A Couple of Days in Haida Gwaii

If you’ve never heard of Haida Gwaii you’re not the only one. In fact, when I mentioned to my family that Haida Gwaii was on our itinerary for BC the usual response was “where is Haida Gwaii?” To be fair, had I used the colonial name of the Queen Charlotte Islands most would have sorted out that they sit somewhere off the coast of British Columbia. The truth is that Haida Gwaii isn’t completely off the beaten path, nor is it unknown. These islands have gained worldwide recognition for the fishing, outdoor activities and cultural heritage.

As there is a good chance that this region will be a featured article in the next issue of Vagabundo Magazine I’m going to leave you hanging there. Instead, I’m going to take you through a couple days on Haida Gwaii in photos. As a photographer, I wish I had about 3 weeks on the islands to shoot stills, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to return and do so.

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I’m in British Columbia with the #ExploreBC project. ┬áIf you’re interested in BC, you should check out the Tourism British Columbia facebook page!

We arrived via BC Ferries on the overnight ship from Prince Rupert. The trip takes about 8 hours and the seas can be “playful”. I had a bit of bouncy crossing, but a stateroom so I did manage to sleep some.

Pigeon Guillemot, Haida Gwaii

I was met in Haida Gwaii by a bird called the Pigeon Guillemot. These little guys are pretty much all over the islands and are quite photogenic.

deer, haida gwaii

Immediately after arriving we caught another ferry across to Alliford where we met up with Moresby Island Tours who took us on a tour out and around Louise Island. We ran into about a dozen of the deer, most of which are much smaller than those on the mainland.

Hecate Straight, Haida Gwaii

After about an hour drive we jumped in a zodiac and began to cruise around Louise Island. How calm is that bay??

Forest, Haida Gwaii

You might not realize it, being so far north, but the forests of Haida Gwaii are all temperate rain forests. The mossy ground makes for some great photos.

Boot, forest, Haida Gwaii

Through the forest, we ran into an old logging camp which was filled with all sorts of old items left away. Nature has started to take over most of it, as it always seems to do.

Grave, moss, Haida Gwaii

On the forest walk, we also crossed through an old cemetery. Like the boot, nature has begun reclaiming these relics to the past as well.

Totems, Haida Gwaii

Our second stop on the Louise Island tour was the ancient settlement of Skedans. Although uninhabited now, this village used to be a thriving community for the Haida people. Today it is protected, and nature has begun returning old totems to nature, the way the traditional Haida people preferred it.

Bald Eagle, Haida Gwaii

All over Haida Gwaii there are opportunities to view bald eagles. I shot a photo of this one from the boat.

Trail. forest, Haida Gwaii

Day 2 was a hiking day. We headed to a trail called the Pesuta Shipwreck trail, named so for reasons that will become obvious soon enough.

Pesuta Shipwreck, Haida Gwaii

This is the Pesuta Shipwreck. Somehow, despite the beating it takes from the sea, it still manages to hold strong on this beach north of Skidegate.

Bald Eagle, Haida Gwaii

I’ve never tried to capture wildlife in HDR, so when I saw this Eagle sitting still, I thought I’d give it a shot. I kind of like how it turned out.

Bald Eagle, Haida Gwaii

Gotta love how the eagles sweep down so gracefully. Amazing birds!

Starfish

A dried up starfish on the Pesuta Shipwreck trail

Haida Heritage Centre

Back in Skidegate where we started, we stopped in at the Haida Heritage Centre. There’s an amazing assortment of totems inside, but photos aren’t allowed. Outside, there are a couple of brilliant ones well worth a snap.

Haida Heritage Centre

A totem and the Haida Heritage Centre

Haida Gwaii, sunset

Sadly, it was time to leave far too soon. I hope that I’ll have the chance to go back again someday.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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6 Comments

  1. Sometimes I wish someone would invent new adjectives, like now, because your photographs are just so gorgeous, that I feel the need for a bigger word. Oddly, since I’m European and not a biologist or anthropologist or anything, I have heard the name Haida Gwaii before, and I’m almost sure it was through blogging, but I can’t turn up any trace of who/whatever it was. Still, it was writing. I hadn’t seen pictures, and I am so excited to see yours because it looks exactly as I imagined it. Can’t wait to learn more!

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    • Haha, Linda! That’s very nice of you to say! Haida Gwaii is the indigenous language. You might have heard of them as the Queen Charlotte Islands as well. The other blogger that was there recently was Gary from Everywhere-everything.com.

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  2. What a gorgeous place! I especially love that shipwreck…

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    • Callie – The Pesuta shipwreck is awesome… amazing how it has lasted since the late 1800s!

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  3. Some awesome shots here! Love the one of the bay, and the eagle… and the last one of the totem.. you’ve got talent! Lots of vibrant colors and detail too! Looks like a fun trip.

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    • Escaping Abroad – Thanks a lot! I appreciate the kind words… but to be fair, there would be no great shots without amazing subjects like this that I’ve found myself fortunate enough to visit!

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