Queen Charlotte Islands sailing vacation, Canada

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Queen Charlotte Islands sailing vacation, Canada

For the longest time, tourism in the Queen Charlotte Islands was primarily focused on the fishing lodge business. There was much criticism at the community level about visitors flying in on a chartered aircraft who went straight to the lodge and never at any moment had the opportunity to visit a local art gallery or spend money in local stores. One of the things we do on this trip is encourage people to come up earlier or to stay longer, so they can discover other facets of the community. We will guide them in their choice of activities and accommodations. We actually build this into the experience to some extent by hiring local resources to go on a tour, cook a traditional meal for guests prepared by a local First Nations family, sometimes even giving guests a chance to spend a night with a local family.

We estimate that our activities have generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for individuals and businesses in Haida Gwaii. This is not something that earns us extra revenue. Because we are here for the long term, nurturing relationships with host communities is very important.

In all Canadian areas that are part of First Nations territory, we work collaboratively with them. In the Great Bear Rainforest—the most tangible example—we signed protocol agreements with two First Nations that carry 90% of our operating area. Hartley Bay’s Gitga’at people is one; and the Kitasoo Native Band at Klemtu is the other. Our activities generate $10 per person per night as a fee that is paid for the use of their territory. It is our recognition of their historic rights. We are committed to hiring local guides. At Hartley Bay, on all of our Great Bear Rainforest trips, we will spend a day with a guide hired through the Gitga’at development corporation. Typically, that is a Spirit bear-focused experience.

We are committed to buying our food for the trips in local communities, despite this being at times a challenge for our cooks, because supplies are not as dependable and more menu flexibility is required as a result.

There are 4 crew members, the captain, the chef, our resource person who is typically a biologist, and then our mate who assists the others, runs the zodiacs, assists with the kayaks and sails. We have an on-going wildlife log so all significant wildlife sightings are catalogued. We are traveling in parts of the coast that researchers seldom get to. For 20 years, we have been doing marine mammal sightings in conjunction with the Vancouver Aquarium and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo.

Appreciate wilderness, respect wildlife and native cultures
We only travel in small groups of 12-16 guests. Small groups can watch in awe as a bear feeds on salmon. Smaller boats can float silently among the whales. We adhere to the principals of ecotourism. We support local communities, promote conservation, ensure our practices are low impact, and provide guests with world-class knowledge about the coast, the wildlife and Native cultures. We travel together in a relaxed, fun style (our lives are here to be enjoyed). We contribute to a variety of whale and seabird research programs and support conservation groups working to protect coastal wilderness.

On each trip we are committed to introducing participants to the wonders of nature. An experienced naturalist leads daily walks ashore and often provides short evening slide shows or presentations. Participants find learning engages their curiosity, and enriches the trip immensely. On all our voyages we intentionally keep our itineraries flexible to take advantage of wildlife sightings, weather and tides, and the interests of the group. These sample itineraries describe typical trips. Activities, however, may occur in a different order or be substituted by suitable alternatives. Wildlife is wild life and may not necessarily conform to our schedules.

2 Reviews of Queen Charlotte Islands sailing vacation, Canada

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 09 Aug 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Learning of the culture of the people of Haida Gwaai.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Definitely bring rubber boots, even though they are a pain to carry. Check with
the company whether you need to bring a sleeping bag or whether hiring bedding
is possible.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Definitely yes. We had a local person as part of the ship's crew, and used
local guides in small groups to minimise impact. Unfortunately we needed to use
diesel as the wind was not cooperative!!!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Reviewed on 22 Jun 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

There were so many highlights: probably the most extraordinary was on the first afternoon when we saw the whole undersea foodchain in action before our very eyes: millions of krill eating plankton, to be in turn gobbled up by the pilchards twinkling on the water surface by their thousand, to be in turn hoovered up by tens of humpback whales, working as teams, waving their pectoral fins, diving with flukes aloft. The photos of the whales cavernous mouths are pretty spectacular! Another highlight was the incredible smell of food each time we returned to our mother boat: of superb quality and variety. And believe me, that kayaking makes you real hungry!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't take too many belongings with you as space is limited but do take lots and lots of warm layers even in midsummer: if you want to sit on deck and not miss any of the extraordinary wildlife you will freeze without warm hat, gloves, layer after layer of warmth and full wet gear. There is an enclosed observation area but it just isn’t the same! If possible take a back up camera (and enough film or cards to last). There are no shopping opportunities on the trip. My wallet had a good rest! I managed to knock my new digital into the hotspring and despite valiant efforts of the crew it did not recover. So was so grateful to have my trusty 35mm backup and even my mobile phone. There is however no phone reception in the Queen Charlottes: halleluiah!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Absolutely: certainly traveling by a boat fully undersail when possible, must be ecologically sound. The crew were skilled at respecting wildlife-not overcrowding whales or sealions; not allowing us to tramp through precious intertidal areas. Our food and drink was locally sourced and in season where possible. The crew had diplomatic and respectful contacts with the Haida Watchmen and encouraged us to behave similarly. They respected their request to have only 12 people on site at once, to stick to paths and conceal evidence of our being there-eg our life jackets. The donations paid to the nature reserve must benefit its protection and the memory of the people who lived there. One memorable activity was collecting rubbish from the beautiful beach at Wooruff: nylon rope, large plastic containers, japanese light bulbs, and a shocking quantity of plastic bottles. We only saw approx. ten people on the trip so all this had been deposited from the "world" by the ocean. Collecting was not compulsory, just receptacles supplied by the crew, but it was truly a good mission and hopefully Island Roamer conveyed the rubbish to proper disposal and recycling.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

This was a truly great vacation-made exceptional by the crew who were professional, skilled, caring, knowledgeable, fun -the list is endless. I told them that I can never take another vacation as nothing could ever compare! And I did threaten to stow away and do it all over again...

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