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Staff Highlight: Andrew Jennings


To continue our staff highlight series, we’d like to share more about AJ, one of our multi-talented and highly experienced guides. He has a charismatic presence in any room. His skill set is incredibly diverse, and he has vast experience in the guiding industry. The Farewell Family is fortunate to have him on board.

AJ has spent much of his life on the ocean - his parents were avid sailors, so he spent most of his time sailing both local and exotic destinations. By the time he was 16, he was accompanying his parents on trips circumnavigating Vancouver Island and up to Haida Gwaii. These are long and complex journeys on a sailboat for readers who don't know the area! His love of sailing and boating led him to get his first job straight out of high school as a deckhand on the Charlotte Princess, a floating lodge that runs sport fishing tours. From there he transferred to Painter's Lodge, a wildlife focused lodge that was better suited for AJ's interests and passion.
 
 
Soon after experiencing his first taste at a wildlife lodge, AJ enrolled at North Island College for the Coastal Adventure and Tourism (CAT) diploma to become a guide. During his first year, Tim McGrady, who was working at Knight Inlet Lodge at the time, came into one of AJ's classed as a guest lecturer. Being the keen and confident person that he is, AJ came to class prepared with a resume in hand and seized the opportunity to meet Tim after class. Next thing you know, he’s landed himself a student guiding gig at Knight Inlet Lodge for that upcoming summer, and here began a great, long lasting working relationship and friendship between AJ and the McGradys!

The following summer, AJ was hired as a full-time guide and spent three great seasons guiding with Tim. From there, he worked at Jamie’s Whaling Station in Tofino, Tide Rip Grizzly Tours, Campbell River Whale Watching, Weigh West Water Taxi, Spirit Bear Lodge, and SeaSmoke Whale Watching, all before circling back to Tim and Kelli, this time at Farewell Harbour Lodge back in September of 2017 when we opened.

 

AJ has had so many beautiful wildlife encounters over the past 15 years that he could probably fill a book with his adventurous tales and stories! Here are a few of his favourites that he’s shared with us. The first one that came to mind was his first encounter with a Spirit bear. At the time, AJ was working at Spirit Bear Lodge, on the central coast of BC. He said, “I just remember sitting for hours on the side of a beautiful, loud river, watching lots of black bears feeding. Then, suddenly, this one really shy juvenile Spirit bear came out. It was a quick sighting, but it was right at the beginning of meeting this bear and getting to know him. Eventually, that bear became more comfortable with us and almost befriended us. It was like we became part of the scenery. He would just come in and do his fishing, and I remember watching him as a 4-year-old juvenile. He was so clumsy that he wasn't catching much fish in the first month or so. But, he eventually caught on, and we started to see him catch 3 to 4 fish over a few hours, even getting into the double digits with lots of practice! Talking with some of my lifelong friends that live in Klemtu (where Spirit Bear Lodge is located), they’re still watching that same bear as a grown adult, and now he even dominates that same river. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Another unforgettable experience was having the opportunity to live and work in Klemtu with the Kitasoo/Xaxais First Nation. “The teaching culture in that community is strong and watching young First Nations guides come out of their shells and grow as guides was really cool. Tim was instrumental in implementing different programs for First Nations youth and giving them a platform to share their community and culture with people visiting from around the world.”

   
All photos were taken by AJ out on his many adventures!

The last story that AJ shared with us was another special wildlife encounter from when he worked at Knight Inlet Lodge. He left the lodge with six guests and a cooler full of food for a whole day-long adventure, and let me tell you, this day did not disappoint! He said, “We happened to come across some Orcas, and I got stuck in this one position. Although I did everything I could to abide by the regulations at the time (this was a decade ago), one of the males ended up splitting away from the group and coming towards us, so I shut down the engine. As the Orca approached, I could see his 6-foot-tall dorsal fin wobbling and teetering, and it felt like it was right in front of my face. I told everyone to hold onto the boat because I wasn’t sure what would happen, but this 30-foot Orca had rolled over on its side, so its dorsal fin laid down flat to swim under the boat. When he was on his side, he looked right up at us, and we connected eye to eye with this beautiful animal. It was such a moment of awe that we all fell silent. The guests had been yelling in shock at how close the Orca was, but everyone went quiet as soon as we connected with his eye. That is until he popped up on the other side of the boat. At that point, the yelling and screaming definitely continued.”

In the off-season, when he isn’t guiding, AJ works as an electrician and did his apprenticeship in North Vancouver and Victoria. He got his Journeyman certification as a construction electrician in 2020. AJ's interest in renewable energies, particularly solar energy for off-grid living systems, is his main focus of work. He’s completed several off-grid solar systems, including time at the Double Bay Whale Sanctuary, and OrcaLab – both not-for-profit organizations dedicated to the study and conversation of marine mammals.

Our Farewell Family is lucky to have members like AJ, who bring skill, charisma, and well-rounded experience to our diverse team.

AJ's instagram: andrew_jennings77
AJ's email: drewjennings77@gmail.com

-- Sylvie Stewart Grantham




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