Friday, February 27, 2015

Choose Haida Gwaii Tours For A Unique Holiday

By Olivia Cross

The archipelago of Haida Gwaii lies just off the coast of British Columbia but it feels like another world. It has a history and culture unlike any other place and its wildlife have evolved in isolation from the mainland. Haida Gwaii tours will take you to a place of myth and legend to visit a people and their home which is unique in the world.

The Islands formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands lie just of the western coast of Canada. They are a short two hour flight from Vancouver so are easily accessible from the mainland. There is also a regular ferry service from Prince Rupert if you prefer to arrive like the locals do. Once on the islands there is no public transport.

The islands have been nicknamed the "Galapagos of the North" due to their isolation. They have evolved separately from the mainland and have their own species of plants and animals. Like their southern counterparts they also have incredibly rich marine life due to an underwater shelf which brings up nutrients from the deep. Whale watching is popular here with hundreds of humpbacks to see.

This means that whether on a boat or on land there is lots for the wildlife lover to see. National Geographic voted the largest National Park on the islands as the best in north America. It has ancient forests, alpine tundra, fjords, mountains and lakes. The forests are particularly interesting as there is not much temperate rainforest left in the world. They are very green with thick layers of moss and trees which are over a thousand years old.

The Haida people have a unique culture and evidence of it is dotted all over the land. There is an excellent heritage center in Skidegate which has exhibitions of many of their ways of life. They have a very structured society and were thought to be fearsome warriors. Nowadays they are more known for their arts and crafts which are highly skilled, especially in carving.

One of their most iconic creations are their totem poles which were used to tell the stories of their families and were displayed outside the houses. The houses are also interesting, covered in carvings telling the history of the people. In addition to the many indigenous artists there are now many other creators living on the islands. Art enthusiasts will find a number of excellent galleries and workshops to visit.

It is highly recommended that visitors interested in seeing the most remote and mythical parts of the islands take a bout trip. Many abandoned villages, forests and beaches can only be reached from the sea. There are also whale watching tours and many outdoor pursuits in these areas. Climbing, caving, kayaking, fishing, camping and sailing are all popular activities in Haida Gwaii.

Tours to Haida Gwaii can be arranged in groups or individually and can be tailored to individual preferences. Most include some sort of cruise but that could be the main part of the trip with companies which have larger yachts for hire. Others are based on a focus of culture or nature with national park visits making up the bulk of the trip. It is also possible to arrange self-drive tours with guides and excursions arranged by a tour company.

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