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The Pesuta Shipwreck Trail will lead you along East Beach to the remains of the Pesuta, a log barge that ran aground in 1928 - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

Roadside whale-watching in May is a popular activity in Skidegate - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

The Rennell Sound area offers exceptional wilderness camping and short trails for accessing remote west coast beaches - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

Rose Spit - where the Hecate Strait meets Dixon Entrance - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

The rainforest experience - moss carpeted paths, a lingering scent of fresh cedar and the sounds of silence - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

The Looking Around and Blinking House at Windy Bay was built to provide shelter for people during the 1985 blockade against logging on Lyell Island - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

Step into another world as you tour ancient Haida village sites in Gwaii Haanas - Photo: Owen Perry www.circa1983.ca

Visit the award-winning Haida Heritage Centre and Museum at Second Beach in Skidegate - Photo: Flavien Mabit

 

An Unforgettable Venture into Gwaii Hanaas

By Kara Steel

My alarm went off at 5:30 am and I leaped out of my blankets, and began powerhouse-packing my overnight bag for the Gwaii Haanas adventure planned for that day.  Extra socks, sweaters, toothbrush/paste, and a bottle of crisp white wine for the student dinner that night all went in the bag.  I quickly realized that I wasn’t moving as fast as I had thought and was running late on time to catch my bus.  I did a final sweep of my apartment, decided I was good to go and bolted out the door running as fast as I could down the street to catch the school bus for the ferry. I actually ran so fast that I was unable to slow down in time and so I made my entrance with an intensive smash into the bus doors.  With fellow students laughing and my entire right side tingling with pain I walked to my seat, caught my breath and got organized for the journey ahead. 

 We took the ferry across to Alliford Bay where we were greeted by our park guides Grace and Laura from Moresby Explorers who loaded us up into two crew vans and drove us down the long logging roads towards the Moresby Camp launch site that would get us into the park.  Once we made it to the dock we were told to take everything we owned out of our bags and put it on.  Then we were given massive Helly Hansen rain suits and gum boots to wear on top of our clothing layers.  The whole process very quickly made me feel like a stuffed sweaty little sausage. Once everyone had all of their gear on, we waddled down to the docks, were loaded into the super awesome zodiac boats, and took off to start exploring!  I quickly realized the reason for all the clothing layers was because the boats go very fast and the wind is very powerful so if you are not dressed warmly then unfortunately you will freeze!  I was incredibly happy for my clothing choices that morning.

Flavien Mabit

The waters were being very cooperative with us as we zipped across the ocean to get to the ancient Haida village site of Tanu.  Our cultural interpreter, Patrick Shannon, guided us through the village site while giving us a very interesting history lesson about the village.  He shared a beautiful story about his personal family lineage, which comes from Tanu, and I felt privileged to have heard it.  However, it is his story to tell and not mine so I will not write more about what he said. Anyone interested in hearing the story will just have to come to Gwaii Haanas and find out for yourselves! 

Flavien Mabit

After our stroll through Tanu, we had an excellent lunch on the beach served by our lovely guides and I tried to score a quick nap before we had to set out again. 

Flavien Mabit

The nap was quickly kyboshed by Grace who said we were on a tight schedule and still had lots to see.  So I stuffed myself back into the sausage suit, waddled on board the boat, and we set off for Windy Bay. Well let me tell you it is definitely called “Windy Bay” for a reason.  As we crossed the ocean to get there, we encountered some gnarly “chop” in the waves.  I couldn’t stop shrieking with laughter as we bounced around in the water but Laura steered that boat like a champ so I didn’t doubt her ability for a second and felt totally safe as wave after wave crashed against the boat soaking my face and hair with salt water. It was a glorious feeling!  We arrived at Windy Bay finally and I stumbled onto the beach happy to have a chance to rest albeit briefly. 

Flavien Mabit

We saw an absolutely stunning totem pole that had been raised only 3 years ago and hiked up the trail to see an incredibly massive Spruce tree.  It took 10 students to wrap our arms full around the width of this tree.    

Flavien Mabit

Laura and Grace then informed us it was roughly an hour and a half to get to the float cabin and that we best get moving because it appeared some rain might be rolling in.  Bracing myself on the side of the zodiac we zoomed out onto the open ocean towards our final resting destination.  I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of all that I was soaking in and as the waves chilled out and the ride became smoother I was actually able to drift off into a small slumber.  Luckily we missed the rain and when I woke up we were 15 minutes from the float cabin and Laura was pulling up on a buoy informing us there was a prawn trap she needed to check.  We stopped the boat and some students went to work pulling up the rope and trap.  The haul was pretty decent and I immediately stepped up to try my hand at shelling them.  My general rule is I will try anything once and so I took the prawn in my hand, let out a ridiculous shriek/laugh as it’s feelers touched my hands, ripped it in half, chucked the head back to ocean and threw the meat part back in the bowl ready for the steamer.  You might say that I was pretty stoked about the whole process.

Once we got all the prawns gathered we placed the traps back in to the water and continued on to the float cabin.  This place was truly heaven on the ocean.  We were greeted by wonderful hosts who had the entire place ready for us complete with a hot roaring fire and a massive delicious home-made meal.  We handed the cook our catch of prawns and she set to work steaming them and whipping up some garlic butter. She dropped the massive bowl on the dinner table where a fellow student and myself cracked the white wine I had brought and together we went to town eating up those little guys with reckless abandon.  I have never gorged myself on so many fresh prawns before and it was absolutely amazing.  The cards, scrabble, and various other games were broken out not long after dinner but I was so full and so exhausted I didn’t stick around long.  I slowly made my way to my room and crawled into bed and immediately passed out into a deep long sleep.

Flavien Mabit

The next morning I awoke to students running around grabbing all their belongings and starting to get ready for our morning journey to the ancient Haida village site of Skedans.  I quickly got out of bed, raced downstairs where there was breakfast and coffee waiting, grabbed my bag and started stuffing myself once again into the sausage suit.  We loaded up into the boats and hit the open water.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and I quickly felt like I had too many layers on.  The rain from the night before had brought in some vicious winds so our guides figured that the beach waves at Skedans would be too intense for us to stop there.  They decided to take us on a detour to Limestone Island instead which is an area of Gwaii Haanas where the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society does a lot of their work monitoring wildlife habitat in both marine and forest ecosystems.  It was very interesting to learn about the important work they do and explore around a bit of the island.  We also managed to snag a sea urchin and were given a brief science lesson about what the urchin is and its life cycle on the ocean floor.  Then we cracked it open and everyone had the opportunity to try a bite.  I will admit that sea urchin is something I’m not sure I will ever try again as the taste was unlike anything I can fully describe… however, many students loved it, so it was an experience worth mentioning.

Flavien Mabit

After lunch, Grace and Laura loaded us back onto the boats and we set off for Skedans.  This was a very beautiful site and it was really exciting to see the remnants of old totem poles and homes.  Once again Patrick Shannon acted as our cultural interpreter and he explained to us the way the village was historically put together and the stories that went along with some of the old homes.  He also had a few books that had very old photos of what the village site originally looked like and it was pretty incredible to flip through the books looking at the photos while standing on the area where it all once existed. We spent just under two hours at Skedans hanging out on the beaches and exploring the village.  I felt very privileged to have had the opportunity to see it and would highly recommend it to anyone. 

Flavien Mabit

Our guides soon rounded us up telling us that we needed to return to Moresby Camp so that we could catch that last ferry back to Queen Charlotte.  Reluctantly, we loaded ourselves back into the zodiacs and set off.  As we hit the waves on our journey home, I thought to myself how lucky I had been to be able to make it down to Gwaii Haanas even if I didn’t get to see everything.  It is a truly amazing and beautiful place to spend time with your friends and family while learning about an incredible history of the place and people who once occupied the area.  I would highly recommend the journey to anyone looking for adventure and the opportunity to learn about cultural history.  I will definitely do it again.    

Flavien Mabit

 

Contact Us

Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre

website: www.queencharlottevisitorcentre.com
email: info@qcinfo.ca | telephone: 250-559-8316

Sandspit Visitor Centre

website: www.lovehaidagwaii.com/businesses/the-sandspit-visitor-centre
email: visitsandspit@gmail.com | telephone: 250.637.5362

Port Clements Visitor Centre

website: www.portclements.ca
email: pcmuseum@qcislands.ca | telephone: 250-557-4576

Masset Visitor Centre

website: www.massetbc.com
email: info@massetbc.com | telephone: 250-626-3982

Haida Gwaii Tourism

Destination Marketing Organization
website: www.gohaidagwaii.ca
email: tourism@gohaidagwaii.ca

Super Natural British Columbia