PHOTO: Kayaking in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. (photo via Flickr/Dale Simonson)
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is made up of 150 islands 80 miles off of British Columbia’s northwest coast and is often called the Canadian Galapagos for its rich diversity of wildlife and unique species of animals.
The name of the park literally translates to “place of wonder."
In 2016, the park and reserve were recognized as one of three finalists for a 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Award in the category “Sense of Place.” It has also received accolades from Outside Magazine as “Best Islands” while its village of Skung Gwaii, known for its totem poles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“We’re thrilled that these very special islands are garnering such international acclaim,” said Grant Thompson, Founder and Owner of Tofino Expeditions.
“The vacation combination we offer here is unbeatable: a time-capsule look at an ancient culture through the lens of abandoned Haida villages with hot springs, the flora and fauna typical of a Pacific Coast virgin rainforest and some of the continent’s finest sea kayaking.”
For those interested in traveling to this exotic locale, Tofino Expeditions, which has been taking visitors to the national park for 25 years, offers eight-day tours in July and August that explore these unique coastal waters and are available to paddlers of all abilities.
Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the indigenous people who once inhabited the archipelago, pulling their cedar canoes up on the same beaches that visitors will paddle to.
Guests of Tofino Expeditions, however, will live this experience in considerably more luxurious accommodations. Expeditions take place in two-person tandem kayaks, freshly prepared meals prepared by expert guides over the campfire and camping gear from Mountain Hardware.
Travelers also have the opportunity to see a rich variety of wildlife, including sea lions, gulls, petrels, tufted puffins, humpback and orca whales. Burnaby Narrows is one of the world’s richest tidal zones and home to some unique land animals such as the dusky shrew, pine marten and the Haida Gwaii black bear.
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For those who want to add to their experience, the new Haida Heritage Centre and Museum can provide an even richer experience. The center has newly raised totem poles and provides insight into the Haida artistic tradition.
Dates are available beginning from July 9 through Aug. 20, but some tours are already sold out or have limited availability.