted delicious treats from the café, and were given a sneak peak of their newest activity, the alpaca walks.

I went on the walk with my 7-year-old daughter, Etta. Our guide was co-owner Dana Hassett. We chose the “safari” experience to learn more about alpacas, since I knew that a quiet therapeutic walk would not exactly be up my daughter’s alley. Like most 7-year-olds, she loves to talk and learn. 

Although alpacas are gentle, they are strong animals. Adults and children over the age of 11 can each have their own alpaca to walk, but younger children must be accompanied by an adult. Our alpaca’s name was Chad. I held the rope close to him while Etta joined in by holding on to the end. 

Our walk took us through the grounds into the saskatoon berry orchard. Dana was happy to answer Etta’s questions about these unusual animals. We all laughed after Chad tugged at the rope to eat and lifted his head, revealing his large mouth chomping on the grass. Shortly after, we were given some alpaca food to feed Chad directly from our hands. Although our walk wasn’t silent, I felt in the moment and filled with joy to have this special experience with my daughter. It was clear to me why alpacas are often referred to as the “Dolphins of the Pasture.” 

Since our visit, I reconnected with Dana and learned that many more visitors were booking the alpaca walk. “I have found that people walk them for different reasons,” she said. “Some for the love of the animal, some for the photo opportunity, some just to say they walked an alpaca, and many for the animal therapy component.”

Dana mentioned that each experience has been different and she has noticed a therapeutic element, both in solo alpaca walks and when friends or family walk together and connect through the experience. 

“Everyone comes away from the experience feeling more relaxed,” she added. “I believe, especially now, that people understand the need to get out into nature is vital. Alpacas are gentle and curious; walking with them is enjoyable and entertaining. We do a lot of laughing as the personalities of each animal are as different as the people walking them. If I am having a difficult day, I find it improves after I start my day walking with the alpacas.”

Visitors can now cherish the memory by adding on an alpaca photography session through Silk Sellinger Photography, based in Maple Creek. The sessions, led by photographer Silken, start at $475 and include the alpaca walk fee and, if interested, use of clothing items from her ever growing “client closet.” Silken donates 10 per cent of the proceeds and, this year, chose to give to the Chile Rescue Coalition, a group that is active in the fight against sexual child abuse. 

The session lasts about one hour with 30 minutes for the alpaca walk with photos and 30 minutes in the Grotto Gardens orchard. A lifestyle video to further capture the experience can be added for an additional fee. 

Silken’s dreamy photography and videography is a beautiful and unique way to remember the experience, whether it is with your family, after an engagement or on a vacation with friends. Adding in photography allows visitors to spend more time enjoying the alpacas and less time trying to get that perfect photo. 

Photo by Silk Sellinger Photography


Author and Photographer: Annika Mang

Annika Mang

Annika Mang is a writer and photographer based in Regina, Saskatchewan with a focus on family adventure.

Website: Born to be Adventurous
Instagram: @borntobeadventurous
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