Saturday, January 29

Birding and Volcanic Geology in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

It may not be the most stable surface for birding and volcanic geology observation, but our sailboat proved manoeuvrable enough for our eager Gwaii Haanas sailing cruise guests off Tuft Islets, on the edge of Lyell Island. The spectacular basalt columns which crystallized eons ago to form Tuft Islets never cease to fascinate, as do the bird sightings we are lucky enough to come across as we exit Laskeek Bay and head southeast along the western slope of Hecate Strait.

Thursday, January 27

Visiting K'uuna Llanagaay with Watchmen - Skedans, Gwaii Haanas

After a night moored at McCoy Cove, we sail toward K'uuna Llanagaay, formely know as Skedans, where we get our first exposure to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. Although this ancient village is technically outside the boundary of the reserve, is is staffed by Haida watchmen, in partnership with Parks Canada. The watchmen, often seen atop Haida poles in groups of three, were traditionally those who kept watch for unwanted visitors to the village, giving warning when undesirable company showed up at K'uuna Llanagaay. Today's watchmen have pretty much the same role as they had when this was a thriving Haida village with hundreds of inhabitants.

Before we go to shore, we must radio ahead to the watchmen from our sailing vessel and ask permission to come to shore. The watchmen are keepers of the material remains on behalf of the Haida. They do not have to give tours, but will open up for honoured guests such as us, with whom a well-established relationship has been built over time. We meet watchman Paul Rosang of Skidegate today.

Apparently visited by famed artist Emily Carr in 1912 at a time when many glorious poles were still standing, a counscious decision has been made in recent years to let the village's remains go back into the land over time. This is what the Haida see as the most natural and desired outcome. Today many poles covered with moss are virtually indistinguishable from other logs laying on the ground. Howewer, the foundations of majestic long houses are easily made out all around us at K'uuna Llanagaay.

Monday, January 24

Sailing Cruise to South Moresby and Gwaii Haanas National Park

A brief orientation on the sailboat is followed by a quick overview of the first evening's sailing ahead, as we make our way to South Moresby and Gwaii Haanas. This is our first taste of what the adventure will be like. We are all just taking it in.

Travel to Moresby Island - Haida Gwaii Sailboat Cruise

Travelling on Moresby Island is always a bit of an adventure. It seems the old-fashioned school bus remains the ideal people mover to travel across the old, bumpy logging roads. Moresby Camp is our destination. Our sailboat awaits and dispatches one of its zodiacs to first haul out our luggage, then our Haida Gwaii nature cruise participants. A Coast Guard vessel watches as the boarding process unfolds. Our eager adventurers will soon get to set foot on their inviting sailing residence for the next 8 or 9 days. They will soon find out why soft-sided luggage makes life much easier when travelling on a 68-foot sailing vessel such as ours.

Monday, January 17

Haida Pole Carver Takes Visitors on a Carving Shed Tour

A visit to Haida Gwaii would not be complete without meeting a local carver. Norman Price is a Haida elder in Skidegate who makes himself available to our trip participants. He is of the Raven Clan.

The pole he carved and raised in front of his house on the occasion of his 80th birthday a few years ago always draws the attention and interest of our guests. He has been carving and designing since his very early teens... watchmen, raven, mouse, eagles, bear and cubs... and beavers.

But the real treat is when he invites us over to his carving shed. His sense of humour is as vivid as ever, as he demonstrates how even master carvers must sometimes adapt to technological advances.

But not all modern tools are equally suited to Haida carving needs.

He also loves to work with argillite, a type of black slate sedimentaty rock harvested from a Queen Charlotte Islands quarry owned by the Haida , the material from which can only be used by Haida carvers... The material became more popular as a carving medium after the demised of the fur trade.

Totem poles were so highly prized they they fetched as much as 1 dollar per foot for a house pole and $1.50 per foot for a burial pole in institutions like the Field Museum in Chicago by the end of the 19th Century.

Friday, January 14

Travel Trade: Garden Tourism Conference in Toronto - March 14 & 15, 2011

I like the idea of a Garden Tourism Conference. Our sister company WestWorld Tours generates many visits by motorcoach travellers each year to Victoria and Ottawa , among other destinations, from clients lured by garden-themed products. It is interesting to discover that even though people have been predicting the demise of motorcoach travel for years, destinations are still fostering the development of product which resonates with motorcoach travellers.


Traditional Haida Feast in Skidegate British Columbia

Before boarding our sailing vessel we are hosted by Roberta Olson, a Haida Matriarch, in her house in Skidegate not far from the Haida Heritage Centre.

Roberta is helped on the occasion of our visit by two young Haida who welcome us into her home with a song. The food is amazing: herring roe on seaweed, different kinds of salmon prepared in traditional fashion, halibut, salads, edible flowers, chowder and lovely tomatoes. The experience is very rich.

Like other First Nations elsewhere in Canada, Haida society is matrilineal. This means that the house, property and many other cultural elements are passed on to the next generation through women.

Thursday, January 13

Claude-Jean Harel Unveils 2011 Great Excursions Canada Tours Catalogue

Great Excursions Founder Claude-Jean Harel unveils the new adventure travel specialist's 68-page full-colour 2011 Canada and the North catalogue, a compilation of some of the most immersive journeys available in Canada and abroad. The catalogue can be downloaded from the company's website where more details about many of the trips offered can also be accessed.

Ask for your copy of the new Great Excursions catalogue at your nearest CAA/AAA office.

Tuesday, January 11

Visiting the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, BC, Canada

From the top of their pole, Haida Watchmen who might have been on the lookout for invaders from foreign lands centuries ago are now welcoming visitors to Skidegate. Master harvesters, carvers and navigators, the Haida were true masters of the sea.

A visit at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate is the best way to start seeing the world through the eyes of a very successful nation with great knowledge, elaborate trade networks, rich material culture and a wealth of traditions.

There are as many histories of Canada as there are are First Nations. If anything, the Haida have reclaimed their history in an inspiring way -- one where they are again taking control of their destiny, their resources.

They are developing a tourism industry that is based on sound stewardhip practices.

And quite frankly, the Haida are showing the world a part of Canada that most Canadians know very little about and that most will likely never see. Because, to come here and to experience Haida Gwaii the way it should be experienced requires from visitors that they be prepared to be exposed to a world that has very little to do with what most of us were led to believe Canada was like when we went to school.

My first impression of Haida Gwaii was that of a land inhabited by a people who draw their identity from the place they inhabit with great wisdom.

It seems one of the lessons I learned is that material wealth can play a positive role in how a people grounds itself in the environment which nutured it.

My visit to the Haida Heritage Centre certainly opened my eyes. I'm OK with that. I am just along for the journey... just as long as I learn a little bit more every day from those I share my journey with.

Saturday, January 8

Skidegate Days generates community pride and celebrates Haida Gwaii living

What perfect weather for Skidegate Days, one of the Queen Charlottes most awaited summer events.

Families, friends and visitors from around the world who happen to find themselves in the viccinity of Skidegate around that time in July, are naturally drawn to this day of festivities and pride, whose ultimate objective is to raise funds for local projects.

Skidegate is one two major Haida communities in the Islands, which have been losing population over the years, especially among the young, who often must look off the Island to find employment opportunities.

Creating more jobs locally and harnessing the potential of the tourism industry, which is increasingly in the spolight, certainly is one of the best possible ways to encourage the people of Haida Gwaii to keep calling the Charlottes home.

When you grow up in this, a most exotic Island paradise on the edge of the continent, making the call to move away is always a heart-wrenching one.

Wednesday, January 5

Chicago will work on attracting more business meetings and sports events

We will follow with great interest how 2011 will shape up at the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau. With a new CEO in place who is looking for new opportunities, there may be opportunities as well for Canadian organizations in cities like Regina and Saskatoon that are served by direct air connections with this key city in the Mid-west. Of course, one hopes business will go both ways.

This is an excerpt from an article published recently in the Chicago Tribune:

"When Don Welsh takes the reins at the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau next month, his first priority will be sharpening its sales force to lock in critically needed new business.

"I think the first thing we have to do ... is make sure we have the best and most productive sales people in the convention market," Welsh said in an interview Tuesday.

In addition to pursuing big trade shows that have been the city's bread and butter, the bureau will be looking to add more corporate gatherings, given the concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the Midwest, Welsh said. The bureau is courting the likes of Microsoft Corp. and McDonald's Corp."

Skidegate Days Log Sawing Contest - Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Festivals and events drive as much tourism activity in Saskatchewan and across Canada than pretty much anything else. Skidegate Days (Singaay Laa "Good Day") is an annual community fundraiser on Haida Gwaii. The log sawing contest is always popular. Blending traditional lumberjack skills with fun and games, this friendly competition brings families, friends and Queen Charlotte Islands visitors together for a bit of wholesome fun.

Looking for professional rafting guides in Newfoundland

A quick note to let you know about this request from a Newfoundland operation that we received this morning. Pretty straight forward. Feel free to reply directly to them:


My name is Jason, I'm the manager of Rafting Newfoundland.  Not sure if you're familiar with our operation, but we run rafting trips down Exploits River in Central Newfoundland, Canada.  The portion we run features class three rapids.

We are in the process of hiring for our 2011 season, and we would appreciate it very much if you would consider us for students and alumni of your rafting program that are qualified but you are unable to provide a job for.

We're planning to hire four guides in total (we already have one confirmed), but we may only have full time work for 3.75 guides.  It would be ideal to have three exceptionally qualified guides, and one eager and promising beginner that is seeking time on the river and will be happy even with slightly less work than the other guides.

We run a short 12 week season (we operate from mid-May to early Oct, but are only really busy from mid-June to mid-Sep), but pay fair to compensate.  Guides can expect between $6,000 - $7,500 (Canadian Dollars) for the 12 weeks including bonuses.  We start at $110/trip through the peak season, and offer bonuses throughout the season.   We offer our guides free accommodation in riverfront cabins.

Please feel free to forward students to our website,, or they can contact me for a full job description.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

All the best,

Jason Nault
Administration, Marketing & Web Design
Riverfront Chalets & Rafting Newfoundland
P.O. Box 661, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
Canada  A2A 2K2
Reservations: 709-486-0892
Office: 719-387-0866
Cell: 709-293-3690