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, stand up paddleboarding, fat biking, photography opportunities, 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, Dedicated Solo Cabins
$7,495 to $11,295
Gather at the hotel in Yellowknife and meet your fellow travelers at a welcome expedition briefing, followed by boot and parka distribution.
Today, board a chartered plane to fly the 1,000 miles (1,500 km) to the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. During the 4.5 hour flight, pass over the treeline as you cross the Arctic Circle. Following a refueling stop in the community of Cambridge Bay, you’ll circle above Cunningham Inlet. Enjoy aerial views of the lodge below, before landing on the private airstrip on Somerset Island. A half mile (900 meter) walk across the tundra—and a 110 yard (100 meter) raft ride across the Cunnigham River—will bring you to the lodge. After a tour of the facilities, you’ll be escorted to your cabin. Upon settling in, meet your hosts for a safety briefing and overview of the exciting activities and options ahead.
After a hot breakfast, a typical first morning at the lodge may include receiving a hands-on introduction to driving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), which are easy and fun to operate. Later, you may take a short hike to the Cunningham River estuary to spot beluga whales frolicking in the shallow water only a few yards offshore. After lunch there may be an opportunity for a hike to Triple Waterfalls, 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 this canyon introduces you to the delicate beauty of wild arctic flowers. Encounters with muskoxen are common.
Pair your fine dinner with a delicious Canadian wine from the Northwest Passage Wine and Spirit List. 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, the skeletal remains of arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.
One of today’s activities may be kayaking in Cunningham Inlet. Paddle among icebergs, looking out for beluga whales as well as ring and bearded seals. Sightings of seabirds, including arctic terns and eider ducks, can be expected. After a lunch served along the shoreline, you’ll take a short hike to explore a local canyon aptly named Kayak Falls. From there, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Northwest Passage and the opportunity to see polar bears.
In the afternoon, you’ll 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 its proximity to the lodge. You may even be able to see the whales while you stand on the river banks, and be close enough to hear their calls. Guides will use hydrophones so you can also hear the whales’ underwater song.
In the evening, following a fabulous dinner, you’ll hear a lecture on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.
Following breakfast, depart for a trip to Flatrock Falls, crossing the Cunningham River delta. There, you’ll have the option of hiking or traveling by Mercedes Unimog a (multi-purpose four-wheel drive truck). Visit the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the result of shifting fault lines. Their steep walls 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. An al fresco lunch is served directly on the flat rocks that surround this canyon.
After lunch, travel to Gull Canyon, where you can see the striking color contrasts between the barren canyon and a lush gull rookery. The Canadian Wildlife Service recently declared this spot to be a unique ecosystem due to the gull rookery and the presence of peregrine falcons. In the evening, a scientist in residence will give an informal lecture.
Today’s full-day rafting adventure will begin after breakfast with a Mercedes Unimog truck ride to the Arctic Watch raft 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 that date back 8,000 years. On the way to the launch, you may encounter muskoxen, snow geese, jaegers, arctic fox, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks.
You’ll savor a picnic lunch on the beach, beside the river, as the staff and guides prepare the rafts. 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 that at one point make a 180-degree turn.
Tonight, you’ll enjoy a farewell dinner and fun evening at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge.
Bid farewell to the lodge team and the High Arctic. In the late afternoon, return to Yellowknife by chartered flight. Upon arrival you will be transferred to your included hotel.
After breakfast and boot return you can make your way home at your leisure or spend some more time in the Yellowknife area.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers are to carry a minimum of $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. All guests are strongly recommended to have comprehensive travel insurance coverage. 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 U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
Charter Flight Contingency Plan:
In the unlikely event that the plane is unable to depart on the planned date of the charter flight, you will be provided accommodation in Yellowknife at the tour operator's expense, for one additional night only. All meals, room charges, and any other expenses are the responsibility of the guest. In the event of a charter flight delay longer than one day, all expenses, including additional accommodations and meals will be at the guest’s expense. Guests already at Arctic Watch who are affected by a charter flight delay, will receive one night’s accommodation in Yellowknife at the tour operator's expense on the day of arrival from Arctic Watch to Yellowknife. All other expenses related to a charter flight delay, including meals, room charges, and flight cancellation or rebooking fees, are the responsibility of the guest. The tour operator will make every effort to ensure your program takes place, but due to weather conditions, flying in this region can be difficult. The tour operator will not offer passengers a refund in the event of a trip delay or cancellation due to the charter flight being unable to depart as planned. It is strongly recommend that all expedition guests purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy including trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance, in addition to the required medical coverage. Please note that international airfare may not be covered by insurance in the event of a cancellation. Contact ExpeditionTrips to assist in selecting the appropriate travel protection. Subject to change without notice.
Arctic Watch Lodge accommodation per the itinerary; meals and snacks at the Arctic Watch lodge; ATVs, kayaking, rafting, stand up paddleboarding, fat bikes; 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 $500,000 per person*. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; mandatory charter 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 $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, 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.