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
Located 800 km inside the Arctic Circle, right on the Northwest Passage, the Arctic Circle Wilderness Lodge qualifies as the world’s northernmost safari resort. This pristine tract of wilderness – replete with riverways, canyons and waterfalls – are incredibly scenic in themselves, but it’s the flora and fauna here that are the real highlight. Beluga whales romp about in the waters, polar bears and musk ox plod about the land and gulls, falcons and snow geese scour the skies. In between outings and lectures dedicated to the wildlife, there are opportunities to careen around in an all-terrain vehicle, kayak among icebergs, hike through canyons and whitewater raft down the swiftly flowing Cunningham River. If it’s a mix of animals and activity you’re after, look no further.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Enjoy an included night in Yellowknife and meeting your fellow travelers.
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 days ahead.
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.
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.
Enjoy 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 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
Arctic Watch Lodge
Today we 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.
In the evening after dinner, we’ll have an informal lecture.
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
Arctic Watch Lodge
Today 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Homeward bound. You are free to leave at any time today, or stay on and enjoy more time in Yellowknife.