Hike, soak at Hot Springs Cove Vancouver Island with Ahous Adventures
Ahousaht First Nation launches Indigenous-owned and operated adventure tour outfitter guiding whale- and bear- watching, hot springs tours on Vancouver Island's West Coast #IndigenouscoastBC #AhousAdventures
Tofino, BC — Hereditary chief Maquinna George, cloaked in sea otter pelt, called upon the children of Ahousaht First Nation to cut the special cedar braided ribbon for the grand opening of Ahous Adventures, saying, "They will be the future boat drivers."
On June 21, 2023, National Indigenous People’s Day, Tofino’s Main Street reverberated with the luring sound of traditional drumming. With helping hands, the youngest amongst the Ahousaht children clutched the scissors and sliced the cedar ribbon.
And with that, after a lifetime of being historically marginalized in the BC tourism industry, Ahous Adventures—a completely Indigenous-owned and operated adventure tour company—officially opened its doors to welcome guests to explore their haḥuułii (homelands), including whale- and bear- watching tours, and tours to Hot Springs Cove in Nismaquin Marine Provincial Park.
Ahousaht’s traditional territory extends far north of the Tofino Harbour, including hundreds of kilometres offshore and up into the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park.
“Our people have stewarded the lands and waters since what we believe to be time immemorial and with your support we will continue to do so for many, many generations to come,” says Tyson Atleo, an Ahousaht hereditary representative.
Ahousaht’s main village is located on Flores Island, about 30-minutes by boat from the shores of Tofino, while the iconic Hot Springs Cove is roughly 1.5 hours.
Despite the hardships endured throughout colonization, which involved two Indian Residential Schools (Ahousaht Residential School on Flores, 1904 - 1940, and old Christie Indian Residential School on Meares Island, 1900 - 1971), the Ahousaht people are 2,500 strong.
“It’s about economic reconciliation and opportunity,” Atleo says. “Without access to opportunities in the tourism sector, we remain dependant on forestry or fisheries.”
In February 2023, Ahousaht First Nation leveraged existing revenues to purchase assets from the now closed Tofino-based Ocean Outfitters. The multi-million dollar deal included five vessels, four properties, and a whole new market opportunity for the Ahousaht people.
“There is a huge and growing labour market in our community that could absolutely work in the tourism sector in Tofino if they so choose, but we have to create those opportunities and mentor roles; we have to show them that they have a future that they will be recognized and supported in,” says Atleo, noting that the majority of Ahous Adventures boat drivers are Indigenous.
Captain Eugene Stewart is of Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht descent. He has been working on the water off the West Coast for the past 21 years. He says he’s “honoured” to be with Ahous Adventures this summer.
“Last year, we only had two First Nation guides here in Clayoquot Sound. Now most of our drivers are Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation,” Stewart says.
Atleo reinforces the meaning of economic reconciliation. “Ahous Adventures is creating real and equal opportunity for our community and our people to see economic value and benefit from access to our territories, from the sharing of our culture and the sharing of our knowledge. This represents one way of seeing value come back into our community from visitors accessing our territories,” he says.
Atleo says there has been a real commitment from the Crown government towards economic reconciliation for the Ahousaht people. For starters, he says Ahousaht First Nation has taken over the park use management for Maquinna Marine Provincial Park and Hot Springs.
The nation has also changed the name from Maquinna to Nismaquin Marine Provincial Park, which means “the land that we take care for.”
Atleo offered his gratitude. “Thanks to the Ahousaht community for their continued support for our efforts to build the industry and economy and thanks to the non-Ahousaht community in Tofino for supporting us and standing us up. We look forward to a positive future.”
When you go
Ahous Adventures is open year-round, seven days a week. If you’re in Tofino, visit them in person at 368 Main Street or call (250) 725-0650 to make a reservation for a whale/bear watching or hot springs tour.
Hot springs tours
The trip to the geothermal hot springs is six-hours round trip, which includes culture interpretation and wildlife viewing; book your tour by visiting Ahous Adventures Hot Springs Tours.
As operators of Nismaquin Marine Provincial Park, the Ahousaht have special access to the hot springs, with Ahous Adventures offering exclusive tour times at 6:30am and 8:30am (depending on ocean conditions), and a special sunset tour time of 3:30pm. (Other operators can only access the park between public hours of 11am - 4pm).
For more info
Visit the Ahous Adventures Tours website.