Experience the “pulse of life” with Wild Waterways Adventures

“When you’re out on the water there’s an adrenaline rush…when you go into the forest, it’s more a feeling of serenity and peace.”

When Jenefer Smalley talks about the biodiversity of the Campbell River region, her knowledge and enthusiasm are palpable. She’s a natural storyteller, sharing the historical significance of whale populations returning to the Discovery Islands in one breath and the excitement of witnessing the spring herring run in the other. “Everyday there’s this electric vibration…this pulse of life,” she says.

Jenefer and guests embracing nature at the Tree of Life. Photo courtesy of Wild Waterways Adventures.

After years of working as adventure guides and volunteering with conservation organizations in B.C., Jenefer and her partner Rueben started Wild Waterways Adventures. The duo are experienced wildlife guides and educators, offering immersive hiking and kayaking tours, as well as boat excursions to see bears and whales in their natural habitats. Their mission is to share the transformative power of nature with their guests.

Jenefer cites her Métis background for shaping her love of learning through encounters with nature. When it came time to start her own ecotourism company, incorporating sustainability in her business model was a no-brainer.

Committed to sustainability through action and hands-on education

Wild Waterways Adventures is a carbon-neutral company, and they also collect conservation fees to help maintain ecological integrity within the Discovery Islands. Jenefer says it’s meaningful that their carbon offset program supports both local and international projects because the whole world is connected. Their offset contributions go towards Quadra Island Forestland Conservation, The Great Bear Rainforest Carbon Project, and The Cookstove Project in Uganda.

Wild Waterways Adventures’ first conservation project aims to educate about the local grey wolf population in hopes that they can protect wolf packs in their unique island habitat for future generations to come. . The project involves creating informational signs about grey wolves, so people can be aware and respectful of their habitat. Jenefer wants visitors and outdoor enthusiasts to be better prepared and minimize human-wildlife conflict through education and awareness.

A portion of conservation fees also go to North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA) to support marine wildlife conservation efforts in the region and collect up-to-date information on whale movement to inform researchers.

Jenefer often reminds people that “the biggest carbon sink of all is the ocean.” When they’re guiding on the water, Jenefer and Reuben educate guests about how household products can put toxins into the water supply which goes to the ocean, poisons fish, and accumulates in larger marine mammals like orcas. They are mindful of every detail of the trip and make deliberate choices to  minimize their environmental impact. One example of this is ensuring they provide locally sourced food for on-board lunches where possible, which leads to interesting discussions with guests about the environmental impact of industrial agriculture. People are often more curious and receptive when they’re on the water, eager to learn more about sustainability and take these responsibilities with them into their day-to-day lives.

“They come out on the boat and their whole energy changes. They get this extreme excitement and gratitude, a lot of gratitude…when they come witness the beauty here,” says Jenefer.


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Jenefer highlights the positive changes that she’s seeing as a result of collective conservation and research efforts: humpback whale populations, who had been wiped out, are starting to return to the region.

“It’s really a sanctuary and the wildlife have been coming back in great numbers. So it’s really a happy story to tell,” says Jenefer. She would love to see the expansion of biosphere reserves in the Campbell River region. “It’s such an electric and alive place right now. And I think it really needs more protection,” says Jenefer.

At their heart, Wild Waterways Adventure’s tours are about connecting to nature as a living intelligence that informs our consciousness. In this way, humans can remember who they truly are, which is a part of nature, not separate from it. Interpretive forest walks are a grounding experience that offers mental health support and creative inspiration. Jenefer finds guests are captivated by the magical energy of whales and the joyous energy of dolphins. “You’ll see one jump out of the water and do a backflip and the guests are giggling like small children. It’s really cute,” she says.

A magnificent sight! Whales and other marine wildlife are a joy to watch out on the water. Photo courtesy of Wild Waterways Adventures

New tour: Spring herring migration

In Spring 2023, Wild Waterways Adventures will be hosting a new tour to celebrate the Salish Sea herring run. While whale-watching tours typically start later in the spring, Jenefer is excited to get people out on the water from February onwards to show them the “pulse of life” that happens when other animals travel from far and wide to follow the herring.

Marine birds, sea lions, orcas, and whales arrive in large numbers. It’s extra exciting to witness because the animals travel in family groups and are more vocal than usual. “It’s like going to a Potlatch. It’s like a full feast, a celebration,” says Jenefer.

Do you want to support environmental conservation work and carbon offset projects when you travel? Book with Wildwater Ways Adventures today, and keep an eye out for their herring migration tour this coming spring!

“When you’re out on the water there’s an adrenaline rush…when you go into the forest, it’s more a feeling of serenity and peace.”