Romance the desert at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Romance the desert at the Osoyoos Desert Centre

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The boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre offers a different experience during Romancing the Desert – the only day of the year when the ecological reserve can be explored at night. Mark August 8 on your calendar and do a little romancing. (Dan Walton photo)
The boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre offers a different experience during Romancing the Desert – the only day of the year when the ecological reserve can be explored at night. Mark August 8 on your calendar and do a little romancing. (Dan Walton photo)
The boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre offers a different experience during Romancing the Desert – the only day of the year when the ecological reserve can be explored at night. Mark August 8 on your calendar and do a little romancing. (Dan Walton photo)

For one day each year in the summer, the Osoyoos Desert Centre keeps its gates open late for Romancing the Desert, when a handful of guests get to wine and dine while surrounded by the serenity of the arid ecosystem.

The habitat is known to be quite barren compared to nearby regions, but activity in the desert becomes more vibrant at night as weather conditions become less extreme. Because the centre is normally closed by 4:30 p.m., Romancing the Desert offers a rare opportunity to explore the hiker’s boardwalk without the sun’s (sometimes overbearing) luminosity.

“The opportunity to do a twilight walk through the desert is really special,” said Denise Eastlick, executive director of the Osoyoos Desert Centre.

“It’s cooler, of course, and desert animals tend to be more active at night. Much of the desert wildlife tends to be nocturnal. One year during Romancing the Desert, just as the moon rose, we had a mother deer and a little fawn run in front of it, making a silhouette. It was really magical.”

There are no identical experiences during Romancing the Desert. As the moon systematically rotates through its cycle while the galaxy repositions the stars each night to give Earth a new astrological pattern up above – all framed by the mountains of the South Okanagan and the weather’s haphazard formation of clouds – the celestial entertainment always has a fresh lineup of talent at each year’s event.

“You see the stars very clearly. It’s a very peaceful setting,” Eastlick said.

The evening includes an outdoor dinner, a guided tour along the 1.5 kilometre boardwalk trail – which will be augmented by after-dinner treats and wine tastings, and live music and a silent auction.

The ecological reserve has been celebrating Romancing the Desert since the year 2000, and staffers create a new theme for the tour each summer.

“Because we’re celebrating the Osoyoos Desert Society’s 25th anniversary, this year’s theme will be historical highlights,” she said.

Eastlick said the event offers a rare experience that blends the local natural habitat with fine foods and wines from the region.

“It’s to showcase the beauty of our local habitat, but also to showcase our restaurants and wineries.”

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 8. Ticket are $70 per person and proceeds will support the Osoyoos Desert Society.

To book a spot, contact the centre at 250-495-2470.

DAN WALTON

Oliver Chronicle

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