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Outer Shores Expeditions Courts Conservation Cruisers

Victoria- based boutique expedition line sails to the 'Galapagos of the North'
04-10-2014  By: Amanda Stutt
Russell Markel, president, Outer Shores Expeditions
Russell Markel, president, Outer Shores Expeditions
A new expedition cruise line has set sail in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in small group, culturally immersive, wildlife viewing experiential trips.

Victoria- based Outer Shores Expeditions saw its first full season in 2013, and quickly carved a niche in the west coast cruise market with its adventure excursions to the Gulf Islands National Park, Ucluelet, the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii Archipelago.

Outer Shores Expeditions’ president Russell Markel also serves as captain of the cruise line’s schooner, the Passing Cloud.

Markell is a PhD scientist with a background in marine biology, but left academia to start the company while continuing field research dedicated to conservation tourism.

“I’ve been weaving together this career as a scientist and a conservation biologist with a background in sailing and skipper chartering on some of those spectacular places on the B.C. coast,” Markel told in an interview.

Outer Shores Expeditions is collaborating with Maple Leaf Adventures to offer boutique expedition cruises, taking small groups of six to eight on trips embarking from the Victoria Harbour for four- eight days in length onboard the Passing Cloud.

The ship features comfortable amenities such as a reading lounge, and the onboard chef is dedicated to sustainably serving the best local seafood catches.

The trips are seasonal have no fixed itineraries – the days’ activities are guided by the tides and wildlife sighting opportunities.

Courtesy of James Thompson Photography
Courtesy of James Thompson Photography
“It’s an expedition and often where we go and what we do is dictated by the weather and the wildlife we encounter, and the particular interests of our guests,” Markel said.

In June and July, Outer Shores Expeditions sails up to the Haida Gwaii-, which Markel refers to as the ‘Galapagos of the North’, due to its unique endemic species.

The most famous being the Haida Gwaii black bear, which is the world’s largest species of black bear because they inhabit an island in isolation without predators.

Guests are also able to get close to Humpback and Killer Whales, rare seabirds and other marine life.

Outer Shores Expeditions' shore excursions immerse expedition cruisers in the local cultures of the First Nations peoples of the Haida Gwaii, and archeological tours are conducted with  guides with backgrounds in science, archeology or history to provide insight into the cultures and species.

Expedition cruisers can visit the ancient Sgang Gwaay village, now an archeological monument to the Haida Gwaii and named a UNESCO Worlds Heritage site in 1981.

“Our industry is at the fore front of conservation tourism and conservation-based economies on the B.C. coast,” said Markell.

“We connect our guests to places, wildlife, wilderness, and cultures in ways that are simply impossible in the traditional cruise ship industry,” he added. 

Back at sea, the expeditions venture into waters where Phytoplankton blooms change the typically dark blue northern waters into turquoise hues found in the Caribbean.

“It’s a small, specialty market that’s going to appeal to people that want to explore the B.C coast and have a good educational experience,” Markel said.  

Outer Shores Expeditions works with the travel trade, and bookings are commissionable to agents.

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