SOUTHERN GWAII HAANAS EXPLORER – EXPEDITION KAYAKING
When you watch the mist wind through the trees on the mountainous shoreline, or float over the riot of colours that make up the intertidal life of Ḵ’iid Xyangs Ḵ’iidaay, you’ll understand why National Geographic rated Gwaii Haanas the #1 wilderness park destination in North America. Separated from the mainland by the 100 kilometer open water expanse of Hecate Strait, Haida Gwaii has at least 39 distinct subspecies of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Come take a taste of adventure and immerse yourself in the culture and wild beauty of Haida Gwaii.
Our Southern 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 Southern Gwaii Haanas Explorer kayak tour travels between Burnaby Island and SGang Gwaay Linagaay 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 SGang Gwaay Linagaay (Ninstints) with its long house remains and carved memorial and mortuary poles.
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 killer whales. Sitka deer and the endemic Haida Gwaii black bears are a common sight along the beaches. 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, and many more species.
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.
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 restrictionsGroup 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1-866-546-4347 in North America or +1-250-856-4617 internationally.
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 Ḵ’iid Xyangs Ḵ’iidaay, 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 SGang Gwaay Linagaay (Ninstints) 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 have time to reminisce about the previous days over a leisurely breakfast. The zodiac generally arrives about midday for the journey 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.
All of our tours carry a small library of field guides and local history books. Some of the 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.
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 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.
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
Wet Coast Wonderland Interesting to read the other recent reviews of Kingfisher. My husband and I were not aware of Kingfisher Expeditions, but were lucky enough to be invited on a 6-day kayak trip north of the God's Pocket area this July 2022 with friends, when a coupl...read moreInteresting to read the other recent reviews of Kingfisher. My husband and I were not aware of Kingfisher Expeditions, but were lucky enough to be invited on a 6-day kayak trip north of the God's Pocket area this July 2022 with friends, when a couple had to drop out of the trip. We have only done a handful of guided kayak trips over the years, so did not know what to expect. But Kingfisher was pretty amazing, I have to say! But let me qualify that.....if you actually want to be paddling for a good portion of the day, like the wilderness camping experience and want a true west coast experience with lots of wildlife...then this is the company for you. Although, I do see that Kingfisher offers a variety of types of trips.
I would have preferred to paddle my own Cosma, but I understand the need to be in the company's boats, as they know the volume and can fit all the shared gear and food in them. Happy the boats were Seawards as we love them!! As we are experienced backpackers and mountaineers, I choose to bring my own sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tarp and PFD and was happy I did. I am older and fussier about my comfort and know what works for me. The guides were fine with that after checking out our gear, BTW :) The tents provided were spacious and paddling jackets the best. I swear our jackets did not let in a single drop of the wet coast weather! Kudos on the choice of paddling jackets.
Our guides Jen and Connor, were supremely competent, kept us well informed and in the loop on plans and were just plain fun to boot. We could not have asked for better guides and "paddling buddies". Some of the weather conditions were challenging, but our group was quite experienced and game and tackled what the elements threw at us. However a planned crossing from Nigei to Vancouver Island was too much. Try as we did, between wind, waves and current, it was not going to happen, but luckily Jen and Connor had a backup plan to return to a orevious campsite to wait for better weather the next day....which did come! We were in good hands with local knowledge. And man do those two have a lot of energy to manage a group on and off the water, cook, clean up, etc., etc....!! They do a tremendous job and I cannot compliment them enough.
The multiple wolf sightings were truly amazing, as were the many eagles, sea otters, superb blooms of jelly fish, ochre stars, anemonies, and other underwater life we could see from the surface or along the coast lines. It is truly a blessing to be able to experience a somewhat intact environment so close to home. The food was amazing and we are now addicted to the Tate's gluten free cookies (even though we are not sensitive to gluten)!!
Kingfisher is an excellent guiding company for the active adventurer. I must admit I could go for a slower paced kayaking trip as those National Geographic's I brought along are still unread!! So I hope we can return again, as there are so many places left to explore on the north island.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
Unplug and enjoy beautiful northern Vancouver Island Our whole trip was wonderful. We were very excited about the kayak base camp trip we had signed up for and everything lived up to all our expectations and more. Our guides, Julian and Katie were such great people firstly and our trip was immeasurably...read moreOur whole trip was wonderful. We were very excited about the kayak base camp trip we had signed up for and everything lived up to all our expectations and more. Our guides, Julian and Katie were such great people firstly and our trip was immeasurably more enjoyable because of their friendship, leadership, hard work, culinary skills and of course their exemplary knowledge of the outdoors, wildlife, ocean tides and kayaking skills. It was never a stressful time paddling or at camp. I would absolutely come back for another visit with Kingfisher. It was very well organized and all the pre-trip information and packing lists were great. Those large dry bags held much more than I thought they would so we could pack everything we wanted. We ended up not needing all of the warm weather clothes due to our fantastic weather and crazy warm sleeping bags Kingfisher provided. I WILL be back one day and I still cannot say enough about our guides Julian and Katie. I hope to see them again.read less
Excellent guiding company! I participated in an 8-day Haida Gwaii tour with Kingfisher and was impressed with their customer service, the quality of the gear provided, the well trained and friendly guides, and the FOOD was amazing as well. Highly recommended.
Base Camp Kayak With Whales and Grizzly Bears My husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much ...read moreMy husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much wildlife that we could hardly believe it; humpbacks, orca (both transient and resident), Dall's porpoise, pacific white-sided dolphin, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, grizzly bears, and black bears to name the highlights. Our guides, Allie and Tessa, were very friendly and knowledgeable. The food was EXCELLENT and there was plenty of it. The tents and beds were cozy and a hot water bottle was offered for those who wanted to warm up their sleeping bag (although the sleeping bags were plenty warm themselves). The kayaks were sturdy and in great shape and all of the equipment was well maintained. We woke up to the sounds of feeding humpback whales right outside our tent each morning and we watched them feed in the straight as the sun set each evening (all from camp). Overall, it was an amazing trip that we will never forget and we highly recommend it anyone interested in a wonderful wildlife adventure!read less
Two sea kayaking trips I have never sea kayaked before but did two back to back with them in August - one base camp and one wild camping. All the equipment was first class and the tour guides/leaders were excellent giving someone who was very nervous the confidence to hap...read moreI have never sea kayaked before but did two back to back with them in August - one base camp and one wild camping. All the equipment was first class and the tour guides/leaders were excellent giving someone who was very nervous the confidence to happily paddle a single kayak …read less
Kayaking with Whales July 23 - 26 My husband and I joined Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures for a Kayaking with Whales Adventure last week. Great weather, awesome food & the best kayaking we have experienced. Loved the base camp on Hanson Island, and the nights spent camping in...read moreMy husband and I joined Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures for a Kayaking with Whales Adventure last week. Great weather, awesome food & the best kayaking we have experienced. Loved the base camp on Hanson Island, and the nights spent camping in the tents. The accommodations were superb. Special thanks to Alisune and Jes. Not only are they top notch guides, they are also top knotch chefs.
The only thing missing was a campfire each night - that would certainly have enhanced the whole experience. I might suggest re-naming this specific tour, and calling it ‘Kayaking in the Wilderness’ or ‘Kayaking in Johnstone Strait & Blackfish Sound’, instead of ‘Kayaking With Whales’, which leads one to believe that one will actually be kayaking where the whales are. I know one can’t predict where the whales will be at a given time, however we experienced none close by on any day of our kayaking. The whales we did see while in kayaks were a very long way off, & at too great of a distance to kayak to.
All in all a great tour & very memorable.read less
Two sea kayaking trips I have never sea kayaked before but did two back to back with them in August - one base camp and one wild camping. All the equipment was first class and the tour guides/leaders were excellent giving someone who was very nervous the confidence to hap...read moreI have never sea kayaked before but did two back to back with them in August - one base camp and one wild camping. All the equipment was first class and the tour guides/leaders were excellent giving someone who was very nervous the confidence to happily paddle a single kayak even when the water was choppy. Photos is short supply as wildlife not learnt the art of posing but lying in your tent at night either listening to the humpback whales or wolves in the distance is a never to be forgotten experience. Saw so much and learnt so much from the knowledgeable guides made it a holiday I will always remember.read less
Base Camp Kayak With Whales and Grizzly Bears My husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much ...read moreMy husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much wildlife that we could hardly …read less