A brief introduction to the Spirit Bear Lodge guides and operations staff
As a community owned and operated eco-cultural tourism business on BC's beautiful central coast, the Spirit Bear Lodge mandate is to provide economic benefits and sustainable local employment to residents of Klemtu.
Many of our guides, boat operators, cooks and housekeeping staff are all year round residents in Klemtu and are proud to be providing unforgettable experiences to guests from around the world. Guests who travel to ancestral lands of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais in search of an authentic, aboriginal tourism in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest will be welcomed with the warm hospitality of not only our staff, but also the residents of this remote village on BC's Inside Passage. All of our guides are certified in marine and wilderness first aid.
John Czornobaj - General Manager
Growing up on Vancouver Island, John began venturing into the wilderness with his family as a young child. This inspired his later years of travel, both locally and globally in search of wild places. His passion for outdoor adventure led him to an education in Adventure Tourism and later to guiding and management positions with a variety of coastal wilderness tourism operators. John has many passions routed in the outdoors, including fly fishing, kayaking, river rafting, hiking, and wildlife viewing. John is passionate about sharing experiences with visitors from around the world.
John has been with Spirit Bear Lodge since 2016 and is thrilled to continue working with the Kitasoo/Xai'xais to share their culture and territory with guests of Spirit Bear Lodge. For John, there is no better place to be than on the side of a river in an untouched valley right in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Charlie Mason - Boat CaptainCharlie has been working with Spirit Bear Lodge since 1999 and is a hereditary chief of the Xai’xais First Nation. Charlie is our tourism boat operator, guide and amazing storyteller of his people’s history. Charlie’s quiet confidence is apparent in all of his interactions with guest, who listen attentively to his stories as they travel throughout the vast traditional territory of his people.
Charlie, who has lived in Klemtu his entire life, is the head of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Spirit Bear Song and Dance Group, who perform in the Klemtu Big House, as well as at cultural events throughout the province of British Columbia .
Along with his role in tourism in the summer season, Charlie manages the Robinson/Mason grocery store throughout the year. He holds Small Vessel Operators Proficiency certificate and marine advanced first aid certificate.
Heather Robinson - Guide
Heather works as a Teaching Assistant at the Kitasoo Community School from September to June, but her summers are dedicated to guiding guests from around the world throughout her territory. Heather brings spirit and laughter to the SBL team, along with a wealth of knowledge of both the natural and cultural history of this region. Since 2016 she has shared her attentive and caring nature and excellent sense of humour with the lodge, bringing comfort and high spirits to her tours. Heather is just awesome!
After living in Vancouver for 10 years Troy returned to his home town of Klemtu in 2017 aspiring to reconnect with his roots and to learn his traditional language and the stories of his people. Troy began guiding with Spirit Bear Lodge in 2017 and was an instant success. He is also a member of the Súa Youth Performance Group. Troy is a hard-working, positive, team player, always smiling, and with a knack for storytelling. He loves to share the stories he has learned, and maybe a few of his own, so just ask!
Troy Reece - Guide
Sierra Robinson - Guide
Sierra is 20 years old and from the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation. She began working at Spirit Bear Lodge in 2012 as a Student Guide. In 2013, Sierra worked as a Student Research Field Technician for the Spirit Bear Research Foundation and has been working on-call seasonally for the Foundation since. She also completed an 8-week summer internship called Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) and talks about how amazingly shape shifting the program was for her. After completing high school in 2015 with a Dogwood Diploma at the local Kitasoo Community School in Klemtu she soon became a mother to her son Austin Robinson in July 2016. While becoming a young mom, Sierra decided to make some concrete career choices and began working for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Languages Working Group on Revitalizing Klemtu’s two native languages, Sgüüxs and Xai’xais. As well as working here at the Spirit Bear Lodge as one of our Assistant Guides and occasionally, your Front of House Hostess.
Jack Plant - Guide / Operations Assistant
Jack was born and raised in the south of England where he studied Animal management and conservation for 3 years at Sparsholt College. Growing up with a mother and father who allowed 26+ pets into their household, as you could imagine, set a foundation for his love and interest for animals and nature. His best childhood hobby was digging the garden for the biggest, nastiest bugs he could find, and coming indoors covered in mud and leeches. It didn't take long before he explored his Canadian roots and fell in love with the vast wildlife that BC has to offer. "Being out in the sticks with the bears and the whales is awesome, but sharing that experience with other nature lovers from all around the world is unbeatable."
As well as a Guide, Jack is a keen wildlife photographer. You can see his work at www.facebook.com/
Murray, aka 'Moose', is one of the skippers of our tourism vessel. Raised in Klemtu since he was a young boy, Murray loves nothing more than guiding guests in Kitasoo/Xai’xais territory. As he puts it, “The ocean is my playground.” He brings ample experience and enthusiasm to the position. Murray has had a varied career in construction and infrastructure maintenance with the Kitasoo Band Council.
Murray Barton - Boat Captain
Ben Genaille - Executive ChefOriginally from Manitoba, Ben has been involved with food from a very early age; spending summers working on a local farm harvesting, hunting rabbits and partridge, all by the age of eight. Moving west, Ben's wife Carolyn traveled to beautiful British Columbia, now married for thirty-four years they are blessed with three wonderful sons and two amazing grandsons.
Ben has worked in the hospitality industry for most of his career. Working with some of Vancouver's best European chefs when he was young, provided him with a strong culinary foundation. His travels to Hong Kong, Italy, and Germany have ignited a new passion for learning from other cultures, and clarified how much indigenous peoples have to offer the culinary world. A lifelong passion for culinary learning has also led to exploration of food of cultures from the past. Ben is a Red Seal chef, culinary arts instructor, cooks assessor, food safe instructor, as well as a member of Culinary Team Canada in 2008 and Aboriginal Culinary Team in 2012. Ben has a passion for learning and sharing aboriginal food knowledge from around the globe and is excited to join Spirit Bear Lodge to learn, share, and grow with the team.
Kyle Smith - Guide
Kyle Smith grew up in the Canadian Capital city of Ottawa and was fortunate to have the Algonquin Park wilderness and wildlife so close to him. It was there he discovered his passions for exploring the backcountry and wildlife photography. Since making British Columbia his permanent home, he now spends his winters in Revelstoke as a professional photographer shooting with big mountain skiers and snowboarders. During the summer months he is a passionate bear viewing guide and is certified with the Commercial Bear Viewing Association (CBVA). Kyle is currently working towards becoming a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) to help educate the public through his images on the environmental issues that Canada faces. Kyle loves to share his knowledge and techniques on nature photography and can help you get that perfect shot this summer. www.kylesmithfoto.com
Lisa Hackett - Cultural Ambassador Program Coordinator
Lisa Hackett was born and raised in Victoria, BC, but has recently moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she attends Dalhousie University in their Medical Sciences Program. She is coordinator of our Cultural Ambassador program where she works with Kitasoo youth and community elders in the development and delivery of culturally authentic performances in the Klemtu Big House by the Sua Youth Performance Group. Lisa is an ACTRA union actor, a performer with Make 'Em Ups Improv Company and a trainer with the Canadian Improv Games. She has had the pleasure of working with some of the great minds behind Picnicface, Mr. D and The Trailer Park Boys.
Michelle Lawson - Office Administrator/Reservations/Marketing
Michelle joined us in the office after our 2013 season and has been the face behind the emails since. Her passion for travel and adventure steered her to a diploma in tourism in 2008 at Capilano University and has taken her to places such as New York, Mexico, Bermuda, England, and extensively through out Canada (Coast to Coast!) When not in the office talking bears, she can be found taking care of her own two cubs at home.
Cameron is 14 years old and can spot wildlife like no one we've ever seen. Out with 8 bear guides one day on a training run cruising the inlet at 30 knots, he spotted a Spirit Bear on the shore. We hired him on the spot. He often joins his Grandfather, Papa Murray - skipper Murray Barton, on board. Whenever Cam is aboard we see orca, humpbacks, bears and many species of birds and its usually him that spots them first. We are looking forward to the day when we can promote him to a lead guide position.
Cameron Robinson - Guide in Training
Mercy is 19 years old. She was born and raised in Klemtu, BC. Mercy has been working with Spirit Bear Lodge since she was 15 years old and started as a cultural ambassador with the Sua Performance Program and is now an assistant bear guide.
Mercy Georgia Starr Mason - Guide
The knowledge gained through her work at the lodge has fuelled her passion to connect with her traditional territory and culture. She also loves seeing bears, and all of the wildlife that live in the Great Bear Rainforest. On the water kayaking, boating and in a canoe, Mercy is at home.
Reginald Lewis Neasloss (Louie) - Boat CaptainLouie grew up in Klemtu, but also has family ties to the Haisla Nation (Kitimaat). Louie holds the title as one of our skippers for our tourism vessels. He has been a boat operator for the lodge for three years, and loves to be out on the ocean as much as possible. One of the perks for Lou while working with us is that he gets the chance to meet new people from all over the world.
Born and raised in western Canada, Brady has always looked to the natural world for inspiration and guidance. A commitment to social, as well as environmental justice has led him into various movements of settler responsibility when regarding the history of colonization and how it affects indigenous rights and empowerment in a modern setting. After attending Vancouver Island University in the First Nations studies program, Brady believes that Spirit Bear Lodge is one of the best platforms available to blend his academics, passions, and beliefs; and is grateful for the opportunity to learn, share, and teach about the unique world he calls home.
Brady Stjerneberg - Guide / Operations Assistant
After completing her honours bachelor of Environmental Science degree and working in some of Western Canada’s most iconic destinations, including Banff and Jasper National Parks and the Clayoquot UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Elissa set her sights on the Great Bear Rainforest. In 2013 she joined the Spirit Bear Lodge team and fell in love with this untamed and unparalleled part of the world. To be invited year after year to live in the beautiful community of Klemtu in the territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation has been a great honour for Elissa. Likewise, her time spent getting to know the rivers and wildlife of this region has filled her with immense gratitude and joy, an experience she looks forward to sharing with guests. Elissa loves to share her knowledge of bears and salmon, as well of some of her more eclectic specialties, like analyzing animal scats, tracking banana slugs, and admiring the graceful dance of nudibranchs, so please do ask!
Elissa Crouse - Guide / Operations Assistant
At a very young age, Vanessa showed a big interest in wildlife, particularly about marine wildlife, so she learnt to love and respect nature since she was little. As a diver, whale watching guide and wildlife photographer she has experienced unforgettable interactions with dolphins, sharks, whales, manta rays, sea lions, crocodiles, turtles, sea birds, amongst other magnificent creatures. For several years she has been using her photography to give talks to children and adults to raise awareness, mainly about the hunting of sharks and the use of marine mammals and other animals for human entertainment. She participated in a campaign to help protect the Vaquita, the smallest porpoise and most endangered marine mammal in the world. Vanessa has a deep love and passion for wildlife and she says that "it is a great opportunity to take people to see animals in their natural habitat, wild and free, so they can fall in love with them because as Jacques Cousteau says: people protect what they love.
Vanessa Prigollini - Guide
Julie Fulford - Guide
The name "Julie" is written 樹里 in Japanese, and it means "Tree Village". As this name indicates, Julie loves trees. Having a Canadian father and Japanese mother, Julie was born in BC, Grew up in Japan. Because she loves trees so much, she studied Forest Science at Shinshu University in Japan. As she learned about forest ecology, she thought she wanted to learn how the forest and the wildlife connects. So, she took major in Wildlife, and did a research for the food habit of Asiatic Black Bears. And that is where she learned to love bears. She moved into Canada in 2015, took a course at West Coast Adventure College to get skills and certificates to become an outdoor guide. She has been doing various seasonal jobs in BC since then, including canoe guiding, boat tour guiding, lift operator at ski hills, tree planting, tree nursery etc. It is her first season working for Spirit Bear Lodge, and she is excited to spend the summer watching amazing wildlife and sharing the experience with everyone.