As fast as it crept up on me, One Species’ ambassador hangout has ended (for myself, Jenna, and Kailey anyway!). Following a 9-hour flight, I now find myself sipping hot coffee in muggy old London (I have chosen to sweat it out with a mocha to avoid wasting another plastic cup – it seems Café Nero, like Starbucks and Costa, are afraid to serve iced drinks in glasses!) attempting to digest everything we have seen and done in the last 8 days!
Prior to arriving in Canada I was a mixed bag of emotions; I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I was full of apprehension. Turns out, it was entirely unnecessary. I’ve never been one for having ‘internet friends’ but I guess that’s how we all came together, and it turns out the cliché is true – the instant I finally met Elena (our One Species founder), Mike, Jenna, and Kailey (my fellow ambassadors) I felt like I was meeting old friends. Over the last three years my hunger for wildlife, the outdoors, and the opportunity to get my hands dirty in conservation has grown without abandon, and to find a group of people who embody the same passion and values is truly exhilarating!
Regardless, when an excitable blond bombshell throws herself out onto the curb and runs at you beaming, it’s hard not to feel welcome and happy! 😉
I’ve been trying hard to collect my thoughts ever since I boarded the plane over 12 hours ago but the last week has been so crazy that it’s rather challenging (running on very little sleep does not help). It seems the easiest place to begin is to simply start at the beginning and recall all that we’ve done: hiking mountains, geeking out over nature, constant wildlife spotting, partnership meet ups, marine conservation lessons, hitchhiking and making more friends that I can count, hours of kayaking, island hopping, rock climbing, litter picking, boating, and walking – allll the walking!
It was a last minute rush and it’s come and gone too fast, but I can safely say it has been one of the best adventures of my life so far – One Species famalam, I thank you for the opportunity and all the happy memories.
Anyway, time to stop gushing and actually report on what I’ve learnt 😀
The West Coast’s Conservation Community
I know I speak for the entire team when I say that, aside from experiencing Orcas up close, what stood out most during our time on the west coast was the people; we were welcomed in with open arms everywhere we went. Upon arriving on Saturna Island on our second day we received a lift to Cetus headquarters, rucksacks and all, from a local man passing by. Later that day we received a number of lifts from other locals who, thankfully, took pity on five young tourists with 20km on foot ahead of them. Across Vancouver and the Gulf Islands people were extremely accommodating, eager to help us along our way, and, in fact, excited to learn more about us and the work we are doing.
In terms of conservation, I was met with a very different attitude on the islands to that I generally experience in the UK. To say every single resident appreciates the value of their land and the wildlife they share it with would be an injustice; all of the people we met passionately argued for the protection of their environment and their local wildlife. Subsequently, they were appreciative of One Species and for the efforts our team are putting in to aid in the preservation of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. We were equally excited at their level of enthusiasm for a company that is still growing, but, more than that, we were excited to find a community that shares in our values.
Further to the community’s attitude towards conservation, the National Parks Conservation Conservancy’s signage and educational material concerning environmental awareness was superior to that which I have encountered elsewhere in the past. ‘Pack in pack out’ signs were abundant throughout the islands and their knowledge and appreciation of the ‘leave no trace’ ethos was all too clear, not to mention, extremely refreshing to see. What’s more, I discovered very little litter and/or destruction to vegetation during my time on the islands. It seems visitors to the islands value this ethos just as highly as do the local communities.
These experiences alone were enough to fuel the fire growing in all of us.
Stay tooned for part II – Cetus meet and greet, kayaking adventures, and wildlife encounters! 🙂
I am still fundraising for my trip and any support you could give would be great – please see my gofundme for info. Thank you!