Encounter beluga whales and other rare wildlife on this Canadian Arctic adventure
Get out and explore the wild Canadian Arctic then come home each day to your comfortable base at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. The world’s most northerly and remote lodge is situated on the northern tip of Somerset Island, which is a world-class beluga whale observation site. On this eight-day adventure you’ll get the full Arctic safari experience, with guided activities and extraordinary wildlife sightings conducted in 24-hour daylight. After an overnight stay in Yellowknife, you’ll be flown to Somerset Island in Nunavut and transferred to the lodge. Each day brings the chance of new wildlife sightings, including beluga whales, ringed seals, polar bears, roaming musk oxen, Arctic foxes, snowy owls and more. Learn to drive all-terrain vehicles, try your hand at kayaking among icebergs, navigate the gentle Cunningham River rapids on a raft and fish for Arctic char at Inukshuk Lake. You can also explore the shorelines and canyons on hikes to Triple Waterfalls, Kayak Falls and the Badlands. The Cunningham River estuary is a beluga whale migration site and it’s so close to the lodge that you can see them from the riverbank. Come home with a memory card full of unique photos and a lifetime of stories about your time in the Canadian Arctic.
- Yellowknife, Canada
- Yellowknife, Canada
- Physical rating
- Min 8
- Group size
- Min 1, Max 26
Why we love this trip
Hike out to the Triple Waterfalls and watch water cascade down five stories
Spot beluga whales splashing about in the Cunningham River Delta
Get closer to this amazing environment while paddling a kayak around floating icebergs in Cunningham Inlet
Uncover the Arctic’s huge range of wildlife – see gulls and peregrine falcons soaring around Gull Canyon
Wander through the gigantic skeletal structures of bowhead whales in the Badlands
Even transport on Somerset Island is an adventure – whiz about in the snow in an all-terrain vehicle
Is this trip right for you?
As you’d expect, temperatures in the Arctic are very cold. A warm parka will be provided along with waterproof boots and unlimited hot drinks, but you should also bring base layers and lots of warm clothing. Please see the trip notes for further important information about what to bring.
Weather depending, you will be making regular excursions in a Zodiac boat to explore the local area and look for wildlife. It can get very cold and wet on the Zodiac, so make sure you are dressed appropriately and that you keep your camera safe and dry. Sturdy sea legs are needed as you make wet and dry landings from the boat, and on steep terrain, snow and other uneven surfaces. Some ships have a lot of stairs, so please hold on to the handrails if seas are rough.
The weather plays a pivotal part in this adventure and although there’s an itinerary in place, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to do everything that is planned for. A level of flexibility and openness to embracing the unexpected are important in expedition travel, especially to such a remote area.
This trip takes places during the time of year that Spitsbergen enjoys 24-hour daylight. Just one of the benefits of this is that incredible wildlife can be seen at any time of the day – be prepared to be woken at any time so as to not miss out on exciting animal sightings.
Polar bears are one of the most incredible and appealing animals on the planet, but they are also powerful predators with little fear of humans. Therefore it’s necessary to be aware of the guidelines surrounding any contact with Polar bears. Follow your leader’s instructions and do not stray from your group – your leader carries equipment to protect you.
Meals IncludedThere are no meals included on this day.
POSSIBLE SITES VISITED WHILE AT ARCTIC WATCH
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 Wilderness 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.
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 musk ox herds.
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.
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.
Named by Arctic Watch owners Richard Weber and Josée Auclair, Gull Canyon shows the striking biological contrasts between barren canyon and lush gull rookery.
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.
Beautiful Yellowknife is a thriving community on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, featuring endless summer days and incredible arctic scenery. Originally a gold-mining town, Yellowknife has now reinvented itself as Canada’s “Diamond Capital”, and is an interesting gateway to the expansive world of the north. Numerous opportunities abound for an active and unique vacation, including seeing Northern Lights, dogsledding, or hiking on the Canadian Shield.
INCLUDED ACTIVITIES AT ARCTIC WATCH
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, always on the lookout for wildlife. Hiking participation is optional and your Expedition Team will advise you of what levels of activity you can expect prior to each excursion.
The Cunningham River is swift-flowing, crystal-clear water with no difficult sections or rapids. Typically lasting a full day and including an optional hike to the starting point and lunch along the shore, guests will travel by raft on this river excursion. Guests are given a hands-on introduction to rafting prior to departing, and no previous experience is required.
A great way to better explore the varied terrain of Somerset Island is by all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Guests can opt to ride as passenger, or receive a hands-on introduction to driving ATVs, which are easy and fun to operate. Helmets and a safety briefing are provided.
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. Although no experience is required, even avid kayakers will enjoy this half-day adventure. All equipment and basic instructions are provided.
Guests have the opportunity to try “catch-and-release” fishing for arctic char at Inukshuk Lake. Fishing equipment and gear is supplied, and spinning equipment is also available. Fly fishing is also welcome and guests are free to bring their preferred gear. Nunavut fishing licences are available for purchase at the lodge for a small fee.
OPTIONAL EXCURSION (Additional cost applies. Space is limited)
Departing Arctic Watch on a De Haviland twin otter, you’ll fly across the Northwest Passage, on a 40-minute flight to Beechey Island. During the flight we’ll look out for narwhal, bowhead whales, beluga whales, seals and polar bears. Once on Beechey Island, we’ll pay our respects at the graves, visit the storage depot, have a picnic lunch, and explore the island. Stunning ice formations, untamed landscapes, and one of the Arctic’s most historical places are all part of this incredible day trip.
During your gourmet dinner, choose a fine Canadian bottle of wine to pair 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, skeletal remains of arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.
Following an outdoor lunch at Inukshuk Lake, we’ll supply gear for those who would like the opportunity to try “catch-and-release” fishing 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 enjoy an informal lecture.
In the afternoon, we’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 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, following a 5-star dinner, we’ll hear a lecture on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.
After lunch, we’ll 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 eco-system due to the gull rookery and the presence of peregrine falcons. In the evening, a scientist in residence will give an informal lecture.
We’ll savour 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 and, at one point, a 180-degree turn.
Tonight, we’ll enjoy our farewell dinner and evening at Arctic Watch.
Meals9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners
TransportPlane, All Terrain Vehicle, raft
Dates & availability
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Arctic and Antarctic bookings have an increased deposit requirement of A$2000pp ($6000pp on Icebreaker voyages. Different deposit amounts apply in other currencies). The balance is due 90 days before departure.
If a booking is cancelled 90 days or more before departure - the cancellation fee is the full loss of the deposit paid.
If a booking is cancelled between 89 days and departure - the cancellation fee is 100% of the total price of the voyage.
Other fees may apply for air tickets and other arrangements booked in conjunction with a Polar voyage.
The itinerary outlined is a sample of a typical week at Arctic Watch Lodge. Day to day activities may vary and are also weather dependant.
Arctic Watch Lodge is a semi permanent tented camp consisting of stand alone accommodation tents, and a main structure which houses communal dining, recreation and shower facilities. The bedrooms are heated at certain times of the day and bedding suitable to the conditions is provided. Each room has cold running water and a marine toilet. Bathing is in the communal shower block and towels are provided. Hair dryers and heated hair appliances are not permitted in bedrooms.
Your expedition is operated by our sister company, Quark Expeditions. All accommodation and transfer arrangements as listed in the itinerary are also operated by Quark Expeditions or their local representatives.
Strict luggage limits apply. Please see Trip Notes (What to Take) for more information.