Tour this special archipelago known as Haida Gwaii, or, formerly, the Queen Charlotte Islands:
- Over a hundred and fifty islands on North America's western edge. Rainforests draped with moss.
- Humpback whales and seabirds in a fish-rich ocean.
- An ancient culture thriving in modern villages and also memorialized in monumental, traditional, unoccupied village sites on islands above wild beaches.
Join Maple Leaf for a weeklong adventure tour by land and sea of Haida Gwaii, including Gwaii Haanas National Park and Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage site.
You'll spend 2 days on Graham Island (north) and then cruise Gwaii Haanas for 7 days aboard the beautiful, classic schooner Maple Leaf or Passing Cloud. Accompanied by wonderful naturalists, many of them actively researching the area, we have enjoyed spectacular trips here each year since we began operating trips here in the 1980s.
Rich wildlife and evolutionary changes have led scientists to dub these islands "the Canadian Galapagos".
Special feature >> Read why May/June is the peak season to visit Gwaii Haanas
Haida Gwaii: Islands at the Edge of the World
One story goes that long ago, after the ice receded and the floodwaters lowered, Raven walked along a beach in Haida Gwaii, looking for occupation. He found some creatures in a shell and convinced them to come out. These were the first Haida, the first people, and they have lived here ever since.
On your trip to Haida Gwaii, you'll enter the world of the Haida, arguably the most powerful pre-contact culture on the west coast of North America.
Villages of Gwaii Haanas
You'll travel into Gwaii Haanas, "Place of Wonder", a protected region of 138 islands in southern Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands.
Here are some of the greatest remaining First Nations village sites in North America, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site SGang Gwaay (Ninstints). At SGang Gwaay, you'll walk among still-standing poles over 150 years old, carved by the Kunghit Haida.
Our Haida guides will explain the stories of the poles and the people who had them carved. The overall sense of power found in these villages is unforgettable.
View a map of Gwaii Haanas.
The "Canadian Galapagos" for Wildlife
Rich wildlife and evolutionary changes have led scientists to dub the islands of Haida Gwaii as "the Canadian Galapagos".
The archipelago lies on the continental shelf. On the west coast, rugged cliffs drop straight into the sea, where it plunges thousands of feet into the Pacific. The east coast lies on a shallow sea at the edge of the continental plate, and the coastline is a convoluted series of islands and anchorages.
Upwellings of nutrients from the Pacific create some of the planet's densest intertidal life (many kinds of brilliantly coloured sea stars, crabs, anemones, sea cucumbers, snails, and more). You'll see humpback whales, feeding in great numbers beside you, splashing the water with fins up to 15 feet long.
Pacific whitesided dolphins may streak along beside you.
You'll be in Haida Gwaii / the Queen Charlotte Islands at the right time of year to see some of the hundreds of thousands of nesting seabirds who return to land only for these few months to breed.
The islands' isolation from the mainland has given rise to species that have evolved differently from their mainland counterparts. For example, the black bears on Haida Gwaii, which you may see turning over beach rocks to find crabs, are larger than other black bears.
Explore Haida Gwaii's Rainforests with Naturalist
You'll enjoy learning about the variety of ecosystems from our on-board naturalist
Walk through forests of enormous trees, some over ten centuries old and thickly draped with mosses. Soak in natural hot springs as you look across a bay at snowcapped mountains. Walk secluded beaches looking for shells.
A Rare Opportunity with Experienced Guides
Travelling here is a rare experience. Although Gwaii Haanas has been rated the top national park in North America by National Geographic, few are permitted to travel here.
Maple Leaf has been operating here since the 1980s and we are one of the founders of the Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators Association, and a co-author of its Code of Conduct which is a model of eco-tourism principles in action.
We know the area intimately and travel with the permission and respect of the Haida and Parks Canada.
Whether you are interested in the wildlife, the cultural history or the forests, your trip to Haida Gwaii will be one of the best holidays found anywhere.
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