SOUTHERN GWAII HAANAS EXPLORER KAYAK TOUR – 8 days admin
SOUTHERN GWAII HAANAS EXPLORER – EXPEDITION KAYAKING
Sea kayaking in Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, is a spectacular experience. The jewel of the islands, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site, provides the adventurous kayaker with stunning scenery, remote wilderness, fantastic wildlife, and the opportunity to visit important Haida cultural sites.
The Southern Gwaii Haanas Explorer kayak tour travels between Burnaby Island and Ninstints toward the southern end of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. Our route along this rugged coastline offers fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities, remarkable scenery, wonderful campsite locations, and culminates with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ninstints (SGang Gwaay Linagaay) with its long house remains and carved memorial and mortuary poles.
Our journey begins near Burnaby Island in the center of Gwaii Haanas. The waters surrounding Burnaby Island are renowned for abundant and colourful intertidal life. Burnaby (Dolomite) Narrows has some of the highest levels of living material of any intertidal zone in the world. Floating in our kayaks over hundreds of colourful sea stars, urchins, and anemones is a remarkable experience.
As we head south we are on the lookout for whales. Humpback whales are often seen feeding in Skincuttle Inlet and around many of the headlands we pass. Both harbour seals and Steller sea lions haul out on the many rocky islets, always weary of an ambush from transient (marine mammal-eating) killer whales. Along the beaches deer and black bears are a common sight.
Weather permitting we move to a new campsite each day. We may choose to camp on pebble beaches, moss-carpeted forest, or small offshore islands. Many of our favourite campsites are surrounded by lush old growth rainforest and have nearby streams allowing for freshwater bathing.
Near the end of our journey we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ninstints (SGang Gwaay Linagaay), home to over two dozen mortuary and memorial poles and the remains of cedar long houses. The waters surrounding Anthony Island are home to a wide variety of sea birds, such as rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and tufted and horned puffins, plus many more species are often seen.
With all that Gwaii Hanaas has to offer, it is understandable why many of our guests consider this to be the best trip of their lives and why National Geographic rated Gwaii Haanas the #1 wilderness park destination in North America.
We provide high quality three season tents. For couples we provide three person tents and for solo travellers a slightly smaller tent. Therm-a-rest sleeping pads and warm mummy style sleeping bags with liners are all provided to ensure a good night’s sleep. A library of natural history books is on every trip.
On the water we use stable single and double fibreglass kayaks and lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles. Waterproof kayaking jackets and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.
Suggested reading: All of our tours carry a small library of field guides and local history books. The two books listed below are larger “coffee table” books that are too big to fit in our kayaks. If you wish to learn more about the area prior to your trip these books provide a great narrative with stunning photographs. Each title is linked to Amazon.com and open in a new window.
Charts: Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).
Departs: Sandspit, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
* Kingfisher's multi-day kayak tours are eligible for a 50% point of sale rebate of the GST for visitors to Canada. In essence visitors to Canada pay 2.5% tax on multi-day kayak tours.
Includes: We provide you with all the necessary kayaking and camping equipment, including kayaks, paddling jackets, PFD (life jacket), group shelters, tents, sleeping pads, camp chairs and sleeping bags (you may bring your own). A comprehensive list of required personal items can be read by clicking on the “Preparation” tab above. All meals during the kayak trip are provided and prepared by your guides. We’re proud of our menu that includes abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, a wide variety of international dishes, and freshly baked treats. Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated given sufficient prior notification. Transportation is all-inclusive from Sandspit by our network of vans and water taxis.
What is not included: We do not provide transport from your home to Sandspit, nor do we provide airport transfers. Accommodation in Sandspit is not included. Any meals outside the kayak portion of the tour are your responsibility. Travel insurance for accidents or emergency evacuation is not provided; we recommend you purchase a policy before leaving home. The trip price does not include guide gratuities; should you feel that the service was exemplary, it is always appreciated.
Exact kayaking routes may vary depending on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather.
Please note: Some of the Southern Gwaii Haanas Explorer kayak tours start at or near Burnaby Island in the central part of Gwaii Haanas and travel south as outlined in this itinerary. However, some tours travel in the reverse direction, starting near Rose Harbour in the south and kayaking north to Burnaby Island.
Day 0: Guests need to arrive in Sandspit the day before the trip departs. At 7:00 PM there is a pre-trip meeting with a Kingfisher guide at Moresby Explorers’ office, next to the Seaport B&B. At the meeting your guide(s) provide you with an overview of the trip, provide a mandatory Gwaii Haanas orientation, distribute dry bags to pack your gear, and answer any last minute questions you may have. Meals Included: None
Day 1: You are picked up at your accommodation at approximately 7:30 AM by van. We travel over logging roads for about one hour to Moresby Camp where we then board an open zodiac (rigid hull inflatable boat) for an approximately three hour exhilarating ride into Gwaii Haanas.
Upon arrival at our first remote campsite, we set up camp and have a kayak and safety orientation. After lunch we try out the kayaks for the first time, exploring the waters surrounding camp. Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner
Days 2 to 7: Early in the trip we are kayaking the waters around Burnaby Island, and if the tides are right a visit to Burnaby Narrows, known for its rich concentration of intertidal life. Heading south from Burnaby Island, we cross Skincuttle Inlet, and pass the abandoned Haida village of Haigi, long since deserted as a result of a smallpox epidemic. Rounding Benjamin Point we begin to see Kunghit Island, the southernmost island of the Haida Gwaii archipelago. Turning into Houston Stewart Channel, separating South Moresby Island from Kungit Island, we pass Rose Harbour – an abandoned whaling station – and begin heading west to the open Pacific.
Near the end of the kayak tour we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ninstints (SGang Gwaay Linagaay) on Anthony Island. Tufted and horned puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and many more species of sea birds are often seen on the exposed rocks and islets between South Moresby and Anthony Islands.
Unless weather dictates otherwise we generally move to a new campsite every day of this tour. The actual kayaking route depends on the weather, sea conditions, and abilities of the group, and while each kayak tour is unique, we believe all are spectacular. Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
Day 8: On the last day of the kayak tour, you’ll have time to reminisce about the previous days over a leisurely breakfast. The zodiac generally arrives midday for the journey back to Sandspit where you’ll have the opportunity to get together with the rest of your group for a no-host farewell dinner. Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch
This tour departs from Sandspit on South Moresby Island, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
It is imperative that guests arrive in Sandspit no later than the day before the kayak tour’s departure date. At the end of the trip, the earliest guests should plan to head home is the morning after the tour ends. Better still, spend a few more days to explore more of the islands. The Haida Heritage Centre is worth the visit.
Travelling by Air
Flights to Sandpsit – YZP from Vancouver depart from the main terminal of Vancouver International Airport – YVR and are approximately 2 hours. These flights are operated by Air Canada.
Travelling by Ferry BC Ferries services Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) from Prince Rupert. The crossing is approximately 7 hours. Once arriving in Skidegate on Haida Gwaii another short ferry ride is necessary to reach nearby Alliford Bay, a 15 minute drive from Sandspit. If you have the time an Inside Passage ferry runs between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert.
Via Rail offers train service to Prince Rupert from Jasper. Travel to Jasper from Vancouver or Edmonton by train.
Our Guest Handbook contains details on preparing for your kayak tour. Included in the handbook is travel and accommodation information, a list of what to bring, what you can expect while you are kayaking, wildlife viewing etiquette, and medical and release forms.
The handbook answers commonly asked questions. However, do not hesitate to contact us with any specific questions you may have. The handbook is in PDF format. If you do not have a PDF viewer one can be downloaded free from Adobe.
For quick reference, here is what you should be bringing on your kayak tour. We provide everything else.
The climate in Gwaii Haanas is typical of British Columbia’s outer west coast – cool and wet virtually any time of the year. The best weather is usually between mid-June and mid-August. During July and August the average temp is about 15°C with an average daily minimum and maximum of 12°C and 17°C. For maximum enjoyment on your trip in all types of weather please bring the items listed below.
It is important that your clothing be made of synthetic materials or wool to retain their warmth when wet. Most synthetics also have the advantage of being quick drying. Avoid cotton clothing because they lack warmth if wet and take a very long time to dry. All of the items listed below need to fit into four dry bags (which we supply). If you have any questions on what you need to bring please feel free to contact us.
Sleeping bag – fits into 20 litre dry bag
We supply sleeping bags, liners, and pillows to all guests but if you prefer to bring your own we recommend:
● A three season synthetic insulated bag
Clothing – fits into 20 litre dry bag
Please bring everything listed. There is duplication and you may not need everything, but in the event of getting wet or cold you will be glad you have it. While many people consider long underwear to be a winter item it can make a world of difference on a cool summer evening and can double as leggings under shorts during the day. The biggest heat loss area is the head and a warm hat can add immensely to your comfort.
● 1 pairs of short
● 2 pair of pants
● 2 long sleeve shirts
● 2 short sleeve shirts
● 2 sweater or sweatshirt
● 4 to 7 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 4 to 7 pairs of underwear
● 1 swimsuit
● 1 fleece jacket
● 1 baseball cap or sun hat
● 1 wool or fleece cap
Rain gear – fits into 10 litre dry bag
We provide waterproof kayaking jackets but you still need rain gear for around camp. Rain gear does not need to be breathable but it should be be waterproof – not water-repellent.
● 1 waterproof rain jacket with hood or rain hat
● 1 pair of waterproof rain pants
Personal items – fits into 10 litre dry bag
● Sun screen
● Sunglasses with a retainer
● Prescription eyeglasses or contacts
● Spare eyeglasses or contacts
● Wet Wipes
● Synthetic camp towel
● Spare medication
● Insect repellent
● Flashlight and batteries
● Extra digital storage and batteries
Footwear – either worn or packed loose
● sandals or shoes you can get wet
● Walking or running shoes (preferably waterproofed)
● Rubber boots (some guests prefer these instead of wet shoes or sandals for kayaking. But, if you go too deep when entering or exiting your kayak the boots will be wet for the remainder of the trip).
● Wool or fleece gloves or mitts (if your hands easily get cold these are good to have for the evenings)
● Paddling or cycling gloves (we provide kayaking mitts for warmth, but if you are prone to blisters you may find cycling or paddling gloves to be beneficial).
● Farmer Jane/John wet suit to wear kayaking.
While each of our kayak tours and routes will vary based on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather the below map highlights the general area that our base camp kayak tour operates in.
Charts: You do not need to bring charts on this kayak tour. Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).
We think our tours are pretty great and so do our guests.
Below are excerpts from a few TripAdvisor reviews.
Visit TripAdvisor to view all our reviews.
"Couldn't imagine better guides! We did the Southern Gwaii Hanaas trip with guides Beth Anne and Jake in July. The weather was great, the scenery and the paddling were spectacular, and the guides were amazing. They were always attentive to our comfort and safety. Their knowledge of the tides and currents, the flora and fauna and the history of the area was impressive, and they were just great fun people to be with. The food was nutritious, balanced and freshly prepared. Our group got along amazingly well and it seemed we never stopped laughing. Highly recommended." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"I found Kingfisher on line and after having read various reviews, decided to get in touch to see if I would have the necessary abilities to join this tour.
Andrew, the owner of the company, got back to me very quickly and after we spoke about my kayaking experience, I decided to sign up. The trip was all that I hoped and more.
Kingfisher is a wonderful company. Andrew, who also happened to be a guide on this tour, is attuned to customer service and satisfaction. Safety is also a top priority. The ratio of guides to group size is excellent. The equipment is of great quality and if weather is not optimal for kayaking, then staying put at the camp site is part of the program. That's when you see the additional qualities of the amazing guides. Not only are they competent, knowledgeable guides but they are also great cooks and wonderful social convenors when it is raining! Allie, you rock!:)
Gwaii Hanaas is a magical place where human beings are visitors and wildlife are at home. So no trace camping is an integral part of Kingfisher's philosophy.
This trip also has a cultural competent allowing you to visit the Haida Totem Poles at Sgang Gwaii, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, weather permitting.
"I went on the 8 day kayak trip in Haida Gwaii with Kingfisher in mid August. We were 8 friends and had a spectacular trip. Andrew, the company's owner, was one of the guides and impressed us with his knowledge of the area's culture and natural environment...
The other guide, Renee, was also great company and always found the best mossy, or beach front camp kitchens. The guides cooked the food, which was excellent, most vegetarian food, with tuna , greek salads etc for lunch. Lots of fresh fruit and veg and excellent coffee! We all helped set up our tents, carry water, kayaks etc, so it did feel collaborative, although we had lots of downtime while the guides did not. The campsites were amazing...
We were lucky to have gorgeous weather; I was surprised how mild the days and evenings were. We were in a mix of single and double kayaks and always felt very safe, with expert route finding. Lovely swells, the calm of Burnaby Inlet at low tide, and the spectacular Ninstints totem site, were highlights. And of course the humpback whales, sea mammals and birds were incredible.
I recommend going a day early to allow yourself a visit to the Haida Cultural center at Skidigate , 12 km by bike and a short ferry ride, to get the cultural background. Can't recommend this trip highly enough." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
Book Now - Risk Free Sign up now with a deposit to book your spot and it's fully refundable for 72 hours after your booking. This gives you three days to sort out travel plans and ensure you don't lose your spot(s). If you can't make the trip, let us know by phone or email within 72 hours of booking for a full refund of your deposit.
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A $250 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on an Orca Waters Base Camp kayak tour. The remaining balance is due 30 days before your tour's departure date. Please note our cancellation policy
We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and JCB cards. Please note that all prices are in Canadian dollars and that 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be added to the price of each tour. Visitors to Canada receive a 50% point of sale rebate on the GST. This rebate may be ending this year and not applicable for our 2018 tours.
Other Currencies and Taxes
$2795 CAD is approximately: 1,672.67 GBP / 1,881.23 EUR / 2,209.31 USD
All prices are charged in Canadian funds. Your credit card company will convert to your home currency using their exchange rates. The above foreign exchange prices are approximate and for reference only and are updated daily using rates provided by Google Finance.
Visitors to Canada receive a 50% point of sale rebate on the 5% GST. This rebate may be ending this year and not applicable for our 2018 tours.
This tour is suitable for intermediate to advanced kayakers able to:
Paddle a fully loaded single and/or double kayak for 5-6 hours per day for multiple days
Paddle into wind and waves
Back-country camp for seven consecutive nights
Break-down, move, and set-up camp most days
Carry heavy kayaks and gear up and down the beach (this is often the most physically demanding part of the trip)
Use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use. This is a wilderness area and there are no facilities
Stay upbeat and positive in various conditions. We are in a rainforest and over eight days we may encounter all kinds of weather imaginable
Enjoy a two to four hour zodiac ride to begin and end the kayak tour
View our guest handbook for more information on preparing for this tour.
If you wish to discuss your suitability for this or any of our other kayak tours contact us at email@example.com or phone 1-866-546-4347 in North America or +1-250-856-4617 internationally.
Base Camp Tours
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $250 administration fee per person with 30 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
Explorer and Expedition Tours
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $500 administration fee per person with 60 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 60 days of departure.
Grizzly Bear Day Trip Add-on
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $100 administration fee per person with 30 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
● No deposit is required to reserve your spot(s). The amount owing is due one month before your tour’s departure date.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
We highly recommend purchasing trip cancellation and travel medical insurance for your trip. Check with your local travel agent about travel insurance.