Southwest Haida Gwaii tour


Jul 4, 2009
Prince George, BC
I had the good fortune to do a Haida Gwaii tour this summer. I hope some buzzmarketing is acceptable here- the trip was with Butterfly Tours (google to find Gord's web site).

It was an 8-day trip (Saturday to Saturday), with a van pickup in Sandspit, down to Moresby Camp for the zodiac ride down to Rose Harbour. The transport part is handled by Moresby Explorers (google if you want to see what they can offer). Depending on conditions, it is roughly 4 hours in the zodiac to reach Rose Harbour. The trip down we had was an awful day with 20-30 knot headwinds on the exposed stretches, driving rain on and off, and a pretty active sea state from a few days of storming. At that point the trip looked like it could be pretty brutal


After arriving at Rose Harbour we got sorted out with Gord and the assistant guide, selected kayaks, packed our own plus group gear and set out. By day 2 the weather started to sort out enough to start seeing blue skies. The first 6 days were camping out on a variety of beach sites.


A feature of the this trip itinerary is to venture out on the west coast of south end of Moresby up to Cape Freeman- we were very lucky that conditions had settled out well and we had a great paddle in moderately active sea up to the Cape. We were followed at one point by a humpback surfacing and blowing right behind us, but no photos as we were out in pretty active swells at that point.

The cape has a few well protected lagoons so we had several hours to explore this very wild area before catching the current back down to the south tip where we camped. There is a lot of debris out on this coast, and not being actively cleaned up at this point. Much of it is marked in Japanese, but many many disposable water bottles as well.

Following the heavy paddling day we had a break and went on a hike up into "alpine" Haida Gwaii. Not really very high, but so restricted in nutrients that the trees grow slowly and stunted.

The next signature feature of this tour was to visit SGang Gwaay (Ninstints). The weather gods still favoured us, though we had to be out early to be able to visit and return before the early afternoon winds picked up to make the return crossing too interesting (no camping on Sgang Gwaay)

The bay in front of the old village is not for landing but we did quietly sneak in to see the view before heading to the south landing beach.

Most of the standing poles are mortuary poles that have survived both weathering and plundering, though they will soon return back to the soil as they decay further. There are also some timbers and sites from several longhouses that are clearly visisble.

After returning from Ninstints, we camped back on the south end of Moresby at another old village site with a significant midden beach.

The final evening and day before leaving was spent at Rose Harbour- after the long paddling trip we could have a hot shower and sleep in an actual bed in the guest house. There are a small number of permanent residents at Rose Harbour, which is an old whaling station (lots of relics from that era to explore) that is now owned by a collective.

Highly recommended trip. Another trip review was recently published in "The Guardian" travel section (Aug 26 2017) which describes the same trip but done in a different year.
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Dec 28, 2012
Thanks for sharing your amazing experience. It keeps my dream alive. This trip is still on my To Do list. The pictures are great.