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Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours Announces Expansion

The Orford Valley is a former village site of Homalco First Nation. It is a special place with spectacular scenery and thriving wildlife. Photo by Homalco Wildlife and Culture Tours.

Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours (HWCT) announced an exciting new expansion for their business coming this spring. The Indigenous-owned ecotourism organization is opening a new adventure centre in Campbell River, BC, launching two new state-of-the-art adventure tour vessels and adding a new Whales, Wildlife and Culture Tour.

“After a long year of restricted business, we are really looking forward to an exciting spring of substantial expansions for our organization,” said JP Obbagy, Tourism Development Officer for Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours. The building of the centre, manufacturing of the watercrafts and staffing for tours are in progress, even in the face of pandemic-related supply delays.

On the new Whales, Wildlife and Culture tour, visitors can enjoy an unforgettable experience with orcas, humpbacks, sea lions and more remarkable marine mammals. Photo by Homalco Wildlife and Culture Tours

The Homalco Adventure Centre will showcase local First Nations art, guidebooks and more, and will be located at 1344 Island Hwy, in the Discovery Harbour in Campbell River, BC.

Two landing craft boats are a new part of the new Whales, Wildlife, and Culture tour and they offer zodiac-style, fresh-air seats, and comfort providing protection inside a cozy cabin. Obaggy underlines safety as their top priority, and that they are employing expert mariners to ensure they have recognized and addressed all vessel safety concerns.

The new tour expands the expertise of HWCT’s team, adding the additional capacity of marine naturalists, skippers, and Indigenous guides.

Chyanne Trenholm, HWCT Marketing & Social Media Coordinator, describes the tours as “something totally unique on [Vancouver] Island. We now have the ability to bring whales and other marine life into our realm of exploration. Of course, the Homalco cultural experience is always a unique part of all our tours, and our new boats will allow us access to land-based activities.”

While covid-19 international restrictions will likely still be in effect, Tour Coordinator for Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours Shirley Badger is confident that the tours will continue to fill. “We have seen tremendous interest in Indigenous tourism from our domestic market and our own provincial residents who are passionate about wildlife, culture and the natural beauty to be found in the Territory of the Homalco.”

On a Homalco Wildlife & Culture Tours, visitors can witness grizzly bears in their natural habitat in the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation in Bute Inlet. Photo by Homalco Wildlife and Culture Tours

“All of this great news spells progress for the Homalco First Nation,” says Chief Darren Blaney. “While covid-19 is still a factor for the foreseeable future, our Homalco First Nation is ready to welcome visitors again, for now, and as long as we deem it safe to do so. With this expansion great things can happen: knowledge of our culture and appreciation for our environment can be shared with a larger audience and more of our people can be hired and their skills developed. I believe our tour company will continue to help in healing, creating resilience and building a bright future for our people.”

Homalco Wildlife Tours is the result of a unique journey from conservation efforts to save local salmon to the creation of a world-class First Nations-owned ecotourism business. Between 2009 – 2015, Coast Economic Development Society approved four projects totaling $735,100 and Coast Conservation Endowment Fund Foundation approved one project of $70,000 towards the development and expansion of Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours.

Read the story here: Homalco Wildlife Tours: Going Home to Bute Inlet.