Prince of Whales Makes Waves as Festival Afloat 2023’s Flagship Sponsor!
While the performances of Festival Afloat 2023 are behind us, we are still basking in the excitement and celebration of it all. None of which would have been possible without our 2023 Flagship Sponsor, Prince of Whales! Prince of Whales provide wildlife tours based out of Telegraph Cove, Vancouver and Victoria, but they are much more than just adventure tour guides. This family owned business boasts employees who are mariners, educators, entertainers, scientists, and conservationists. This year’s festival was in support of Heiltsuk Nation’s legal challenge which aims to enshrine Indigenous stewardship of lands and waters into law.
When RAVEN approached Prince of Whales for a partnership on Festival Afloat, we had no idea that there would be such a deep personal connection to Heiltsuk’s legal case. Nik Coutinho, professional guide and photographer at Prince of Whales, was in Heiltsuk territory when the Nathan. E Stewart spill occurred — and was one of the first boats to hear the mayday call. This partnership was not just a way to support RAVEN’s Festival Afloat, but also to reconcile some of the feelings of frustration Nik has been carrying since the spill in 2016 about the lack of responsibility industry and government have taken..
“The great bear rainforest has such a special place in my heart, all of my best experiences happened up there. All of the reasons that I instill in tourism, whale watching, bear guiding or the forest policy work I do is because of the time I spent up there for almost 10 years of my life,” says Nik.
What was it like being in Heiltsuk territory during the spill?
“It was a big calamity, everybody heard about it the same day. First we got the ‘May Day’, and you can hear the guardians and everyone in the Heiltsuk and Shearwater community going back and forth. It was tough and it’s tough on the community; not just to the Indigenous communities that are trying to steward the lands, but also our charter boat communities who are trying to do right by the Nations. It sucks when an industry just passing through comes in and hits rock. You think it’s never going to happen in the places you are stewarding, but it seems like those are the only places that it happens. It’s so frustrating.”
Though RAVEN has been supporting this case since 2016, we have only experienced the catastrophe through verbal stories from community members, media images and video. We can only imagine the array of emotions that one would experience when seeing the issue unfold in front of you.
What made Prince of Whales decide to support Festival Afloat?
“We feel that we steward all of Georgia Strait, to the top of Vancouver Island because that’s the territory we work in. Because we are so spread out, and the things we do here affect other areas, we try to have as big of an impact as possible while trying to support our local community. Everything we try to do is conservation focused and wherever we can help protect the coast is a prioirity for us. I was also a part of the coast cleanup throughout the pandemic, so it was nice for all of us charter boats to go out and clean up the coast and support the communities we pass by.”
For the last 30 years, Prince of Whales has not only been an adventure touring company, but has found ways to support other organizations who are focused on coastal conservation, protecting the salmon, and safeguarding blue carbon. We are so grateful for their support, and for the amazing work they do in protecting the coast and providing awe-inspiring experiences so that others will want to protect it too.
“It’s beautiful to be able to watch and teach and see the smiles on everyone’s faces when we are able to show them whales. Even if it’s just a humpback resting at the surface,” says Nik.