10 days

Arctic Watch Lodge: Adventure and Wildlife at 74°N

Arctic Watch Lodge: Adventure and Wildlife at 74°N

Beluga Whales

Yellowknife

Arctic Watch Lodge

The Arctic landscape

Trip rating
  • Spend a week at this unique Canadian Arctic wilderness lodge and world-class beluga whale observation site. Situated 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the lodge offers fully-guided opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and exploring the Arctic tundra in all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Observe muskox, polar bears and more wildlife in their natural habitat and enjoy comfortable accommodations and superb food, all accessible within a short flight from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.

     

    Activities

    HIKING
    Hiking is a great way to appreciate the immense windswept landscapes of the Arctic. The tundra comes alive during the brief Arctic summer, with bursts of color from the shrubs and plants that eke out a living in this polar environment. You’ll find each hike is different - exploring shorelines or landscapes, often on the lookout for wildlife. Hiking participation is optional and your Expedition Team will advise you of what you can expect prior to each excursion.

    RIVER RAFTING
    Typically lasting two to three hours, guests will travel by raft on a river excursion. The Cunningham River is swift-flowing, crystal-clear water with no difficult sections or rapids. Guests are given a hands-on introduction to rafting prior to departing, and no previous experience is required.

    ATV
    A great way to better explore the terrain of Somerset Island is by all-terrain vehicle. Guests receive a hands-on introduction to driving ATVs, which are easy and fun to operate. Helmets are provided.

    KAYAKING
    Led by experienced kayak guides, guests will paddle among icebergs, on the watch for ring and bearded seals and beluga whales. Sightings of sea birds, including Arctic terns and eider ducks, can be expected. All equipment and basic instructions are provided.

    FISHING
    Guests have the opportunity to try “catch-and-release” fishing for Arctic char at Innukshuk Lake. Fly fishing is also welcome and guests are free to bring their preferred gear. Fishing equipment and gear is supplied, and spinning equipment is also available.

     

    POSSIBLE LANDINGS AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS

    CUNNINGHAM INLET
    Every summer, this sheltered inlet is home to about 2000 beluga whales who pass through the Cunningham River estuary on Somerset Island, Nunavut. Arctic Watch Lodge is located within walking distance of this cluster of whale activity, and we will be able to view them enjoying the warmth of the river water and socializing.

    TRIPLE WATERFALLS
    A hike from the lodge brings you to a five-story torrent of free-falling water. Here you can see nesting peregrine falcons and other birds such as loons, snow buntings, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks.

    MUSKOX RIDGE TRAIL
    The trail provides a scenic overview of the entire Cunningham River delta. Here you will see an Arctic fox den and are very likely to encounter muskox herds.

    INUKSHUK LAKE
    Located two hours from the lodge by ATV, at Inukshuk Lake you can fish for Arctic Char as part of the lodge’s catch and release program.

    FLATROCK FALLS
    Here you can view the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the result of shifting fault lines. Their most vertical walls vary in height from 200 to 1,000 feet. Keep your eyes open for fossils of prehistoric plants and animals.

    GULL CANYON
    Named by Arctic Watch owners Richard Weber and Josée Auclair, Gull Canyon shows the striking biological contrasts between barren canyon and lush gull rookery.

     

    CAPE ANNE
    A trip to Cape Anne includes seeing scenic vistas, icebergs, ancient Thule campsites and giant prehistoric whale bones. The Thule were a culture of bowhead whale hunters, and ancestors of today’s modern Inuit. The Cape Anne Thule site is the largest in the area and includes the remains of 15 stone and bone houses.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

    Enjoy an included night in Yellowknife and meeting your fellow travellers.

    Day 2 - Yellowknife to Arctic Watch Lodge

    We’ll meet early in the morning to board our 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, we’ll pass over the treeline to the barrens, refueling in the community of Cambridge Bay, and landing in the afternoon on a private airstrip on Somerset Island. A short walk across the tundra, and an even shorter raft ride across the Cunningham River, will bring us to the lodge. Following a tour of the facilities, you’ll settle into your cabins and meet the Quark staff for a briefing on the activities of the week ahead.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    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 drive. Later, we may take a short hike to the Cunningham River estuary to watch beluga whales frolic in the shallow water only a few yards offshore, followed by a wonderful buffet lunch.

    In the afternoon, there may be an opportunity for a hike to Triple Waterfalls, a five-story torrent of freefalling 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 a hearty 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 centre contains collections of local fossils, skeletal remains of Arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    After a full breakfast, we’ll travel by ATV, crossing the Cunningham River delta, and driving along the Muskox Ridge Trail, which provides a scenic overview of the entire area. It’s very likely that we’ll see muskox and pass by an impressive Arctic fox den where you may have the opportunity to watch fox cubs at play.

    Following a picnic lunch at our shelter at Inukshuk Lake, we’ll supply gear for those who would like to take the opportunity to “catch-and-release” fish for Arctic char. Returning on ATVs, the tour takes an alternate route via the River Trail so we can view hoodoos (sculptured sand pillars) and local coal deposits.

    In the evening after dinner, we’ll have an informal lecture.

     

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    Today we may attempt to 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 served along the shoreline, we’ll take a short hike to explore a local canyon aptly named “Kayak Falls.” From there we’ll have stunning views of the Northwest Passage and the opportunity to see polar bears.

    In the afternoon, we’ll return to the Cunningham River estuary to watch the beluga whales. This site is unique the world over because of the density of the whale population and their proximity to our lodge. Standing on the river banks, you’ll be able to see the beluga whales frolic in the shallow water and be close enough to hear their calls. Guides will use our hydrophones so that you can also hear their underwater calls.
    In the evening, following a delicious dinner, we’ll have a lecture on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    Following breakfast, we’ll depart for a trip to Flatrock Falls, crossing the Cunningham River delta. There, you’ll have the option of hiking or travelling by Mercedes Unimog a (multi-purpose four-wheel drive truck). We’ll visit the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the 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.
    A picnic lunch is served directly on the flat rocks that surround this canyon.

    After lunch, we’ll travel to Gull Canyon, where you can see the striking biological 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 eco-system for the gull rookery and the presence of peregrine falcons.
    In the evening, Arctic Watch’s scientist-in-residence will give an informal lecture.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 7 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    Today we’ll set out on ATVs to Cape Anne where we’ll visit five Thule sites all along the coast and look for polar bears. The Thule culture 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, will give us incredible views of the place we’ve called home this week.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Arctic Watch Lodge

    The first leg of today’s journey will be by Mercedes Unimog truck. We’ll get to the Arctic Watch raft and kayak launch on the Cunningham River, 20 km from the lodge. Typically, the final six kilometers require a hike through the Badlands, passing the skeletal remains of two bowhead whales dated from eight thousand years ago. The voyage includes encounters with muskox, snow geese, jaegers, Arctic foxes, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. We’ll savor a picnic lunch on the beach beside the river, as the staff and guides prepare the rafts and kayaks. Returning to the lodge, you’ll have the choice of kayaking or travelling by raft. The river has swift-flowing, crystal-clear water with no difficult sections or rapids. The views are amazing and include steep canyon walls and, at one point, a 180-degree turn. Tonight, we’ll enjoy our final dinner and evening at the Arctic Watch lodge.

    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Arctic Watch Lodge to Yellowknife

    Today, you’ll bid a fond farewell to the lodge team and the High Arctic. You may have time to take advantage of one last activity before we depart. In the late afternoon, the plane will arrive for the return flight back to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife you will be transferred to your included hotel.
     

    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 10 - Trip ends

    Homeward bound. You are free to leave at any time today, or stay on and enjoy more time in Yellowknife.

    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Accommodation with daily housekeeping
    • All breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks throughout the week
    • All activities per the daily program, e.g. ATV, kayaking, fishing, etc.
    • Leadership throughout the voyage by our experienced Expedition Leader and guides
    • Formal and informal presentations by the Expedition Team and Special Guests as scheduled
    • Photographic journal on DVD, documenting the expedition
    • A pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan
    • A waterproof expedition parka to keep
    • Coffee, tea, water and juice available around the clock. No softdrinks
    • Comprehensive pre-departure materials, including a map and an informative Arctic Reader
    • All miscellaneous service taxes throughout the program
    • All luggage handling at the airport and at the lodge
    • Emergency Evacuation Insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of US$100,000 per person
    • Complimentary WIFI

    Not Included

    • Passport and any applicable visa expenses.
    • Government arrival and departure taxes.
    • Baggage, cancellation, interruption, and medical travel insurance.
    • Excess baggage charges.
    • Wine served with dinner
    • The voluntary gratuity at the end of the expedition for staff
    • Any additional pre or post expedition accommodation

    Safety Information

    Cell phone service is not available at Arctic Watch but the lodge has a satellite phone for emergency communication.

    The staff are trained in wilderness first aid, and have experience dealing with Arctic injuries. If you are under regular treatment for any ailment, you must bring a sufficient supply of medicines to cover your stay.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PPAW15
Start City: Yellowknife
End City: Yellowknife
Style: Small Group

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