Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) - Sailing in Canada’s Galapagos

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Download Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sandspit

Upon arrival in Sandspit, you will proceed to your hotel in Sandspit. The rest of the day is at leisure, and the hotel has a restaurant where you can purchase dinner.

Overnight in Sandspit.


Day 2: Haida Heritage Center, Board the Yacht

The tour starts after guests have had breakfast and have checked out of their room. Participants will be met by their tour guide for a tour of Skidegate. We will enjoy a guided tour of The Haida Heritage Center.

The center is a wonderful introduction to local natural history and the Haida culture. In 2001, six new totem poles were raised outside, and a major expansion was completed in 2007. We visit the canoe shed to see examples of a 50-foot Haida canoe carved from a single cedar tree.

We will then visit a local Skidegate family for a traditional Haida lunch.

After our sightseeing the group will catch the ferry back to Moresby Island, and will be transferred down to Moresby Camp where our sailing vessel 'SV Island Solitude' is awaiting our arrival. Upon boarding, guests are assigned cabins and receive an introduction and safety orientation.

After guests are settled, dinner will be served. An evening talk and orientation to the Gwaii Haanas Park will be given in preparation for our journey into the park the following day.


Day 3: Depart Moresby Camp

After breakfast, we depart Moresby Camp aboard SV Island Solitude and head west, out Cumshewa Inlet. If the winds are favorable we will sail, but among the islands we often need to motor until we reach more open waters.

We commonly see Queen Charlotte Island black bears feeding along the shores, bald eagles atop shoreside trees, and will take the yacht close to land for a better look. At the mouth of the inlet, we expect to see large concentrations of seabirds, and the naturalist will help participants identify different species.

Overnight at anchor - Thurston Harbour.


Day 4: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Tanu, Lyell Island

Before breakfast, we have a kayak safety orientation and the first opportunity to try out the five sea kayaks on board, in the protected waters of the bay. Mid-morning we arrive at the old Haida village of Tanu. This will be our first introduction to Haida culture as we walk among the remains of some 25 longhouses and fallen totem poles. Famous carver Bill Reid has his headstone in Tanu, as his mother was from this village.

If the tide is low we will also do an intertidal walk along the beach and rocks in front of the old village, finding various species of starfish, anemone, and urchins. Lunch will be back onboard.

Our afternoon stop is planned for Windy Bay - the site of the final stand-off on Lyell Island that finally stopped the logging and ultimately led to the creation of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in 1987. The Haida built a traditional longhouse here where Haida Watchmen spend the summer, but our main activity is focused on hiking beside a sparkling creek into the amazing old-growth forest which holds some truly gigantic trees. Later in the summer salmon will be visible in the creek.

Overnight at mooring - Murchison Island.


Day 5: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Juan Perez Sound

Heading out early from our anchorage we enter Juan Perez Sound, one of the best areas in Gwaii Haanas for whale watching. When we see whales, we will stop the yacht to watch their behavior and often have some excellent chances for photographs.

Humpback whales are the most common species, and like to feed using their enormous pectoral fins and tails to corral the fish. Killer whales, or orcas, are also seen throughout the islands. The most common ones are called 'transient' whales, and feed on other marine mammals. We may see them near seal or sea lion haulouts (similar to running into a pride of lions on the hunt). We occasionally see elusive minke whales as we leave Juan Perez Sound and round Burnaby Island heading south. Entering Skincuttle Inlet we will stop at an island in the Copper Island group.

Ashore we will find burrows that seabirds use to nest under the ground, and some interesting shoreside flowers.

Overnight at anchor - Bag Harbour.


Day 6: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Burnaby Narrows

After an early breakfast we head out to explore the best known intertidal area in Gwaii Haanas, Burnaby Narrows. With up to a 23-foot (7 m) tidal range, these islands have some spectacular low tide exploring.

Using the two Zodiac inflatable boats and all the sea kayaks, we will float above a garden of colorful seastars, anemones and urchins mere inches below the water. We then take a walk into a grove of old-growth trees and see cedar trees that were used by the Haida for making baskets and canoes. Lunch is back on board as we move through Skincuttle Inlet.

As we sail past Garcin Rocks we will watch for Steller sea lions. Large males can weigh up to 2000 lbs (900 kg). Upon entering protected Houston Stewart Channel, we reach the southern end of Moresby Island, and the site of one of Canada's last whaling stations in Rose Harbour. We will go ashore to learn about the last days of whaling and how these islands, situated on the edge of the continental shelf, provided a base for whaling for over 40 years.

Overnight at mooring - Rose Harbour.


Day 7: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Ninstints, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Today will be the highlight of the voyage for many, as we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of SGang Gwaay. This old Haida village holds the largest number of original, standing totem poles anywhere on the coast - and the experience is magical.

We will spend much of the day on the island, so there will be plenty of time to photograph, talk with the Haida Watchmen, and explore the island. Later in the day, if the weather allows, we will sail off the west coast searching for whales and offshore seabirds, such as colorful puffins and the majestic albatross. At this point we are only one hour's travel away from the edge of the continental shelf and waters over 5,000 feet deep.

Overnight mooring - Louscoone Inlet.


Day 8: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Ikeda Cove, Hotspring Island

We take a morning walk ashore exploring a wonderful sand beach looking out on the open Pacific Ocean. We occasionally find Japanese glass fishing floats - a true beachcomber's treasure! We then return to the protected eastern side of the islands, and Ikeda Cove.

This lovely cove is named after a Japanese fisherman who discovered copper here in the early 1900s. There are still remains to be seen from their hand-mining operation, as well as some lovely big trees and songbirds singing in the canopy.

As we round Scudder Point returning to Juan Perez Sound, all hands scan the horizon for whales. The next stop is the lovely Hotspring Island. With a view looking out over the ocean to the San Cristoval Mountains beyond, these are probably the finest natural hot springs on the coast. There is a bathhouse and four natural pools, all at different temperatures.

Overnight at anchor beneath the San Cristoval Mountains in De La Beche Inlet.


Day 9: Sailing in the Queen Charlotte Islands - Bischoff Islands, Darwin Sound

Today we will explore a new ecosystem - the alpine. However, we don't need to climb thousands of feet to reach it. In many places in the islands the tundra-like alpine environment can be reached within a few hundred feet of the ocean. We will search for some of the endemic bog flowers, such as Newcombe's butterweed, as well as carnivorous plants, like butterwort and sundew.

The next stop is a lovely area to explore by kayak or motorized skiff: the Bischoff Islands. We then head up scenic Darwin Sound into the heart of the mountains whose highest peaks remain snow-covered year round.

Overnight at anchor - Anna Inlet.


Day 10: Return to Sandspit

We have a mid-morning departure at Moresby Camp. The charter bus will meet participants and return them to the Sandspit Airport late morning for your departure flight.

Please use this itinerary as a guide only. The sailing itinerary may be done in a different order.

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