Premier Listings: Canoeing & Kayaking: Haida Gwaii

The kayak is a boon to the free spirit. It offers flexibility and mobility to the person who doesn’t wish to be hampered by destination-driven travel schedules or a timetable other than the rhythm of the tides. Such is the lure of kayaking around Haida Gwaii. What need is there of a specific destination where every place is as magical as the next, save those coastlines ravaged by logging?

The entire east coast of Haida Gwaii, the former Queen Charlotte Islands, offers prime paddling, but the southeastern side of Haida Gwaii, rife with tiny islands, secluded coves, and lots of sheltered coastline, is the most popular kayaking destination. Because the Haida Gwaii islands are perched on the edge of the Americas, plan on prohibitive conditions on at least a few – if not most – of the days you are out. The exposed west side of the islands receives the brunt of the open ocean, but any place can suffer a good buffeting by severe weather. Flexibility and spare time are two of the most important safety features you can bring with you.

Anyone planning on doing any serious kayaking needs the appropriate charts, a compass, and the knowledge of how to use them. Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Haida Gwaii, but without a firm grounding in open-water kayaking or an experienced guide, it can also be one of the most dangerous. Wicked currents, unpredictable weather patterns, thick kelp beds, and submerged rocks or reefs all can, and have, claimed kayaks and kayakers. (The Coast Guard does not issue small-craft warnings for this area because small-craft-warning conditions are considered to be present at all times.)

While experience is a prerequisite for unguided multi-day kayak trips around Haida Gwaii, novices can still enjoy day paddling in the protected waters of the islands. Such conditions are available at Masset and Juskatla Inlet at Juskatla on Graham Island, and Skidegate Inlet between Graham and Moresby Islands. Kayaks and paddling equipment are available to rent from several commercial operators on the islands. Juskatla Inlet is easily accessible by logging road from the Graham Island communities of Port Clements and Queen Charlotte City, and provides an ideal escape to a wilderness virtually free of the signs and impact of civilization. Paddling conditions are good, and the availability of camping facilities provides for an excellent winter and summer outdoor recreation destination.

The more adventurous should consider one of the many kayaking expeditions which are offered on the islands. These multi-day trips can be organized on a drop-off and pick-up basis, or can be booked using a mothership as a base from which to launch your kayak for day paddles. Returning to the relative comfort of the base vessel after an exciting day of kayaking is an attraction to those not yet ready to survive on their own in the natural and unspoilt wilderness of the former Queen Charlotte Islands. This is the best of both worlds: you’re out in the the wild without really roughing it.

The entire cluster of islands has been circumnavigated by kayak, and is open to the experienced and self-sufficient seafaring explorer. That said, Gwaii Haanas National Park is by far the most popular kayaking playground in the Haida Gwaii islands, with such destinations as Hotspring Island, Burnaby Narrows, Windy Bay, Anthony Island (Ninstints), Tanu, All Alone Stone, Rose Harbour, St. James Island, Flatrock Island, Echo Harbour … the list goes on and on, and so does the adventure in Haida Gwaii, islands of the people.

Many kayak trips start at Sandspit, although a less exposed route starts from Moresby Camp, travelling the relatively protected inside waters of Carmichael Pass south to Gwaii Haanas, thereby avoiding the exposed outside shoreline between Cumshewa Head and Porter Head at Tangil Peninsula. From Moresby Camp to the northern boundary of the park reserve is a two-day, 22-mile (35-km) paddle, weather permitting. You could spend months, even years, exploring the coasts in Gwaii Haanas, stopping to investigate the many onshore and inland attractions, and still not feel that you knew the place. But that’s part of the magic and appeal of Haida Gwaii.

With the exception of a few mooring buoys and navigational aids, there are no visitor services or facilities in Gwaii Haanas. Sea kayaking in Gwaii Haanas is not for novices. This is a challenging area with a host of associated dangers. Kayakers, in particular, need experience, well-developed paddling and rescue skills, navigational skills, leadership skills, good judgement, and experience in wilderness travel. Gwaii Haanas is remote so you cannot rely on other people if you get into trouble. It’s recommended that independent travellers carry radios, but even so, it is still likely to take several hours, even in good weather, for help to arrive.

If you are not travelling with a guide or guided tour, file a trip plan with the Canadian Coast Guard in Prince Rupert. Be sure to contact them as soon as you return. If you don’t, you may be held responsible for any unnecessary search and rescue initiated on your behalf.

Premier Listings

Photo of Ocean Light II Adventures
Ocean Light II Adventures
#363 – 1917 West 4th Avenue Vancouver BC V6J 1M7 Home Phone: 604-328-5339Home Fax: 604-731-7066Visit Website

Biographical Info

Ocean Light II is a beautiful and spacious 71ft sailboat offering comfort, a classic natural wood interior, 5 guest cabins, fishing gear, 7 seakayaks, and a 19ft hard-bottom inflatable. Her crew has 34 years of experience offering natural history and photography tours on the BC Coast, including Haida Gwaii, and specializing in grizzly viewing tours in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, and spirit bear and grizzly tours in the Great Bear Rainforest. We also offer whale watching and eco tours, from totems to intertidal treasures, rocky shores to sandy beaches, and spawning salmon to towering trees. We offer five spectacular adventure trips between May and October, each to a different region and each highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of the beautiful BC coast.

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Photo of Ecosummer Expeditions
Ecosummer Expeditions
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 156 Clearwater BC V0E 1N0 Ecosummer Orca Camp Warden Beach Vancouver Island BC Home Phone: 250-674-0102Home Fax: 250-674-2197Work Phone: 1-800-465-8884Visit Website

Biographical Info

Awaken to the song of the Humpback whale. Fall asleep beneath the hushed canopy of a temperate rainforest. Fill your days whale-watching, kayaking with Orcas, observing sea lions romp through an underwater forest of kelp, and eagles fishing along the shore. Linger over lunch on a deserted island, scanning the horizon for signs of Orca activity.

Sign up for Ecosummer’s guided Orca Camps to kayak in the realm of Killer Whales. Explore the rainforest, hiking to waterfalls, or along ancient First Nation trails. Marvel when dolphins swim so close you wish you could reach out and touch them. Tune in to the rhythm of the tides. Escape the hubbub of your everyday world and restore life’s equilibrium on the shores of BC’s Johnstone Strait, one of the best places to whale-watch in all of British Columbia. Paddle the same waters as these gentle giants on three, four, or six-day kayaking adventures with Ecosummer Expeditions for a family vacation you’ll always remember.

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Photo of Spirit of the West Kayaking
Spirit of the West Kayaking
P.O. Box 569 Heriot Bay Quadra Island BC V0P 1H0 Home Phone: 250-285-2121Home Fax: 1-888-389-5736Work Phone: 1-800-307-3982Visit Website

Biographical Info

Kayaking British Columbia is the ultimate way to view BC’s abundant wildlife.

We want you to fall in love with kayaking and our unique coast, and our passion shows in everything we do. Choose among several professionally-guided 4-8 day trips for all experience levels around Vancouver Island. ‘Glamping’ basecamp-style with wood-fired hot tub overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or expedition-style paddling from camp to camp and paddling between 100s of islands through the Broughton Archipelago, famous Desolation Sound and the wild Great Bear Rainforest on the Central Coast. Savouring a fresh salmon BBQ in the open air, explore and view fascinating wildlife and wilderness and wake up on remote islands with the sound of the whales. Unique and breathtaking.

Our adventures are for everyone and are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. We take care to introduce you to the sport in a fun and safe manner. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected. Our groups are small, ranging from 8 to 13 people, depending on the trip, in order to provide you with the best experience possible. We provide everything you need for a once in a lifetime kayaking adventure. We provide high-quality fiberglass kayaks, paddling equipment, camp cookware, eating utensils, and camping gear.

Our guides take care of you for the entire duration of your tour, prepare delicious, organic and local meals, and have extensive training and experience in sea kayaking and in sharing the natural and cultural history of the area.

During the Northern Hemisphere winter, we also offer kayaking trips to the glacier-fed South American wildlife paradise, the Chilean Patagonia Archipelago, and multi-day escapes to sun, sand, remote beaches and the warm crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. Please contact us for all details of these amazing winter getaways!

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