ARCTIC

Discovery at Arctic Watch

Beluga whales, Arctic Canada
from £7037 7 - 9 nights | Jun - Aug Exc. flights See price details
  • Departs:
  • Jun - Aug

Overview

From a comfortable safari-style base on Somerset Island, high in the Canadian Arctic, enjoy the best of the region’s wildlife, scenery and history on a variety of guided activities. Observe beluga whales in their thousands, kayak through icy waters and come face to face with muskox on an Arctic discovery like no other.

Highlights

  • sleep under canvas in the beautiful Arctic wilderness
  • enjoy encounters with inquisitive beluga whales
  • keep a look out for the mighty polar bear
  • explore epic landscapes with a range of optional activities - rafting, kayaking, hiking and more
  • delve into local Thule culture

Located 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle at Cunningham Inlet on Somerset Island, Nunavut, Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge is a permanent wilderness camp that offers hotel-like accommodation in a truly remote Arctic setting.

Somerset Island has no permanent residents but attracts as many as two thousand white beluga whales each year as they nurse their young and molt their skin in the relatively warm water of the Cunningham River. Muskox and polar bears can also be seen on the island, as well as a wealth of seabirds, delicate Arctic wildflowers and significant historic sites dating back to the Thule culture.

During a stay at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge you will have the opportunity to sea kayak with beluga whales, raft the Cunningham River, explore the Northwest Passage, see polar bears, fish for arctic char and hike through the spectacular Arctic landscapes. All activities are optional and your stay can be adapted to suit your own specific interests. With 24-hour daylight and a team of passionate guides on hand, all you need is a sense of adventure to create a lifetime of memories.

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Accessed by charter flight from Yellowknife, the lodge features 16 comfortable private safari tent-style cabins, each with insulation, a portable heating unit, a marine toilet and cold-water sink. Hot showers are located in the main complex, which is heated at key periods and also houses a dining room, kitchen, lounge, library, an interpretive and museum centre, souvenir shop and equipment room. Unexpected bonuses include internet access, hotwater bottles, a dedicated equipment drying area, as well as an excellent dining menu incorporating local foods.

This Arctic safari assures a high degree of comfort in the midst of the wilderness – every day begins with freshly made muffins and ends with a hot shower and a glass of wine!

Itinerary & Accommodation

Day 1: Yellowknife
Arrive in Yellowknife, capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and gateway to the north. Explore at your leisure and enjoy an overnight stay in the city.
Day 2: Yellowknife - Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, Somerset Island
Early this morning you will board a charter flight in Yellowknife to fly 1,000 miles north to Arctic Watch Lodge (flight times may vary with weather conditions). After a stop for refueling at Cambridge Bay, your 4.5 hour flight will land this afternoon on Somerset Island. A short walk across the tundra, and an even shorter raft ride across the Cunningham River, brings you to the lodge. Following a tour of the Arctic Watch facilities and some time to get settled, you will assemble in the great room for a welcome orientation. Enjoy dinner in the cosy dining room and get an early night in preparation for the adventures ahead.
Day 3: Belugas and waterfalls
This morning you will be given instruction in driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), easy and fun to drive and the ideal way to cross the tundra. Later hike the short distance to the Cunningham River estuary to watch beluga whales frolic in the shallow icy water just a few yards offshore. A hearty lunch buffet will provide the energy for a hike to Triple Waterfalls, a five-story torrent of free-falling water. Here you may see nesting peregrine falcons and other birds such as loons, snow buntings, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. Encounters with musk ox are also common. This evening is at leisure – perhaps delve into the library’s collection of polar titles, or learn more about the history, culture and wildlife of the Canadian Arctic at the interpretive centre.
Day 4: Musk ox and hoodoos
Cross the Cunningham River delta on your ATV and follow the Musk Ox Ridge Trail, which provides a scenic overview of the entire area and excellent chances of seeing musk ox. You may also be lucky enough to witness Arctic fox cubs at play. Continuing to Inukshuk Lake, you may wish to try your hand at catch-and-release fishing for Arctic char. Returning to the Lodge via the River Trail, where you can marvel at bizarrely sculptured sand pillars known as hoodoos. This evening sit back and enjoy an informal lecture about the Arctic.
Day 5: Sea kayaking in Cunningham Inlet
Today offers the memorable opportunity to kayak amongst icebergs, ring seals and bearded seals in Cunningham Inlet. You may also encounter belugas as well as Arctic terns and eider ducks. Lunch is served on the shoreline, with a small hike to explore a local canyon. Enjoy stunning views of the Northwest Passage and keep your eyes peeled for polar bears. Later you can return to the Cunningham River estuary to watch the beluga whales. This site is unique in the world because of the density of the whale population and their proximity to the shore – whilst standing on the riverbank you are close enough to hear the whales’ communication calls. To better appreciate these, a hydrophone (underwater microphone) is used. Beluga researchers based at Arctic Watch are on hand to answer any questions you may have about this intriguing species, and will provide a lecture this evening about their research activity.
Day 6: Flatrock Falls
Cross the Cunningham River delta on an excursion to Flatrock Falls. Here you will have the option of hiking or travelling by Mercedes Unimog truck. The numerous canyons of Somerset Island remain unnamed, but were formed as the result of shifting fault lines and their steep walls range from 200 to 1,000 feet high. Millions of fossils of prehistoric plants and animals litter the ground. Today’s trip also offers opportunities to observe nesting sites of local birds, including terns, plovers and snow geese. Later visit Gull Canyon to see the striking biological contrasts between barren canyon and lush gull rookery, before returning to the Lodge for dinner and an evening lecture.
Day 7: Cape Anne
Today’s excursion is by ATV to Cape Anne. The ride includes scenic vistas, icebergs, ancient Inuit campsites and prehistoric giant whale bones. The Thule culture was a bowhead-whale-hunting culture, 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. Polar bears can be often seen on the shoreline as they wander the coast, waiting for the ice to return. Another lecture tonight will offer more insight into the environment around you.
Day 8: Rafting or kayaking the Cunningham River
The first leg of today’s journey is covered by Mercedes Unimog truck, to the Arctic Watch ‘put-in’ on the Cunningham River, 20 kilometres from the lodge. Typically the final six kilometres will require a hike through the Badlands, passing the skeletal remains of two bowhead whales dated at eight thousand years old. You can choose whether to travel by kayak or raft back down the river to the lodge. The river is swift-flowing crystal-clear water with no difficult sections or rapids. The views are spectacular and include steep canyon walls and, at one point, a 180-degree turn. You may spot musk ox, snow geese, jaegers, Arctic foxes, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks as you paddle downstream.
Day 9: Somerset Island - Yellowknife
A final day at leisure offers the chance to revisit a favourite spot or repeat a memorable activity on Somerset Island. Late this afternoon you will be flown back to Yellowknife, where you will be transferred upon arrival to your included hotel.
Day 10: Yellowknife
Bid your fellow adventurers farewell after breakfast as your expedition comes to an end.
Notes

Itinerary Variations

8 Day Itinerary

Day 1 Overnight in Yellowknife
Day 2 Fly to Arctic Watch
Day 3 Belugas and waterfalls
Day 4 Sea kayaking in Cunningham Inlet
Day 5 Flatrock Falls and Gull Canyon
Day 6 River rafting on Cunningham River
Day 7 Fly to Yellowknife and overnight
Day 8 Depart for home

Please note that the above itineraries are intended as a guideline only and all activities are dependent on weather and ice conditions. A degree of flexibility is essential in the polar regions!

Prices & Dates

2017 Season

Prices are £ per person

Departure Date
ActivitiesDurationTwin
Single
30 Jun 2017   8 days £6,303 £8,797
05 Jul 2017   8 days £6,303 £8,797
10 Jul 2017 B 10 days £8,797 £12,478
17 Jul 2017 B 10 days £8,797 - Waitlist only! £12,478 - Waitlist only!
24 Jul 2017 B 10 days £8,797 - Waitlist only! £12,478 - Waitlist only!
31 Jul 2017 B 10 days £8,797 £12,478
07 Aug 2017   8 days £6,303 £8,797


Activity options
B The Beechey Island
excursion is available on this departure for an additional £741 per person (see other information tab for further details).

Please note that the early season departures are slightly less likely to see belugas, which arrive in the inlet once the ice has melted.


Maximum group size: 26 guests

Prices include
Return charter flights between Yellowknife and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 1 night pre- and 1 night post-expedition hotel accommodation in Yellowknife, including breakfast • Group transfers between Yellowknife hotel and the airport for charter flights on days 2 and 7 or 9 (depending on the length of the itinerary) • Tented accommodation • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners and snacks at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • Coffee, tea, water and juice available around the clock • All activities accompanied by experienced guides, including ATV, kayaking, hiking • All equipment required for activities • Formal and informal presentations by Expedition Team and guest speakers as scheduled • Complimentary WIFI • A pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan • A Quark Expeditions parka to keep • Comprehensive pre-departure materials, including a map and an informative Arctic Reader • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program • All luggage handling aboard ship • Emergency Evacuation Insurance for all guests to a maximum benefit of $100,000 per person

Prices exclude
Return airfares from the UK to Yellowknife • Passport and visa expenses (we will be pleased to advise you on any necessary documentation, however this is passengers' own responsibility) • Government arrival and departure taxes • Any additional pre or post expedition accommodation/meal/land arrangements • Excess baggage charges • Alcoholic beverages • Telecommunication charges, laundry costs and other charges of a personal nature • The voluntary gratuity at the end of the week for Lodge staff and guides (guidelines will be provided) • Travel insurance

2018 Prices and Dates

2018 Season

Prices are £ per person

Departure Date
ActivitiesDurationTwin
Single
28 Jun 2018 B 10 days £8,537 £12,062
05 Jul 2018 B 10 days £8,912 £12,662
12 Jul 2018   8 days £7,037 £9,887
17 Jul 2018   8 days £7,037 £9,887
22 Jul 2018   8 days £7,037 £9,887
27 Jul 2018 B 10 days £8,912 £12,662
03 Aug 2018 B 10 days £8,912 £12,662


Activity options
B The Beechey Island
excursion is available on this departure for an additional £731 per person (see other information tab for further details).

Please note that the early season departures are slightly less likely to see belugas, which arrive in the inlet once the ice has melted.


Maximum group size: 26 guests

Prices include
Return charter flights between Yellowknife and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 1 night pre- and 1 night post-expedition hotel accommodation in Yellowknife, including breakfast • Group transfers between Yellowknife hotel and the airport for charter flights on days 2 and 7 or 9 (depending on the length of the itinerary) • Tented accommodation • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners and snacks at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • Coffee, tea, water and juice available around the clock • All activities accompanied by experienced guides, including ATV, kayaking, hiking • All equipment required for activities • Formal and informal presentations by Expedition Team and guest speakers as scheduled • Complimentary WIFI • A pair of waterproof expedition boots on loan • A Quark Expeditions parka to keep • Comprehensive pre-departure materials, including a map and an informative Arctic Reader • All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program • All luggage handling aboard ship • Emergency Evacuation Insurance for all guests to a maximum benefit of $100,000 per person

Prices exclude
Return airfares from the UK to Yellowknife • Passport and visa expenses (we will be pleased to advise you on any necessary documentation, however this is passengers' own responsibility) • Government arrival and departure taxes • Any additional pre or post expedition accommodation/meal/land arrangements • Excess baggage charges • Alcoholic beverages • Telecommunication charges, laundry costs and other charges of a personal nature • The voluntary gratuity at the end of the week for Lodge staff and guides (guidelines will be provided) • Travel insurance

Other Information

Beechey Island Flight

This optional day trip to the historic Beechey Island will give guests the chance to retrace the heroic footsteps of famed polar explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew.

Arctic Watch guests can discover the island via a scenic flight over the Northwest Passage, with a chance to glimpse breaking ice, narwhal, beluga whales, and even polar bears en route. With the assistance of a guide, you will recall what Franklin and his crew, and other explorers before them, might have experienced on the secluded island. Visitors will see the historic graves dug for three of the unfortunate crew members of the ill fated expedition to discover a shipping route through the region. A storage depot for supplies also remains and is available to explore and you can even enjoy a picnic lunch while surrounded by rugged landscapes and majestic ice formations.

In September 2014, Franklin’s lost ship, Erebus, was found just south of the island, ending the enduring mystery surrounding where the expedition ended in 1845, if not why, and providing another point of interest for those lucky enough to visit.

Price:
£741pp in 2017
£755pp in 2018

The excursion is subject to weather conditions, with a minimum of 8 participants and a maximum of 12.

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