None of our friends or family had ever heard of this place when we exuberantly said we were going here. Even when we were on our trip, folks mentioned that we must have done a lot on our "bucket list" to be arriving at this place. Arguably they were from Vancouver, BC and saw this as something more local to do, perhaps like people in New England view the treasured Acadia National Park. After visiting I cannot imagine how the rest of the world is not booking flights to visit this paradise.
Haida Gwaii is a set of islands, formally named Queen Charlotte Islands, that lies northwest of Vancouver, BC and is close to the southernmost islands of Alaska. The lower portion of Haida Gwaii composes Gwaii Haanas National Park and is protected from development and mass tourism. The area has multiple heritage sites of old Haida villages and is the home of bald eagles, whales, bears, and sea stars to name a miniscule fraction of the wildlife. The coastline is similar to Acadia National Park without the tourists but the islands are thick with moss and towering trees as seen in the Pacific Northwest.
Many choose the Poles at Ninstints or Burnaby Narrows as their favorite part of the trip but ours was the tidal pools. Island after island we walked along the rocks looking for tidal pools to watch the aquatic life. Each one is like its own marine fish tank with beautiful colored algae and creatures moving about. Tiny snails, crabs, bat stars, and limpits were common sightings as were a variety of anemone. We found it tremendously relaxing to watch the creatures move about and in photos that I took at the tidal pools reveal a few of our fellow travelers also looking into the pools.
Everything is accessible by water, meaning that you need a boat, or someone with a boat, to get from island to island. You also have to be OK with rain which happens frequently as the lush green landscape testifies to. Bald eagles dot the trees on the waterways as you paddle by and sea lions peek up at you from the water to see what you are doing. Puffins nest on the rocks near Ninstints and pigeon guillemots take flight as you approach with their tiny red feet spread out away from their round black bodies. Whales are frequently spotted and some bears are so often sighted on certain beaches that they have names.
We took a zodiac to get to the first camp and on the way we saw a humpback whale that waved its tail at us as it dove back into the depths of the ocean and we visited a rookery of sea lions. The most amazing part of that ride of the camp, if you can belive anything is more amazing than a whale or a rookery with baby sea lions, was when the Sooty Sheerwaters took flight from the water and raced beside us at 30 knots until they all passed us. I have never in my life had the chance to sit beside a bird in flight and watched his body move beside me and to see his eye glance at me as he passes.