PAC RIM ACTIVE: New tour company keys on beauty of Alberni Valley and beyond

Outdoor columnist gives Island-based tour operator a try

Sep. 4, 2019 6:00 a.m.     


I got an unusual phone call a couple of weeks ago. It was Anthony Kimber calling to see if I could to do some driving for him and his partners on the weekend.

Kimber is one of three partners who have just opened up a new tour company called Big Island Adventures. The other two are Les Strachan and Charlie Cootes. Their website,, went live two weeks ago and they are excited to offer a variety of day trips and half-day tours to appeal to travelers on Vancouver Island. And they have ambitious plans for the future. Last Saturday was a dry run and it was a great success, but not without a hiccup or two.

Big Island Adventures is powered on scenery: easy hikes along the rugged west coast; stand up paddleboards on a choice of beautiful lakes; hanging out on beautiful beaches that taper to nothing in the distance; and with gourmet lunches under a portable gazebo.

Kimber and Strachan met through a common volunteer commitment with the Alberni Valley Hospice Society. Both have a profound love of the outdoors and all the things you can do in it. Kimber has spent many years in the hospitality industry and Strachan has spent many years in the logging industry as a scaler and contractor for the logging industry going back to the days before the War in the Woods. The logging industry was where he met the third partner, Charlie Cootes, going through the blockades together.

Later they did some business together when they were salvage logging around Hucuktlis Lake (formerly Henderson Lake).

At the start of the year Kimber and Strachan were looking for another investor to make their new company viable. When Cootes, who has also been Chief Councillor of the Uchucklesaht First Nation for 50 years, was approached, he already had his eye on tourism as part of the future of his people. In fact, the First Nation currently leases the Henderson Lodge to West Coast Edge Adventures. Cootes was able to help arrange financing to allow Kimber and Strachan to enormously improve what they can offer.

Compared to other parts of Vancouver Island the Alberni Valley has had difficulty in establishing a vibrant tourism industry beyond fishing, sports tourism, and the Lady Rose (now the MV Frances Barkley, operated by Lady Rose Marine Services).

An important part of an adventure tourism business’s success is through local support; that is, referrals. None of the local hotels provide a concierge service, and the chamber of commerce does their best once they know and understand the business.

So I thought I’d give Big Island Tourism a plug, and ask the AV News readers to check them out if you have any visitors coming to town in the next month, or next summer, or even for yourselves if you are thinking of having an end-of-summer celebration for your family or staff at work.

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