Arctic Watch Lodge: Adventure and Wildlife at 74°N

Arctic Watch Lodge
Arctic Watch
26 Passengers

This land-based itinerary brings together a host of active Arctic experiences that put you in the thick of the action. Recreational fun includes ATVing, kayaking, rafting and fishing. Encounter elusive wildlife—polar bears, muskoxen, foxes, rare birds and more. Visit the Cunningham River estuary, the seasonal home to hundreds of beluga whales, as well as the fascinating Thule sites at Cape Anne.

Expedition In Brief:
• Encounter rarely seen and iconic arctic wildlife and their habitats: polar bears, muskoxen, ringed seals, bird cliffs, fox dens and much 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), a Mercedes Unimog, kayaking, rafting, fishing and hiking
• Visit Cape Anne Thule sites with ancient stone and bone houses
• Enjoy unique photography opportunities
• Join the optional 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 live in this polar environment. You’ll find that each hike is different: you'll explore shorelines and 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. Guests will travel by raft on this river excursion, which typically lasts a full day and includes an optional hike to the starting point, plus lunch along the shore. Prior to departing, guests are given a hands-on introduction to rafting; no prior 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 a passenger, or they can 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 beluga whales as well as ring and bearded seals. Sightings of seabirds, 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 are supplied, and spinning equipment is also available. Fly fishing is welcome and guests are free to bring their preferred gear. Nunavut fishing licenses are available for purchase at the lodge for a small fee.

Even though they look a bit odd, fat-tire bikes are specialized mountain bikes that offer a smooth ride over the tough arctic terrain. You’ll have loads of fun riding out on the sea ice and along rocky ridges. Your bike’s stable fat tires will carry you over the mostly smooth surface and across some shallow creeks with ease. All fat-bike excursions are escorted by a UTV for repairs and support.

Combining surfing with kayaking or canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding will give you a very personal and unique perspective on the Arctic. Taken in small groups in good weather conditions on calm waters, this activity offers the opportunity to paddle through deep arctic canyons and among ice floes.

Optional Adventure Option:
Departing Arctic Watch on a de Havilland 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 seals and polar bears, as well as narwhal, bowhead and beluga whales. Once on Beechey Island, we’ll pay our respects at the graves of three Franklin Expedition crew members, visit the storage depot, have a picnic lunch and explore the island. Stunning ice formations, untamed landscapes and one of the Arctic’s most historic places are all part of this incredible day trip.

Mandatory Transfer Package Includes:
•Hotel shuttle transfers on arrival and departure between airport and hotel in Yellowknife
•One night’s pre- and post-expedition 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)

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, you’ll 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 short walk across the tundra—and an even shorter raft ride across the Cunningham 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.

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 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.

During your gourmet dinner, pair your meal with a fine Canadian bottle of 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.

Day 4 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

After a full breakfast, you’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 you’ll see muskoxen 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 you 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 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 our 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 5-star dinner, you’ll hear a lecture on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.

Day 6 — Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Following breakfast, you’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 multipurpose four-wheel-drive truck). You’ll visit the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the result of shifting fault lines. Their steep walls vary from 200 to 1,000 feet (61 to 305 meters). Millions of fossils of prehistoric plants and animals are scattered around the ground. You may also have the opportunity to observe nesting sites of local birds, including terns, plovers and snow geese. An alfresco lunch is served directly on the flat rocks that surround this canyon.

After lunch, you’ll travel to Gull Canyon, where you can see the striking color contrasts between the barren canyon and a lush gull rookery. This spot was recently declared a unique ecosystem by the Canadian Wildlife Service due to the area’s 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 you’ll set out on an ATV to Cape Anne, where you’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 overland trip 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 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 our farewell dinner and evening at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge.

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 you depart. In the late afternoon, you'll return to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife you, will be transferred to your included hotel.

Day 10 — Depart Yellowknife

After breakfast  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 that the likelihood of seeing belugas early in the season is dependent on weather and ice conditions.

* Itinerary may be subject to change