Felicia Ennis found southern Chile during an opportune moment in that
country’s travel industry. It was the mid-‘90s, Pinochet’s dictatorship was
losing power, and Chile was starting to funnel money into tourism.
The Montana native spent two years in Chilean Patagonia, guiding horseback
riding and hiking for the innovative five-star adventure travel hotel,
Explora, in its early days. Ennis became an expert in the region’s plants,
flowers, animals, history, culture and language, and befriended locals and
“There was a revitalization of energy and tourism,” she says. She met
Chileans who felt the same way about their country as Ennis did about
Montana. “They loved the wilderness.”
Ennis also became one of the first women to climb the South Tower of
Paine, a serious technical rock climb in the Torres del Paine National Park.
Eventually she missed Montana and returned home, by way of a job at
a travel agency and several years teaching school in Boulder, Colo. She
continued visiting South America almost once a year.
When Ennis started Bella Treks in 2005, she reconnected with old Chilean
guide friends, and brought her first guided trip to the Torres del Paine
National Park. Today, her Livingston-based travel company also offers
custom itineraries to Argentina, Peru, Antarctica, Morocco, the Arctic
The trips use local guides and stay at bed and breakfasts, hotels and
chalets. Excursions are designed for small groups and individuals, and
often include vineyards, hikes, fly fishing, and always, immersion in local
Ennis sets up private transportation and other services, keeping the trips flexible,
but well organized. Most of the company’s referrals are through word of
Closer to home, she’s putting together a birding trip to Medicine Hat National
Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana this spring, when thousands of
migrating birds will be nesting.
In November, she’s headed to Chile to reconnect with guides and providers,
and to find new hotels. While there, she hopes to visit a Mapuche Indian
school in Argentina that’s part of an exchange program with students on the
Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.
That visit is part of Ennis’s desire to start giving back to the places she and her
clients visit. On a 2010 Bella Treks trip to Morocco, for example, a group had
the option to donate to a community-based architectural restoration project.
Now, Ennis “is networking in the communities where we travel to see what
needs they have.” E.S.