Arctic Watch Lodge: Adventure and Wildlife at 74°N

Arctic Watch Lodge
Arctic Watch
26 Passengers

Spend a week exploring the Canadian Arctic at this unique wilderness lodge and world-class beluga whale observation site. Situated 500 miles (805 km) north of the Arctic Circle, the lodge offers guests fully-guided opportunities for diverse adventure activities, and extraordinary polar photography under 24-hour daylight. Observe the elusive musk ox, polar bears and more wildlife in their natural habitat and enjoy comfortable accommodations and superb food, all accessible within a scenic flight from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.

Expedition In Brief:
• Encounter rarely seen arctic wildlife and their habitats: polar bears, musk ox, bird cliffs, fox dens and more
• Visit the Cunningham River estuary, seasonal home to hundreds of beluga whales
• Take advantage of included equipment and activities such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Mercedes Unimog, kayaking, rafting, fishing and hiking
• Visit Cape Anne Thule sites with ancient stone and bone houses
• Unique photography opportunities
• Take advantage of optional activities such as fishing for arctic char and the Beechey Island fly-in excursion

Included Activities:
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 licenses are available for purchase at the lodge for a small fee.

Mandatory Transfer Package Includes:
• Hotel shuttle transfers on arrival and departure between airport and hotel in Yellowknife
• One night hotel accommodation in Yellowknife with breakfast
• Group transfer to and from charter flight to Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge
• Charter flight from Yellowknife to Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge (return)
• One night hotel accommodation in Yellowknife with breakfast

Day 1 — Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Enjoy an included night in Yellowknife and meet your fellow travelers at a welcome expedition briefing.

Day 2 — Yellowknife and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Today, board our private chartered plane to fly the 1,000 miles (1,500 km) to the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. During the four and a half hour flight, we’ll pass over the treeline as we 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 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 be escorted to your cabins. After settling in, meet your hosts for a safety briefing and overview of the exciting activities and options ahead.

Day 3 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, Somerset Island, Nunavut

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 drive. Later, we 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 musk ox are common.

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.

Day 4 — Arctic Watch Wilderness 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 musk ox 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, 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.

Day 5 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

One of today’s activities may be kayaking in Cunningham Inlet. 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 enjoy stunning views of the Northwest Passage and the opportunity to see polar bears.

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.

Day 6 — Arctic Watch Wilderness 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 traveling 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 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, 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.

Day 7 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Today we’ll set out on ATVs to Cape Anne where we’ll visit some Thule sites along the coast and look for polar bears. The Thule people were bowhead whale hunters, ancestors of today’s modern Inuit. The ride showcases 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.

Day 8 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

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 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.

We’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 and, at one point, a 180-degree turn.

Tonight, we’ll enjoy our farewell dinner and evening at Arctic Watch.

Day 9 — Depart Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Today, you’ll bid a fond goodbye 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, return to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife you will be transferred to your included hotel.

Day 10 — Depart Yellowknife

After breakfast and boot return, you can make your way home at your leisure or spend some more time in the Yellowknife area.

Important: The itinerary outlined above is only a sample of a typical week at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. Day-to-day activities may vary and are also weather dependent. Please note the likelihood of seeing belugas early in the season is dependent on weather and ice conditions.

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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