Meet the best in the business…
Our greatest assets are our passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed employees. They’re the reason why Eagle Wing Tours is leading the way in experiential tourism and marine conservation!
Our greatest assets are our passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed employees. They’re the reason why Eagle Wing Tours is leading the way in experiential tourism and marine conservation!
Born and raised in the Yukon, Ryleigh didn’t acquire an appreciation for the ocean until she attended Westcoast Adventure College in 2016. Fueled by a passion for conservation, she took classes on sea kayaking, sailing and even marine mammals. This sparked an interest in whales she never knew she had! Working in the whale watching industry since 2017 has done nothing but strengthen that love for educating people about marine animals and the environment around them. When not working, Ryleigh can be found enjoying nature, cuddling with her cats and dog, or sipping a local craft beer!
Chrystelle grew up in the country in a small town outside Ottawa, Ontario, where she spent most of her childhood outdoors, exploring nature. She was fascinated by whales from a young age, but it seemed like a distant dream, living so far from the ocean. As she grew up, her love for animals and nature led her to a veterinary technician diploma, and later, a bachelor’s degree in science with a major in biology. Chrystelle visited Victoria in 2020, went on a whale watching tour with Eagle Wing, and fell in love with it all. She moved here recently and applied for her dream job. She loves to travel, hike with her dogs and eat good food. She’s always striving to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle and is a proud vegetarian. She loves sharing her knowledge with people and raising awareness for wildlife and the conservation of the environment!
Alyssa grew up in small-town Ontario with a love of all things outdoors, including boating, fishing, swimming and camping. It was on high school trips to Ontario’s famed Algonquin Park that she fell in love with learning about and protecting the natural world. Her budding interest in sustainability, Indigenous ecological knowledge and environmental education took her to Guatemala to volunteer on a sustainable farm and then to Portugal to volunteer at an Iberian wolf rehabilitation centre. She then moved to Victoria to take classes in coastal geography and Indigenous studies at UVic. Alyssa is passionate about art and nature—look for her tattoos to see how she blends the two—and about getting people onto the water. “It’s so rewarding to educate people while giving them a life-changing experience!” she says.
Hailing from Montreal originally, Alexa has lived all over the Americas from Canada to Chile, and through this travel has developed a deep love of nature and wildlife. She recently worked at a Devonian fossil site on the humpback-rich coast of Quebec’s Gaspésie region, where she fell in love with the marine giants. While studying international politics and immigration at Concordia University in Montreal, she developed a keen interest in climate change and its repercussions on all life. This is what drew her to Eagle Wing Tours, where her love of wildlife is combined with the company’s award-winning sustainability and ethical business practices. Alexa’s first language is French and she’ll be delighted if you speak to her in it!
Although Sam grew up between two Great Lakes in Ontario, a passion for the ocean was sparked by his family’s love of travel. His first whale encounter was off Nova Scotia. He’s since watched whales in Alaska, Hawaii, Iceland and both coasts of Canada and the US. After earning a Fish and Wildlife Diploma and an Ecosystem Management Diploma from Sir Sanford Fleming College in Ontario he moved to Halifax to work as a social media rep for the Nova Scotia government. The gorgeous Atlantic Coast fuelled his passion for a bigger voice in conservation. He’s found that voice at Eagle Wing, where he’s helping to introduce thousands of people to the spectacular wildlife of the Salish Sea!
Carol grew up in a sailing family, so being on the water is a natural fit. Seven years ago, she decided she wanted to study marine biology so she packed up her things and moved to Canada from Italy. After earning her biology degree from the University of Victoria, she knew that not only did she want to be on boat and be with whales, she wanted to teach. How to combine them all? Whale watching of course! When Carol is not on a boat, she’s usually enjoying the outdoors, hiking, or at the beach…and, of course, looking for whales!
Born and raised in Victoria, Isabelle considers herself lucky to have grown up around the ocean. On her days off, you’ll likely find her near or in the water—she loves to paddle, snorkel and hike around our beautiful coast. Her love of the outdoors brought her to study adventure tourism at Westcoast Adventure College, after which she worked as a sea kayak guide around Vancouver Island. Spending all this time on the water drove her to return to university to earn a degree in marine biology and ocean sciences. She’s very excited to bring her background in adventure tourism together with her marine biology experience to work as a naturalist at Eagle Wing this summer.
Natalie grew up in a small town outside St. John’s, Newfoundland where the majority of her time was spent outside exploring the forest behind her house or by the ocean exploring the shorelines. Spending summers and Christmas holidays visiting her grandparents in Labrador further fueled her love for the sea. When she visited Vancouver Island in 2020, she fell in love with the coast and decided to attend Westcoast Adventure College. She graduated in April 2023. Says Natalie: “I’m always trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I love sharing my passion for the ocean with people from all over the world while also raising awareness of marine conservation issues.”
Ilsa has a background in biology from the University of Victoria and a diploma in environmental technology from Camosun College. She grew up in Victoria and is extremely passionate about the outdoors. Her favourite hobbies are backcountry camping, mushroom-foraging, scuba diving and photography. During her time at UVic, Ilsa went on an academic exchange to Thailand where she studied tropical reef ecology for a year. Her love of marine life brought her to Eagle Wing where she can engage with the public and share the nerdy animal facts she learned from school! Ilsa aspires to travel to South America in the fall to hike, trek and observe endemic animals of the region.
Kristina grew up in landlocked Calgary, but has always been drawn to the ocean. After experiencing her first scuba dive at age 15, she fell in love with the underwater world. By age 19 she was already pursuing a passion for science communication as a divemaster in Thailand, where she taught divers about the animals they observed and how to be stewards for the ocean. While at university, Kristina attended Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, where she studied the ecology of coastal habitats in the Pacific Northwest. She moved to Vancouver Island after earning her biology degree in 2020. She’s been diving the cold waters off Vancouver Island ever since, and believes that the colour and diversity of life here rivals that of any tropical destination. Kristina spends her spare time diving and documenting marine life in the Salish Sea. She hopes that through sharing her footage, people will become aware of the incredible life that is right in their back yard!
Growing up on the coast of North Vancouver Island helped Janaya foster an early love for the surrounding marine and coastal ecosystems. This was further cemented after she took up competitive sailing and coaching, which allowed her to explore and better understand the natural processes at work around us. Janaya’s passion for the environment kept her in Victoria where she has nearly completed her double major in geography and environmental studies at the University of Victoria. She hopes to move into a career in coastal and marine restoration and conservation after graduation. Janaya is more than happy to tell stories of her days sailing or share her knowledge about our surrounding ecosystems, as well as the processes that influence the land and sea!
Jo-Anne’s passion for the ocean and all of its inhabitants started when she lived in the Cayman Islands in the late 90s, early 2000. She became a scuba instructor and spent as much time as she could in the water. She moved to Victoria in 2003 and has since been in the whale watching industry as both a captain and a naturalist. Jo-Anne is a strong proponent of ocean conservation through education. She believes that there’s no better platform than Eagle Wing whale watching vessels to inspire people to help protect our oceans. Jo-Anne did a trans-Atlantic crossing in 2016 and now spends the off season sailing the Caribbean, scuba diving and doing beach clean-ups where possible.
Caio was born in Brazil and raised between Brazil and Argentina where he has had a deep passion for whales since he was age five. In 2014, he moved to Canada to pursue his dream to be closer to whales. Over the years he has collaborated with several non-profit organizations and whale researchers in Argentina. He’s currently providing support for the creation of a Brazilian killer whale catalogue. Caio, who holds a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and a post-graduate degree in business and human resources, started working as a volunteer at Eagle Wing in 2021. He’s since joined our office and boat teams and is making his lifelong dream come true—every day!
Born and raised in Victoria, Emma has always been drawn to the ocean. While growing up, she went whale watching every summer with her family, and realized very quickly that out on the water was her happy place, even though she’s the only one in her family who gets seasick! Emma’s dream is to be a bio-archaeologist, which is why she’s currently working on a degree in anthropology with a minor in biology at the University of Victoria. In her spare time, she loves to read, do archery, and go for hikes out in East Sooke “with anyone who will put up with me.”
Joe grew up on BC’s north coast, arrived in Victoria in the late 2000s, and started putting his biology degree to work in ecotourism in 2015. He worked his way up to captain after a few years as a deckhand and naturalist, small vessel skipper and mate, and has now joined Eagle Wing! He has spent over five years-worth of off-seasons and days off as a field biologist with local non-profit organizations, particularly focusing on local humpback and killer whale population ecology. Joe’s passion for the ocean and its conservation is met only by his belief that education is the best way to accomplish it, and he strives to give each guest a fully encompassing experience of the Pacific coast and its incredible ecosystems.
Trev has always had a love for living creatures—even many Homo sapiens— and has more than 25 years of marine ecotourism under his belt in the Salish Sea. Trev hails from the prairies of Saskatchewan where he learned to ski in -40-degree winters and persistent winds (blowing wheat fields feel like the sea!). Many road trips to the BC coast hooked him. After earning a degree in marine biology from the University of British Columbia, his passion for ocean creatures spurred him to a master’s degree in marine resource biometrics. He later serendipitously ventured into whale watching, and there was no turning back. He’s worked on several ecotourism boats out of Oak Bay and Victoria and now, lured by fantastic people and fantastic boats, he has strung his hammock at Eagle Wing! For off-season adventure he delves into overland/oversea tours of Mexico, Central America and South America!
Originally from the UK, Izzy studied marine vertebrate zoology in North Wales. With the Irish Sea on her doorstep, she spent all her down time looking out for local sea life. Her keen interest in cetacean research and conservation took her to the west coast of Wales after graduating from university. There, she helped study the semi-resident population of dolphins and was part of an outreach and education program. Also, with a background in outdoor education, Izzy loves to get as many people as possible to enjoy the outdoors. She instills respect for our surroundings by telling stories, cheesy jokes and spouting facts! Victoria has been Izzy’s home-away-from-home since 2019 and she hopes to achieve a master’s degree here. Izzy looks forward to the 2022 whale watching season—another exciting opportunity for marine research and guest outreach!
Lauren is a guest service agent at our office and works behind the scenes on other projects including marketing and video content. She graduated from Camosun College with a bachelor degree in business administration with a major in marketing. She’s been part of our company for several years and started out as a volunteer before getting hired! She enjoys dancing, drawing, painting…pretty much anything creative. Outdoors, she loves to swim, hike and walk. Lauren loves making guests happy by sending them out to explore the Salish Sea. She’s passionate about the natural world and wants to protect it any way she can. As part of our team she loves learning new things about the wildlife and sharing this knowledge with guests!
Lili did not grow up on the coast but has always been drawn to the ocean. This began with a childhood love of sharks, but grew into a keen interest for all marine wildlife. Her journey into the whale world began when she interned with the University of Victoria whale lab in 2015. It only took seeing a single grey whale to launch an obsession. She continued down the whale path working with the SeaWatch Foundation in Cardigan Bay, Wales, studying bottlenose dolphins and educating the public. Lili started her whale watching career in Victoria as a naturalist in 2017, and years later her heart still skips a beat when she encounters a whale. In 2018 Lili earned her 60-ton captain’s ticket and hopes to use this as a captain at Eagle Wing one day. As a naturalist, she combines her knowledge of science and her passion for photography and storytelling to inspire others to protect the ocean.
Tom grew up near Niagara Falls in Ontario where he fostered a love for whales at a young age. As his knowledge and passion deepened, he also realized how important it was to keep whales thriving in the wild. Tomis’ dream of seeing killer whales in the wild was finally fulfilled on a trip to Vancouver Island in 2018 when he went on a tour with Eagle Wing. Along with a passion for whales, Tomis has a love for teaching and sharing knowledge with people. He holds a Bachelor of Science in geography, a Bachelor of Education and is a certified teacher. Being a naturalist provides the perfect opportunity to combine both his passions and make the ocean his classroom. Tomis enjoys helping guests have an amazing experience like he did on his first tour back in 2018.
Born and raised in Victoria, Brett is co-owner of Eagle Wing Tours and our lead captain with more than 24 years of experience within the whale watching industry. Brett brings award-winning hospitality experience, a creative artistic background, and a Crocodile Hunter-like enthusiasm to his job. His big heart and trademark smile will infect everyone aboard—and the jokes aren’t half bad either! When other captains are turning back for the harbour, he’s going the extra mile (or many) as he paints the larger picture of the Salish Sea ecosystem and makes sure that every guest has expectations exceeded. Brett has a boundless passion for the ocean and its wildlife, a strong belief in the power of education, and an upbeat can-do attitude for real conservation action. He works hard to build relationships within the tourism industry, in the community and abroad, and serves as a board member on a number of organizations, including Destination Greater Victoria and the Pacific Whale Watch Association. He’s also president of the Wild 4 Whales Foundation. Join him on a tour and you’ll see first-hand that whale watching extends far beyond being just a livelihood for him—it’s a way of life!
Don is co-owner of Eagle Wing Tours and a talented jack-of-all-trades. He has owned previous businesses, but switched gears after he went on a whale watching tour years ago and knew he wanted to be part of the whale and wildlife watching community. Don also has a keen mechanical mind—he helped design and build our vessels, and along with Hung is our go-to guy for maintenance and repair. Don was born and raised in Victoria and has always had a passion for being on the ocean. He has many memories as a child of going fishing, sailing and camping with his family. He’s married to another Eagle Winger (Sandra) and has two children, Lauren (Eagle Winger) and Shane. He enjoys riding bikes, golfing, curling and being with his family and friends. He’s a very social person with a huge, kind heart. Don leads our company with his business partner Brett, working hard to protect the Salish Sea for generations to come—while giving our guests the thrill of a lifetime!
Russ has been a captain and wildlife guide on southern Vancouver Island since 2007. He’s always been passionate about the wildlife, ecosystems and history of the Salish Sea. In the winter he mixes things up a bit by working down in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia Island as an expedition guide. Ask him how many photos of penguins he has! Prior to guiding, Russ worked as a firefighter and paramedic in the southern US before moving back to Canada to join the Coast Guard Marine Search and Rescue team. He’s been active in several conservation groups over the years, including salmon enhancement projects and beach cleanups. Russ loves adventure and has an uncanny knack for finding whales. He’s known for his witty commentary and enthusiasm, which is why guests on his tours are in for an epic experience!
Growing up in landlocked Alberta, Meaghan found her true calling for the ocean when she started travelling, and especially through scuba diving. She spent many years working overseas as a certified Dive Master, conducting research and giving educational programs on coral reefs (her first true love!). Witnessing multiple ecosystems interacting in a foreign world helped shape the rest of her life. She formally studied marine and coastal ecology, while contributing to multiple conservation initiatives on and under the water. Meaghan is one of the lead coordinators for our innovative “Exploring the Salish Sea” education program. Three years ago, she bought her own sailboat, Spyhop. She had zero knowledge of sailing at the time, but has grown to love the lifestyle and the deep feeling of connection to the sea it embodies. She recently started her own green business, Salt Legacy, which contributes to the circular economy by collecting worn-out sails from sailboats that would otherwise be heading for the landfill. They’re then upcycled into new West Coast-inspired gear!
Mel has loved animals since she was a little girl. Growing up just outside Toronto, she started working with and learning from horses. This led her to 10 years of experience as a horseback guide in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Botswana. She’s logged thousands of hours in the saddle, leading and educating guests through national parks and game reserves worldwide. After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in marine and freshwater biology as well as animal biology, Mel followed her passion and moved to Victoria to pursue a career on the ocean with her favourite animal, the humpback whale. As one of our amazing marine naturalists, she uses the powerful platform of ecotourism to educate the public on the importance of our big blue backyard. She’s also a captain-in-training and pursuing her goal to acquire her 60-ton ticket! On each tour, she hopes guests experience that “magical moment” which will inspire them to save and protect the oceans!
Growing up on Vancouver Island, Sierra made a deep connection with the outdoors. In her spare time, when she’s not on the beach looking for whales, she can be found hiking along the Juan de Fuca Trail or practicing yoga as a certified instructor. At a young age, Sierra went on her very first whale watching trip in Maui and witnessed a humpback whale and her calf breaching side-by-side. Feeling impassioned from this encounter, she soon after went snorkeling and heard humpback whales vocalizing for the first time! These events inspired her and blossomed into a deep love for the ocean—especially for humpback whales—and greatly influenced her career path. Sierra loves to talk to guests about the rich history and biodiversity of the Salish Sea. Through these experiences, she hopes to foster a deeper connection and passion for our beautiful blue backyard. Sierra completed the Level II Adventure Tourism Program at West Coast Adventure College and started her career at Eagle Wing in 2017 as a naturalist. She’s now a captain-in-training and pursuing her goal to acquire her 60-ton ticket!
Chris’s love for the ocean started at the age of nine when he started surfing and acquired his LA County dive certificate. At 10 years-old, he was inspired when he went on his first whale watching boat and touched a grey whale off of San Pedro (not recommended these days!). After high school, he spent six years in the US Coast Guard performing search and rescue operations and a short stint as a lighthouse keeper in New Jersey. He moved back to Hawaii where for the next 20 years he inspired people from all over the world on snorkelling, diving, big game fishing and whale watching tours on Kauai’s Na Pali coast and the “forbidden island” of Ni’ihau. Chris is a worldly, animal loving, passionate, educated and informed whale geek who has provided many people with lifelong memories and experiences. We’re very fortunate to have “Five-O’” here in Victoria, working in the whale watching and tugboat industries. Join us and experience Chris’ unique blend of education and story-telling!
Clint was born on Vancouver Island and has always had an affinity for the ocean and wildlife. Hiking the beaches of Vancouver Island and enjoying all the West Coast has to offer sparked his passion for adventure. Following his service in military search and rescue on Vancouver Island, Clint added wildlife photography to his skillset and became an incurable killer whale addict and advocate for the diverse ecosystems of the Salish Sea. He’s been in and around the Victoria whale watching industry for years, and when not out on the water applies his considerable photography talents to land-based wildlife, notably grizzly bears in northern BC. Clint is always excited to share his knowledge of Vancouver Island, whales and the Salish Sea with passengers!
Derek was born on Vancouver Island and spent his youth on the back roads, lakes and ocean in the region. Along with a lifetime of outdoor experience, he’s a graduate and a guest instructor the West Coast Adventure College. Fifteen years as a Certified Marine Naturalist in the Salish Sea has led Derek to realize his most enjoyable passion is sharing his wealth of knowledge and experiences directly with Eagle Wing guests “on the deck.” Many other marine certifications allow him to fill the roles of Second Captain and First Mate on our vessels as required. The off-season is split between time in the area, and time at his winter location in the tropics. Derek is also in the rotation to serve as ecoguardian at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Personal passions include fly-fishing, canoeing and flying kites.
Mika is a marine biologist with over 13 years of commercial experience in the Salish Sea. Her field experience includes Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, where she enjoyed spending her days with penguins, seals, and of course, whales. She has experience working in animal welfare and behaviour with the BC SPCA, as well as wildlife rehabilitation around the world. Having accidentally fallen into ecotourism, Mika was inspired by the effects that guided wildlife trips could have on people. “Introducing guests to the natural world around them and teaching them how they can make a difference through informed decisions helps to create passionate advocates of the world’s oceans and helps drive positive change for conservation,” she says. We couldn’t agree more! Mika conducted her post-graduate research on southern resident killer whales and has a BSc in biology and an MSc in environment and management.
Jeff has over 18 years experience in the Victoria eco-tour industry and has logged close to 8,000 tours on the Salish Sea. That’s more than 17,000 hours of on the water experience !
He’s a university-educated biologist and has an extensive knowledge of the marine environment. He’s very passionate about what he does and share shares that enthusiasm on each and every tour. Go on one of his tours and you’ll be on “Jeff time” as he literally goes the extra mile so that you get a comprehensive and enriching experience. Over the years, he’s been nominated countless times for service excellence in whale watching by the Victoria Hospitality Society. His passions include mountain climbing, adventure backpacking, offshore sailboat racing, scuba diving and spending time with his own pod, er, family. It’s a pleasure having Jeff in the Eagle Wing family!
Peter grew up in Victoria and started with Eagle Wing in 2014, working in the office. Since then, he’s worked in almost every role, including answering phones and emails, driving the shuttle van, doing maintenance work in the shipyard, training new marine staff, and driving boats. At one point he also took photos. In addition to his work at Eagle Wing, Peter also works for the Victoria Pilot Boat as an engineer and deckhand. When he’s not working, Peter can usually be found surfing, sailing, riding bikes or trying to escape winter in the tropics. When asked what keeps him coming back to Eagle Wing every year his answer is usually: “I get to have more fun and see more cool things in a week at work than most people do in a lifetime. And for some reason they pay me for it!”
As co-owner Brett’s wife, one of Rachel‘s main jobs is to keep him in line. Somebody has to! Rachel is a professional wife and mom (of four kids, if you include Brett) who also multitasks by managing Eagle Wing’s reservation software system, does the company’s bookkeeping, and administers the payroll. In other words, she makes sure that the administrative components of our company are ship-shape and running smoothly. Rachel’s many behind-the-scenes contributions ensure that our guests are able to experience an unforgettable Salish Sea adventure!
When it comes to running whale watching tours around Vancouver Island, Captain Rod is local knowledge. Rod was born and raised in Victoria and has spent most of that time on the water, from floating on logs and playing in the tides as a young boy to fishing and sailing. He’s circumnavigated Vancouver Island, sailed across the Atlantic, run icebreakers through the Northwest Passage, run BC Ferries ships through Active Pass and the Gulf Islands, worked on tugboats from Newfoundland to Wisconsin, and back and forth on the St. Lawrence Seaway. He’s also trained as an oil spill technician and is always on watch in case of an emergency on our coastline. In 2021 he spent a few months as the ecoguardian at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, maintaining generators and solar panels, testing water salinity, monitoring the surveillance systems, and enjoying the surrounding marine life. Rod continues to be an industry protector of whales and has a deep love of the local area, and a lifelong respect for whales, birds and nature. He’s sure to entertain and educate you!
Having worked in all aspects of the hospitality and tourism field, Selena‘s passion for guest services is her main priority! She’s lived and travelled to many destinations around the world, and that has helped her understand the needs of guests from different backgrounds and countries. Her priority is to ensure that their time with Eagle Wing Tours is the best possible experience! She always goes above and beyond to ensure that guests experience that “Wow” factor. With a diploma in hotel management under her belt, she decided to go one step further, getting a bachelor degree in science with a minor in hospitality and tourism management. Working at Eagle Wing is a perfect mix for her passion for nature, being outside and being on the water!
Sydney is a marine biologist whose studies have focused on marine ecology and conservation in the Pacific Northwest. Since joining Eagle Wing in 2014, Sydney has had the opportunity to explore many avenues of marine conservation and environmental stewardship. In the summer, she’s a marine naturalist, educating the public on the rich biodiversity of the Salish Sea. In the fall and winter, she leads our award-winning school outreach program, inspiring local youth on the importance of the Salish Sea. Since it began in 2018, this innovative program has connected more than 2,200 local students with their big blue backyard. And Sydney has found her true passion—marine education, especially with the younger generations. “Connection to place is key in conservation and we build those connections through experiences,” she says. “With this deeper understanding, we inspire and empower them to protect the ocean in their everyday lives, and perhaps their future careers!”
Val’s first encounter with a wild killer whale took place in 1986 when a large male known as Ruffles (J1) swam right under the small boat she was in. She was instantly smitten! Since then, she’s been in and around Victoria’s evolving whale watching industry, blending her skills and experience in writing and photography with a passion for whales and all things marine. Val is our Communications Manager and lead photographer, and writes many of our blogs and photo posts on social media. She’s one of our senior marine naturalists, has a biology degree and has almost 40 years of experience as a science writer and communications specialist. She’s written a booklet on whales, dolphins and porpoises of BC and hundreds of articles on BC’s killer whales. She spent several years volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium, where she worked with young harbour seals and sea lions. She’s one of few people on the planet who can say they’ve bottle-fed a Steller sea lion pup on their lap! Val loves nothing more than sharing British Columbia’s stunning marine environment and its wildlife with our guests and social media followers!