NORTHERN GWAII HAANAS EXPLORER – EXPEDITION KAYAKING
Sea kayaking in Haida Gwaii is an experience unlike any other. Due to its isolation from mainland British Columbia by the Hecate Strait, Haida Gwaii is ecologically unique–there are at least 39 distinct subspecies of plants and animals that are found no place else in the world. A world renown national park, Gwaii Haanas provides the adventurous kayaker with stunning scenery, remote wilderness, fantastic wildlife, and the opportunity to visit important Haida cultural sites.
Our Northern Gwaii Haanas Explorer kayak tours operate within Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. The Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation cooperatively manage Gwaii Haanas through the Archipelago Management Board.
The Northern Gwaii Haanas Explorer tours travel between Tanu Island and Burnaby Island in the northern half of Gwaii Haanas. This section of Gwaii Haanas provides numerous kayaking routes to choose between, and we may paddle sheltered channels, secluded bays, and exposed coastline. Highlights of this tour often include visiting the Haida cultural sites of T’aanuu Llnagaay (Tanu) and Hlk’yah GaawGa (Windy Bay), soaking in the natural pools at Gandll K’in Gwaayaay (Hot Spring Island), and kayaking the wildlife rich waters of Juan Perez Sound and Ḵ’iid Xyangs Ḵ’iidaay. Near the end of our journey, we kayak the waters surrounding Burnaby Island, which has some of the highest levels of living material of any intertidal zone in the world. Floating through the narrows in our kayaks at low tide is an experience of staggering beauty.
Wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant throughout Gwaii Haanas. Kayaking quietly along the shore we may come across deer, black bears, and pine martens. Humpback whales may be seen throughout Gwaii Haanas and are often seen feeding in Juan Perez Sound, and with 750,000 nesting seabirds and more bald eagle nests per kilometre of shoreline than anywhere else in Canada, Gwaii Haanas is a birder’s dream. There is always something to look at on this tour!
Dates & Prices
Is this trip right for you?
Dates & Prices
Price: $3195 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST). *additional charges for some dietary restrictions Group Size: Maximum of eight guests and two guides. Participants: This tour is adult-oriented but participants as young as 15 may be accepted. Suitability: Previous multi-day kayaking and backcountry camping experience is required for this tour. Departs: Sandspit, Haida Gwaii
Is this trip right for you?
Previous multi-day kayaking and backcountry camping experience is required for this tour. A certain level of physical fitness and mobility is required as well as the ability to enjoy what can sometimes be less than ideal conditions, like wind and rain. Below is a bit of what you can expect on this tour.
Expect a 2-4 hr open Zodiac water taxi transit at beginning and end of tour. Paddle a fully loaded single and/or double kayak for 4-6 hours per day for multiple days.
Expect to spend time in a double kayak during your tour. With advance notice we can often accommodate guests who want to spend their entire trip in a double kayak but we cannot accommodate guests who want to spend their entire trip in a single kayak.
Paddle into wind and waves
Climb on and off our zodiac water taxi to the beach at the beginning and end of the trip.
Assist with loading and offloading of gear and supplies from water taxi.
If you have physical limitations that may make this difficult contact our office before booking to ensure this can be accommodated.
Back-country camp for seven 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)
If you have physical limitations that may make this difficult contact our office before booking to ensure this can be accommodated.
Use the inter-tidal area for low-impact toilet use. This is a wilderness area and there are no facilities in the areas we visit.
Recognize that wildlife does not operate on our schedules. Our guides are very knowledgeable and attempt to provide as many wildlife viewings as possible. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to viewing specific species.
Stay upbeat and positive in various conditions. We are in a rainforest and over eight days we may encounter all kinds of weather imaginable
We pride ourselves on the wholesome hearty meals we provide on our tours. The effort that goes into planning, organizing, and executing our wilderness menus is quite extensive. We are happy to accommodate many dietary restrictions on our tours but each restriction adds to the complexity of this planning and adds additional costs. Below are some of the common restrictions we can accommodate on our base camp tours and any additional costs associated with it that you will be charged.
No red meat – no additional cost
No seafood – no additional cost
Vegetarian – no additional cost
Gluten intolerant +$150
Lactose intolerant +$150
If you have dietary restrictions not listed above (for example, you hate onions and are unwilling to pick around them in a meal), or have allergies or medical conditions (like celiac disease, egg, soy or peanut allergies) that prevent certain foods from being enjoyed by other guests on the trip, please contact our office to discuss whether we can accommodate your needs.
Some dietary needs that we cannot accommodate include nightshade allergies (potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers) or keto and paleo diets.
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.
Please note: Some of the Northern Gwaii Haanas Explorer kayak tours start at or near Tanu Island in the northern half of Gwaii Haanas and travel south as outlined in this itinerary. However, some tours travel in the reverse direction, starting near Burnaby Island in the central part of Gwaii Haanas and kayaking north to Tanu 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 two 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: The tour starts at the northern end of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site and travels south. Early in the trip we visit the Haida cultural site of T’aanuu Llnagaay (Tanu). If weather condition allow we travel along the eastern shore of Lyell Island to Hlk’yah GaawGa (Windy Bay). The northern half of Gwaii Haanas provides numerous kayaking routes for us to choose, from the open water of Hecate Strait to more sheltered inner waters.
Mid-way through the trip we cross Juan Perez Sound. The sound and the surrounding bays and inlets provide plenty of great wildlife viewing opportunities and great beaches for camping. Continuing south, we aim for Burnaby Island, with a possible visit to Ḵ’iid Xyangs Ḵ’iidaay, known for its rich concentration of intertidal life.
The actual kayaking route depends on the weather, sea conditions, and abilities of the group, but 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 have time to reminisce about the previous days over a leisurely breakfast. The zodiac generally arrives about midday for the return journey and we usually arrive late afternoon or early evening back to Sandspit. We have teamed up with Raincoast Breads located in Sandspit for a final dinner. This delightful dining experience is a tasting menu of local treasures, like a gem box of different local foods and is all inclusive in the tour cost. Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
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, participant detail form and release forms. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any specific questions you may have that are not covered in the Guest Handbook.
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.
We provide high quality three season tents. For couples we provide three person tents, and for solo travelers a slightly smaller 2 person 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 small 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, personal floatation devices, and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.
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. Transportation is all-inclusive from Sandspit by our network of vans and water taxis. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site Fees.
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.
When using our online booking from you can choose the below optional items to add to your kayak tour.
Seaport B&B(opens in a new tab) We can arrange your pre and/or post night accommodations in Port McNeill at the Black Bear Resort
This tour departs from Sandspit on South Moresby Island, Haida Gwaii.
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 Sandspit – 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.
I don’t have much kayaking experience. Can I still join a tour?
Even with little or no kayaking experience, you can join our Base Camp tours. Our Vancouver Island Explorer tours are suitable for beginners with a sense of adventure.
Due to the length of our Haida Gwaii tours and their remote location they are also best suited to people with some previous kayaking experience.
Our Great Bear Rainforest expedition is designed for kayakers with a moderate amount of previous kayaking experience and is our most challenging trip.
What are your best tours to see whales?
While whales are often viewed on all of our kayak tours, the Base Camp and Whales and Wildlife Explorer kayak tours have by far the most reliable sightings of both orcas and humpback whales.
Please keep in mind that while these tours offer great viewing opportunities we are still dealing with wildlife and we cannot guarantee any particular sightings.
When will I have the best chance of seeing orcas?
The northern resident (fish-eating) orcas are most reliably seen around northern Vancouver Island from mid-July through September. They may be seen in June and early July, along with the transient (mammal-eating) orcas, however, sightings become more consistent later in the summer. As they are wild, we cannot guarantee any particular sightings.
When is the best time for wildlife in general?
There is a lot of different wildlife along the British Columbia coast year round. However, we find that the greatest and most diverse wildlife is often found off northern Vancouver Island from mid-August through September.
What are the accommodations like on the base camp tours?
The Base Camps feature roomy canvas tents raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest with views of the ocean. The tents provide ample room and are outfitted with wooden beds with the thickest and widest Therm-a-rest mattresses available. Sheets, fleece blankets, full-size pillows, warm barrel-style sleeping bags, and hot water bottles are all provided. A recharging station for digital cameras, an extensive library of natural history books, a safari style bucket shower, and a large covered kitchen and dining area made from locally milled red cedar make for a very comfortable camping experience.
What are the toilets like?
For our base camp tours, the camps have two out-houses made from locally milled cedar. The outhouses incorporate a holding tank and cedar sawdust to cover the waste. The tank is replaced every few days. Guests often comment on the cleanliness of our system. We pack out all holding tanks to be properly disposed of at a sewage disposal station. When away from camp during the day we use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use.
How many guest and guides are on each tour?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes, allowing close personal attention and minimal impact on the environment and the wildlife we view from our kayaks. Our base camp tours have a maximum of ten guests and three guides, while our explorer tours have a maximum of eight guests with two guides.
In addition to minimizing our impact on the land we find the smaller group size allows us to better manage our groups around wildlife giving us better viewing opportunities.
For answers to more frequently asked question please visit our complete FAQs page.
SO much wildlife, incredible food, and awesome people!!!!! We had such an awesome time on our trip. We had exceptional luck seeing wildlife, we saw humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and more!!! It was such a great time. The food was UNREAL and the accommodations were really nice....read moreWe had such an awesome time on our trip. We had exceptional luck seeing wildlife, we saw humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and more!!! It was such a great time. The food was UNREAL and the accommodations were really nice. I feel as though we really did get our moneys worth. Our guides (Kelsey and Connor) were awesome, they cooked, they cleaned, and they put up with our groups obsession with finding orcas.
Overall, I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who is interested in seeing marine life in the wild and respects wildlife/nature.read less
The West Coast at its BEST! We did a four-day base camp with whales tour in September 2020. I have been on many kayaking trips all over Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii but this trip is a highlight. I have never seen so much marine life in one area - humpbacks, orcas, sea lion...read moreWe did a four-day base camp with whales tour in September 2020. I have been on many kayaking trips all over Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii but this trip is a highlight. I have never seen so much marine life in one area - humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, porpoise, dolphins, seals, …read less
Amazing! I am well traveled and done many different types of adventures and trips. I have only wrote one review on trip advisor before and that was giving a 5/5 rating cage shark diving with Great Whites in New Zealand. This trip deserves my 2nd 5/5 review!...read moreI am well traveled and done many different types of adventures and trips. I have only wrote one review on trip advisor before and that was giving a 5/5 rating cage shark diving with Great Whites in New Zealand. This trip deserves my 2nd 5/5 review! It was incredible!! Great mix of kayaking, island time, solitude, games, nature, etc. I did the 4 day/3 night base camp trip with my brother. All the guides were great with a special shutout to Fin! Very knowledgeable, personable, patient, and passionate about his job. When he spoke people listened. A kind of guy you want to grab a pint with sometime and maybe watch the Habs beat up on the Canucks !! We seen it all (both from our kayaks and from the many view points at camp)... a couple pods of orcas, sea lions swimming close to us, porpoises, humpbacks , eagles catching fish... and the list goes on and on. This trip is so much more than that though!! Nature is incredible and much more fun and cheaper than therapy. This trip is one I’ll remember forever!! No photos needed, just go see for yourself!! A+read less
Best way to experience Vancouver Island's wild west coast My husband and I just returned from our second trip with Kingfisher - an expedition trip in the Nutchatlitz area: Kayaking with Sea Otters. It was even more fabulous than our first base camp trip in the Broughton Archipelago. We saw sea otters every ...read moreMy husband and I just returned from our second trip with Kingfisher - an expedition trip in the Nutchatlitz area: Kayaking with Sea Otters. It was even more fabulous than our first base camp trip in the Broughton Archipelago. We saw sea otters every day, tons of eagles and even a curious mink at one of our campsites. Our guides, Carter and Julien, were great - looked after our safety, regaled us with stories, jokes and a poem, and somehow managed to whip up amazing fresh meals and snacks from what we carried in our kayaks. Carter even baked a cake on our third day! They shared their knowledge of the area and the wildlife and helped us improve our kayaking techniques. Every day brought a new adventure: kayaking into the mouth of a cave to inspect a waterfall, a group of sea otters putting on a show off the beach where we were enjoying "happy hour" appies and wine, and paddling in the ocean swells . We're seniors (69 & 72) and we'd highly recommend Kingfisher for anyone of any age who is reasonably fit.read less
Best kayaking/whale adventure on Vancouver Island I took Kingfisher's 4-day whale watching kayak trip from Port McNeill, BC. I have taken wilderness adventure trips all over the world, and this is one of the best experiences ever.
Orca whales seemed to be everywhere, and I enjoyed their "Sh...read moreI took Kingfisher's 4-day whale watching kayak trip from Port McNeill, BC. I have taken wilderness adventure trips all over the world, and this is one of the best experiences ever.
Orca whales seemed to be everywhere, and I enjoyed their "Shaker" camp on Hanson Island in Johnstone Strait, which was beautiful and well-appointed for a wilderness camp, including canvas tents on platforms and a covered kitchen/dining area, although the weather was perfect.
We had 3 guides for 9 people, and they were highly competent on the water and in the kitchen. The trip exceeded my expectations.read less
Whales and Wilderness Expedition I recently participated in the June 2019 whales and wilderness kayak expedition with Kingfisher in the Broughton Archipelago. I attended as a solo, It was a great group of people who all had a background of outdoor adventure experience.
Our guid...read moreI recently participated in the June 2019 whales and wilderness kayak expedition with Kingfisher in the Broughton Archipelago. I attended as a solo, It was a great group of people who all had a background of outdoor adventure experience.
Our guides Sam and Kyle knocked it out of the park with a perfect blend of kayak expedition know how, keeping things fun, wildlife, native and area knowledge and of course making great food. They accented each other wonderfully with Sam always keeping his head in the game and making great but tough decisions in terms of weather related itinerary changes that were educated, safe and sound. Kyle was always checking in with everyone and making sure all of our needs and wants were met with consideration and grace. The leave no trace camping ethics are important to me and for the first time I used the toilet unit which was a bit of luxe and felt responsible.
In terms of wildlife viewing I will bring binoculars in the future as I had a hard time viewing wildlife at the 100-200 metre distance. We saw Harbour Porpoises, Sea Lions, Seals, some smaller creatures near the shore and far in the distance blowing of Humpbacks.
From start to finish Kingfisher as a company was organized, professional and considerate to deal with, for example; asking each individual for food preferences. Having all the gear and kit saved me bringing everything myself.
Many thanks for a great trip.read less
Kingfisher Whales four-day Kayaking trip We went on Kingfisher's four day (3 night) kayaking trip off Port McNeil staying at a base camp on Hansen Island. We were a small group--four young German tourists and my husband and me (both of us over 60 Americans) plus the two (Canadian) guides. ...read moreWe went on Kingfisher's four day (3 night) kayaking trip off Port McNeil staying at a base camp on Hansen Island. We were a small group--four young German tourists and my husband and me (both of us over 60 Americans) plus the two (Canadian) guides. It was a wonderful experience. Both guides were extremely personable, knowledgeable, organized, gracious and all around competent. We observed minke and humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, porpoises, seals, mink and lots of underwater marine life. The platform tents at the base camp had extremely comfortable beds. We could hear the whales passing in the night as they blew. Clean linen and sleeping bags were provided. The guides prepared fresh meals, knew the territory and where to show us hidden gems. Highly recommended.read less
AMAZING - MAGICAL - POWERFUL Adventure Myself and 5 friends just returned from an AMAZING 4-day base camp "Kayak with Whales" adventure. The adventure was sooo much more than kayaking with whales. We saw and heard lots of different marine and wild life (Orca and Humpback whales,...read moreMyself and 5 friends just returned from an AMAZING 4-day base camp "Kayak with Whales" adventure. The adventure was sooo much more than kayaking with whales. We saw and heard lots of different marine and wild life (Orca and Humpback whales, Sea Lions, Seals, Eagles, Porpoises, …read less
Wow, just wow! We did the 6 day Whales and Wilderness Explorer trip very near the end of a 7 week long trip to Canada. We expected to like and enjoy the trip, but we didn't expect to be absolutely blown away by it! We had done lots of other outdoor adventures durin...read moreWe did the 6 day Whales and Wilderness Explorer trip very near the end of a 7 week long trip to Canada. We expected to like and enjoy the trip, but we didn't expect to be absolutely blown away by it! We had done lots of other outdoor adventures during our trip, all of which we'd loved, but this was so special.
Our trip was the last one of the season, but you wouldn't have known it. Our guides, Julian and Jess, were so friendly, personable, knowledgeable, hard working and good fun whilst always being conscious of the different skills, abilities, confidence levels and safety of the 6 members of the group.
The kayak combination of singles and doubles worked well for carrying all the food, equipment and personal belongings, but also allowed the group to swap and change between kayaks when we wanted to. The daily 3D Tetris challenge of repacking the boats was always done with good humour.
The tents, mats and sleeping bags were cosy and comfortable and all the food was plentiful, tasty and excellent - I never knew powdered hummus was a thing until this trip!!! Preparing such amazing food in such basic circumstances is a real skill.
Both Julian and Jess were very observant at spotting both land and sea-based wildlife - and we saw plenty: humpbacks, Dall's porpoises, Stellar sea lions - we had one keep us company for about 1/2 an hour one day, plus seals, deer and eagles to name but a few. The sheer joy of sitting on a rock at sunset watching and hearing whales in the Sound below us is something we'll never forget.
This is a trip which will live long and strong in our memories, but I really, really hope we get to go back and do another trip with them!read less
Whales and Grizzly Bears Kayak Tour - Base Camp We just returned from Kingfisher's Whales and Grizzlies adventure and it was amazing! From the orientation session provided the evening before the trip, to the final drop-off of our gear back in Port McNeill, everything was exceptional. Our guides, C...read moreWe just returned from Kingfisher's Whales and Grizzlies adventure and it was amazing! From the orientation session provided the evening before the trip, to the final drop-off of our gear back in Port McNeill, everything was exceptional. Our guides, Cam, Megan and Zach were friendly, fun and professional. They shared their knowledge of the marine life that is so abundant in that area and their respect for the environment was heartwarming. They were also excellent chefs and all had a great sense of humour. We saw dolphins and porpoises, orcas and humpbacks, seals and sea lions, eagles, mink and many marine birds. The accommodation was very comfortable and the setting was beautiful. I don't think any of us wanted to go home - we would have been happy there for many more days of kayaking and exploring.read less