DEBRA LYNN PHOTO George Fraser with his “assistant” Rocky.

Business for Sea Otter Eco Tours tripled in 2019

The Eco Tours season runs from May 1 to Oct. 1.

Sea Otter Eco Tours, owned by Blair McClean and George Fraser, has had three times as many customers this year as it did the previous year, its first year of operation.

In 2019 it ran about 68 tours, guiding approximately 200 people from all over the world. Most of the clients have come from England, but many have also come from Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, France, United States and other parts of Canada.

Blair McClean conceived of the idea just by showing up in Port Alice and having a look around. All that was needed for start-up was a boat and a website.

McClean and Fraser get most of their customers from the internet, but they also advertise in local tourist information centres. Clearly, the internet age offers a “leg up” for a little remote town “at the end of a long and winding road.”

The eco tours season runs from May 1 to Oct. 1. The tours usually start around 9:00 a.m. or earlier with a short safety briefing.

After 15 minutes by boat, they arrive at the first location for sea otter watching at Ingersol. Another 15 minutes brings them to the second location at Mahatta River. Sometimes they check out local historical sites, like the Quatsino Museum, Pamphlet Cove, and the old homestead places at Mahatta River. A client who wrote a review on Trip Advisor was effusive about seeing a crane remove logs from logging trucks and release them into the water. The tour is five to six hours with lunch.

The amount of sea otters that tourists can see in any one spot ranges from 2-40. Sometimes, the sea otters have something going on elsewhere and have temporarily abandoned their hangout spot. Luckily, if one viewing spot is abandoned, there are usually sea otters at the other.

According to Fraser, who guides the tours, the response from tourists is overwhelmingly positive. He often gets comments like “it’s the best trip they’ve had in their three weeks in Canada.”

The tours also come across sea lions, seals and eagles. Fraser says he has seen one Orca this year. There are no grizzly bears in this area, but black bears occasionally make an appearance.

Sea Otter Tours doesn’t advertise whale sightings because there are not many of them, though they sometimes get serendipitously added in as a bonus. For a fee of $235 per person, the trip includes exciting wildlife viewing, breath-taking scenery, and is a nice excursion on the water for a day.

McClean and Fraser have no plans for expansion, but hope to have more people per trip to increase their profit margin.

Recently, before shutting down for the season, Fraser had been out on the water for 18 days in a row. At 73, he has no plans to retire. He enjoys the work because it’s “a lot of fun meeting people from all over the world.”

As for complaints about Port Alice, there are few, except for “the normal ones, no restaurant, no hotel… that’s the biggest complaint… but everybody loves the scenery.”

Eco Tours has recently upgraded to a larger boat, a 28-foot Kingfisher that offers plenty of space and protection from the elements.

The boat is licensed to hold 12 people, but Fraser likes to cap the load at eight.

It has a small bathroom that makes the traditional bucket bathroom a thing of the past.

– Debra Lynn article

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles are ready for playoffs

The bantams will be playing their first two playoff games in Port McNeill this weekend.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: The top of Mt. Wolfenden

“A few shots at different focal lengths and then I was back inside editing with a coffee in hand”

Check out a new future at career and education fair in Comox

Event today features booths from more than 40 employers and educational institutions

Book reading: The Blue Haired Girl

Adam Hayes will be at the Book Nook (inside Cafe Guido) Feb. 1 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Veteran Island journalist battles cancer through pioneering treatment

Vancouver Island rallies around JR Rardon and family during stay in Seattle

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

B.C. man dies after police called for ‘firearms injury’ in rural Alberta

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

Most Read