My research project consisted of gathering information on different types of guided experiences and their products/pricing along the Oregon coast. Specifically, I researched salmon charters, whale watching, and kayak tours in 15 coastal Oregon towns. There are three goals to my research: (1) to see what businesses are offering, (2) to see what their products and prices are, and (3) to determine the strength of their online marketing.All three of these goals come together to help us work towards one bigger one: to boost economic development along thecoast through sustainable tourism. One way to do so is through guided experiences, which includes any form of outdoor recreation that is led by a professional. These can include fishing charters, horseback riding, tidepooling, guided hikes, and master classes.
When using a guide, clients definitely learn more than they would on their own. Guides know the area better than anyone and can point out wildlife and special features to the area; they’ll also ensure a fun and safe experience for everyone involved. By using professional guides, visitors are creating jobs in the area and encourage sustainable tourism. In turn, with a higher demand for guides, professionals will be encouraged to obtain higher certifications and more training to be more competitive in the industry.
I believe that the more you know, the more you see. If you’re more knowledgeable about a topic, you’ll have a greater appreciation for what you’re doing. And who knows more about outdoor recreation than the people who lead these experiences for a living?
Since my research is about guides and guided experiences, I was lucky enough to take a guided tour and experience what I had been researching. Dave Lacey, the owner of South Coast Tours LLC, took me and two other interns out on a Port Orford Ocean Wildlife Viewing Kayak Tour. Dave founded SCT in 2012, and they offer several types of guided experiences including kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kayak fishing, and van tours. Along with his team of five other guides, Dave works hard to ensure the safety of his clients and to make sure they walk away smiling, having had a wonderful time on the tour.
When asked why people should choose to take guided tours instead of venturing off into the ocean alone, Dave referenced our specific tour saying, “There’s a lot to learn from somebody who has done it before, so you can show them some of those sea caves you might not notice, or the arch. If you didn’t know the arch was there, you might miss it. There’s that inside knowledge, plus [weather and ocean] conditions.” When asked about the highlight of his job, Dave added, “The best part is hearing you guys laugh and just the stoke you hear out there.”
As part of tour, Dave provided wetsuits, booties, and kayaks to each client. He discussed water safety and explained the basics of kayaking before we launched from the beaches of Port Orford. We paddled through Graveyard Point, Tichenor Cove, Nellies Cove, and through Hell’s Gate and back to the port.
Along the way, Dave was able to point out local seabirds which included brown pelicans, pigeon guillemots, cormorants, black oystercatchers, and common murres, as well as different types of kelp, how to eat them, and their importance to wildlife. We continued into a cove, where we found a group of 20+ harbor seals, many of them young pups. Dave explained how we should keep our distance and make sure we move slowly so that the seals do not get nervous and hurt themselves sliding off of a rock. We paddled around them and even had some come visit our kayaks!
We continued and saw caves and arches, but the water was too rough for us to paddle through; we were able to go through the arch on the way back, though. We kept paddling, with Dave pointing out wildlife such as barnacles, mussels, sea stars, and lion’s mane jellyfish. The highlight of our trip was on the return, where Dave spotted a whale’s spout in the port. We slowed down, and it was headed our direction! We took about a half an hour to watch the whale, as it emerged and dove back down right around our kayaks. Dave explained to us that this whale was likely part of the resident pod and feeding on the kelp beds below us. It was the highlight of my week! Dave even had a camera to take photos of us and videos of the wildlife to send to us.
Taking a tour with Dave was a great way to better understand the need for helpful, well-trained guides. During our interview, Dave said that he is always making sure that we are having a great time but is constantly thinking about our safety. He provided high quality equipment, ensured we were comfortable and confident, and was able to identify and teach us all about the local marine wildlife. Without a guide, we would not have had the same experience, especially as people new to the area. South Coast Tours offers wonderful guided experiences that practice sustainable tourism while ensuring happiness and safety to all participants.