spirit bear holding salmon

Known to visitors and locals, Marven Robinson is the big-hearted guide who leads spirit bear-watching tours based out of Hartley Bay – a unique opportunity for area visitors to glimpse these rare bears.


The Spirit Bear Whisperer

Marven is from the Gitga’at First Nation (GFN) in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.

The spirit bear, a significant symbol in Gitga’at culture, is a subspecies of the black bear with a recessive gene that makes their fur white. Since the 19th century, their existence has been kept a secret from fur traders (for obvious reasons).

Over the years, Marven has closely watched cubs become adult bears.The familiarity with each other makes the bears in the area friends of his, and he can comfortably get within a few feet of them. This understanding between Marven and the bears makes people call him “The Spirit Bear Whisperer.”


A Tour Like No Other

Marven’s company, Gitga’at Spirit Tours, offers adventure tours that explore the river valleys near Hartley Bay in search of spirit bears. While a spirit bear sighting isn’t a guarantee, Marven’s tuned in to the environment, and his success rate of spirit bear sightings is quite high. 

Spirit bears are one of the rarest mammals on earth. With an existing population somewhere between 100 and 500 bears, seeing a spirit bear in its natural habitat is an exceptional experience.

Throughout the tour, area expert Marven reads the bear markings on trees and points them out to visitors. He shares local knowledge and tells stories of the rich history and culture of the Gitga’at people. Marven’s favourite part of leading the bear tours is seeing how total strangers respect the area. He’s also proud of making a living without taking anything from the environment.

Protecting the Bears and Their Habitat

In addition to his tour company, Marven is a Gitga’at Guardian Watchmen and a Councillor in the Hartley Bay Band Council. He’s also an advocate for the environment and the animals that live there.  Marven notes that having the Great Bear Rainforest protected means a lot to the community, but other forces outside the area can impact the habitat of the spirit bears. 

In 2012, Gitga’at organized a rally against Enbridge, a well-attended event and supported by other nations and community members. Marven looks at the big picture and sees oil supertankers as a threat to the land and their way of life. He’s vocal about protecting the natural environment and has appeared in Greenpeace and National Geographic short films.


Meet Marven and See a Spirit Bear in the Wild

Marven’s one of the few people who can experience seeing a spirit bear in its natural habitat. Tourists learn more about the significance of this bear to the Gitga’at people, the GFN’s culture and history, and the local area with Marven’s experience and storytelling.

Learn more about Marven’s Spirit Bear Tours and make a booking to meet him in person and experience the beauty and natural environment around Hartley Bay.