My destination was a chain of islands known as Haida Gwaii, or Queen Charlotte Islands, aboard a 92-foot schooner. I was excited. Dubbed the Canadian Galapagos, I would spend more than a week among the ancient, timelessness located at the western edge of North America — a place teeming with wildlife and First Nations heritage.

After flying from Vancouver into Masset, located at the northern end of Graham Island, I spent my first day touring the area and visiting Haida Heritage Centre. On day two I boarded the beautiful, classic schooner Maple Leaf accompanied by an expert crew, including naturalists, and lots of enthusiastic passengers.

The waters were sapphire blue and teaming with Humpback whales, Pacific whitesided dolphins and seabirds as we headed for our first destination — Tanu Haida village site — where we would see our first ruins. Located on Laskeek Bay, Tanu is an important Haida village. The town was founded sometime after 1725 and abandoned in the 1880s. 

There are 150 islands, each populated with rainforests draped with moss; each beckoning its visitors to explore, learn, respect. And, every day when we returned to the ship, a friendly crew, well-appointed cabin and gourmet meal awaited us.

In the days that followed we were invited to kayak these pristine waters, hike in the dense rainforests, fish, view the myriad of wildlife living on the islands and explore some of the greatest First Nations village sites in North America.

The UN World Heritage Site SGang Gwaay was especially meaningful as we walked among still-standing poles over 150 years old, carved by the Kunghit Haida. Our Haida guides explained the stories of the poles and the people who had them carved. The overall sense of power found here was unforgettable.

Another thrill was some of the world’s densest intertidal life — sea stars, crabs, sea cucumbers and snails — visible through the crystal clear waters.

In the end, I certainly understood why this tour is said to be one of the best adventures you can embark on if you’re interested in wildlife, cultural history or rainforests. The mode of transportation is exhilarating; the destination is inspirational. 

If you go:

The nine-day, eight-night Haida Gwaii eco-cruise departs from Masset, British Columbia, on five separate dates from May through June. The all-inclusive cruise includes all shore excursions, meals, accommodations and use of onboard equipment. Masset is located at the northern end of Graham Island — the largest of the more than 150 islands that comprise the Queen Charlotte Islands, now known as Haida Gwaii. Typically, guests fly into Masset aboard Pacific Coastal Airlines out of Vancouver.

For more information check the website at www.MapleLeafAdventures.com.

Photos courtesy of Maple Leaf Adventures.