Summary : Spend a week exploring the Canadian Arctic at a unique wilderness lodge and world-class beluga whale observation site with an onsite Beluga researcher from the Vancouver Aquarium. Situated 500 miles (805 km) north of the Arctic Circle, the lodge offers guided opportunities for hiking, kayaking, zodiac cruising, photography workshops, fishing and exploring the Arctic tundra by all-terrain vehicles. Watch for muskox, polar bear and Arctic fox in their natural habitat, all accessible by a short flight from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins
$9,495 to $14,195
Arrive in Yellowknife and stay the night at your hotel.
Meet early in the morning to board your private chartered plane to fly the 1,000 miles (1,500 km) to the Arctic Watch lodge. During the four and a half hour flight, pass over the tree-line to the remote community of Cambridge Bay to refuel. Land on Somerset Island in the afternoon. A short walk across the tundra, and an even shorter raft ride across the Cunningham River, will bring you to the lodge. Following a tour of the facilities, settle into your room and later meet the staff for a briefing on the activities of the week ahead.
A typical first morning at the lodge may include receiving a hands-on introduction to driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), which are easy and fun to drive. Later, you may take a short hike to the Cunningham River Estuary to watch beluga whales frolic in the shallow water only a few yards offshore.
In the afternoon, there may be an opportunity for a hike to Triple Waterfall, a five-story torrent of free-falling water. There you can see nesting peregrine falcons and other birds such as loons, snow buntings, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. Exploring the canyon introduces you to the delicate beauty of wild Arctic flowers. Encounters with muskox are common.
After dinner, there’s free time to explore in and around the lodge. The library has a broad selection of Arctic and polar titles. The interpretive center contains collections of local fossils, skeletal remains of Arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.
After breakfast, travel by ATV crossing the Cunningham River Delta. Drive along Muskox Ridge Trail, which provides a scenic overview of the entire area. It’s very likely that you’ll see muskox and pass by an impressive Arctic fox den where you may have the opportunity to watch fox cubs at play.
Following an outdoor lunch at Inukshuk Lake, gear is supplied for those who would like to try “catch-and-release” fishing for Arctic char. Returning on ATV, the journey takes an alternate route via the River Trail to view sculptured sand pillars and local coal deposits. In the evening after dinner, there will be an opportunity to listen to an informal lecture.
Conditions permitting, kayak in Cunningham Inlet. All equipment and basic instructions are provided. Paddle among icebergs, looking out for ring and bearded seals as well as beluga whales. Sightings of sea birds, including Arctic terns and eider ducks, can be expected. After a lunch along the shoreline, take a short hike to explore a local canyon aptly named Kayak Falls. From there you’ll have stunning views of the Northwest Passage and the opportunity to see polar bears.
In the afternoon, return to the Cunningham River estuary, a beluga whale migration site. This site is unique the world over because of the density of the beluga population and their proximity to our lodge. You may even be able to see them while you stand on the river banks, and be close enough to hear their calls. Guides will use hydrophones so you can also hear their underwater song.
In the evening, enjoy a talk on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.
Following breakfast, depart for a trip to Flat Rock Falls, crossing the Cunningham River Delta. Once there, you’ll have the option of hiking or travelling by Mercedes Unimog a (multi-purpose four-wheel drive truck). Visit the Somerset Island canyons, formed as a result of shifting fault lines. Their walls, mostly vertical, vary from 200 to 1,000 feet (up to 305 meters). Millions of fossils of prehistoric plants and animals litter the ground. You may also have the opportunity to observe nesting sites of local birds, including terns, plovers and snow geese. Enjoy an alfresco lunch on the flat rocks that surround the canyon.
After lunch, travel to Gull Canyon to observe the striking color contrasts between barren canyon and a lush gull rookery. The Canadian Wildlife Service recently visited and claimed this spot to be a unique and special ecosystem for the gull rookery and the presence of peregrine falcons. In the evening, Arctic Watch’s scientist-in-residence will give an informal lecture.
Set out on ATV to Cape Anne where you’ll visit five Thule sites all along the coast and look for polar bears. The Thule were bowhead whale hunters, ancestors of today’s modern Inuit. The ride includes scenic vistas, icebergs, ancient Inuit campsites and giant prehistoric whale bones. The Cape Anne Thule site is the largest in the area and includes the remains of 15 stone and bone houses. Polar bears can often be seen on the shoreline, as they wander the coast, waiting for the ice to return. The return trip overland via the Red Valley, gives incredible views of the lodge and its vast surroundings.
The first leg of today’s journey is by Mercedes Unimog truck. Board the Arctic Watch raft or kayak launch on the Cunningham River, 12.5 miles (20 km) from the lodge. Opt to hike the final four miles (6 km) through the Badlands, passing the skeletal remains of two bowhead whales dated from eight thousand years ago. On the way to the launch, you may encounter musk oxen, snow geese, jaegers, arctic foxes, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks.
Enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach beside the river. Return to the lodge by raft on the swift-flowing, crystal-clear water of the gentle rapids. The views are amazing and include steep canyon walls and, at one point, a 180-degree turn.
Bid farewell to the lodge team and the High Arctic. In the late afternoon, return to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife you will be transferred to your hotel.
After breakfast, make your way home at your leisure.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact program varies according to weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
All guests are strongly recommended to have comprehensive travel insurance coverage. Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers are strongly suggested to carry a minimum of $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that the travel insurance policy covers trip cancellation insurance, trip delay (interruption or after departure coverage), baggage and repatriation. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
In the unlikely event that the plane is unable to depart on the planned date of the charter flight, you will be provided a full day of activities in Yellowknife, meals included. If the weather is not suitable on Day 3, you will enjoy an additional day of activities and meals in Yellowknife. On Day 4 should the charter flight not be able to take off by 14:00, the shipping company will officially cancel the voyage and provide letters for all clients to submit to their travel insurance providers under the trip delay/interruption and cancellation clause. The shipping company will not offer passengers a refund in the event of trip cancellation and will not offer passengers compensation in the event of a delay. Contact ExpeditionTrips to assist in selecting the appropriate travel protection.
Beechey Island Excursion: $895 per person (Minimum 8 guests, Maximum 12)
Depart Arctic Watch on a De Haviland twin otter, and fly across the Northwest Passage on a 40 minute flight to Beechey Island. During the flight, scan for narwhal, bowhead whales, beluga whales, seals and polar bears. Once on Beechey Island, visit a national historic site significant in Canadian Arctic exploration, visit a marked grave site from the ill-thrawted Franklin expedition as well as the storage depot. Enjoy a picnic lunch, and explore the island spotting stunning ice formations and untamed landscapes.
Arctic Watch Lodge accommodation per the itinerary; meals and snacks at the Arctic Watch lodge; ATVs, kayaking, rafting, photography workshops; Expedition Leader and guides; pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan; parka to keep; WiFi (limited signal strength); coffee, tea, water and juice available around the clock (soft drinks and beer not available); pre-departure materials; miscellaneous service taxes during the program; luggage handling at the charter terminal and at the lodge; Emergency Evacuation Insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of $100,000 per person*; Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; mandatory charter airfare package; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned above; any meals before and after the lodge with the exception of breakfasts in Yellowknife; wine and spirits; baggage, cancellation and medical travel insurance; excess baggage charges; laundry and other personal charges; fishing license fee; the customary gratuity at the end for staff; additional expenses (meals, accommodation, international flight change fees, etc.) incurred by delay or cancellation of activities due to sub-optimal weather.
*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only to travel between the first and last day of the expedition purchased. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. We strongly advise all passengers to purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.