Our History - Over 40 Years as Vancouver Island Ecotourism Specialists
Started in 1972 by Okanagan College biology teacher Jerry Lang - "Uncle Jerry" - West Coast Expeditions first introduced colleagues, friends and students to the wilds of Kyuquot on excursions with a marine biology theme. These were initially base camp expeditions from nearby Granite Island (McLean Is.) using powerboats to access remote destinations, including sport fishing activities. Jerry relocated the West Coast Expeditions base camp to our current location on Spring Island after Transport Canada decommissioned the LORAN (navigation) station there in 1977. Until his passing in December 2012, Jerry maintained close contact with the community and us - including a great visit back to Spring Island for our 40th anniversary celebration in August 2012!
Enjoy Jerry's reflections on starting WCE as "The Best of Times".
Jerry's nephew, Rupert Wong, spent many summers as a child and youth helping and exploring with his uncle, and grew to know the places and people of Kyuquot like a second home. Rupert, also a marine biologist, became a business partner with Jerry in 1988. In addition to the boat-based marine ecology tours, Rupert introduced kayak touring to the area making West Coast Expeditions one of the pioneer sea kayaking tour operators on the British Columbia Coast.
After 20 years, Jerry sold the company to Rupert in 1992. Together with a growing talent pool of kayak guides and camp staff, West Coast Expeditions continued to grow through the 1990's with sea kayaking and boat-based tours designed to "educate, motivate, and inspire", keeping a constant connection with the ecology, culture, and community of the Kyuquot area. West Coast Expeditions was a passion and hobby for Rupert.
In 2005, after 17 years of ownership and even longer involvement, Rupert moved on to spend more time with his young family and full-time consulting as a professional biologist specializing in watershed restoration – he now owns Current Environmental Consulting. He continues to work with the Kyuquot community and area, and is back to the West Coast Expeditions camp, Spring Island, and the Kyuquot area each summer for his own family adventures. Kyuquot and Spring Island are a part of him, and continue to reflect his signature inputs.
With Rupert’s change of focus, Mike Simpson, a guide with West Coast Expeditions since 2002, bought the company to keep the magic of our Spring Island site and experiences alive. Together with his wife and assistant kayak guide, Kim Letson, they breathed fresh energy into the infrastructure and comfort of our base camp systems and shared an infectious and welcoming love of the place to anyone who came within hailing distance. By the turn of the last century, West Coast Expeditions was now almost exclusively self-propelled, focusing primarily on sea kayaking tours and instruction as a tool for connecting people with this incredible west coast area.
Very sadly, Mike passed away in February 2007 after a brief struggle with a late-diagnosed brain tumour. He is genuinely missed. For the next season, Kim ran the company together with son Brian, friend Paul, and long-time WCE lead guide, operations manager, and close friend, David Pinel.
Dave, guiding with West Coast Expeditions since 1995 and managing operations for seven of those years, had the same addiction to Spring Island and Kyuquot of all before him. He too has training in marine biology, is a passionate and skilled educator, and has been a pioneer in developing professional sea kayak guiding and guide training practices in British Columbia and Canada. He is an integral part of the West Coast Expeditions story - having worked in Kyuquot with Jerry, Rupert, Mike, Kim, and almost all other WCE guides and staff.
|Seeing all of the positive transformations, heightened excellence and integrity are warming to the heart. Thank you for making it so.|
|Rupert Wong & Wai Ling Dan, Courtenay, BC|
Thirteen years into this love affair, Dave (and wife and fellow guide, Caroline Fisher) purchased West Coast Expeditions in the spring of 2008 together with Bev Hansen-Michel. Kim still helps out and does her best to join us at some point each summer.
For Bev, Kyuquot is her home. She was born and raised in this territory as a Ka:'yu:'k't'h First Nation woman, has training as a guide and a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management. She loves sharing her home place with visitors.
Like many families, we've grown and adjusted over the years. In most ways though, the West Coast Expeditions of today still clearly reflects the work and legacy of of all before us, using our Wilderness Retreat Base Camp facilities and location as the perfect platform for connecting with this magnificent west coast environment and cultural story though sea kayak tours, family adventures, group learning, field study programs (colleges, universities, and high schools) and research.
Together, Dave, Caroline, Bev, and the rest of our team welcome you to become part of the present and future of West Coast Expeditions - much more than sea kayaking, since 1972!