The Canadian Arctic: Experience the world’s largest beluga whale congregations.

The Canadian Arctic is “the world’s last and most pristine wilderness, with places man has not walked upon for over 500 years.

It’s the ultimate destination for travelers, with a certain starkness that only polar regions can provide—though it’s rapidly losing its battle with the ever-rising tides. “Climate change is affecting the Canadian Arctic at more than twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth,”

So the importance on visiting this wilderness before it changes permanently.


Arctic Watch Discovery Experience: 9 Nights, Travel Season only in July & August 2021 and 2022. starting from Canadian Dollars $16300 per person twin sharing.

The Untamed Arctic: Exceptional Wildlife and Adventure at 74 Degrees North.

800 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Home to polar bears, muskoxen, arctic foxes and a world-class beluga whale nursery, Arctic Watch is an unparalleled destination for the adventurous.

From wildlife photography to biking on the frozen Arctic ocean or sea kayaking alongside beluga whales, it offers fully guided excursions in Canada’s far north. The wilderness lodge is situated on the historic Northwest Passage and is the most northerly fly-in lodge in the world.

Gourmet meals and comfortable accommodation at 74° north makes Arctic Watch a unique adventure for those seeking an experience of a lifetime.

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge is located on Somerset Island, Nunavut in Canada. Situated on the banks of the Cunningham River, where one of the largest beluga congregations in the world occurs, Arctic Watch is an off-the-grid basecamp built to withstand arctic weather. Normal daytime temperatures range from 6° to 14°C, and warm days can go as high as 21°C.

Wildlife/Nature Sightseeing; Fishing; Hiking & Walking; Water Sports; Cycling & ATVs

Previously, travel to the High Arctic required a tent on the tundra. The construction of Arctic Watch in 1992 radically changed this – now offering high standard for guest accommodation and comfort in Nunavut.

In addition to the main complex, there are 16 private guest cabins, each equipped with a marine toilet and sink. Due to the extremely sensitive natural environment showers are located in the main complex.


Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Located 800 km north of the Arctic Circle on the shores of the Northwest Passage is the most northerly fly-in lodge on earth – Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge.

Life at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Experience gourmet fare inspired by every province from locally sourced Arctic Char and Baffin Bay turbot to Alberta Organic Beef, French Canadian cheeses, and more. The talented chefs bake breads, whip up yogurt, ice cream and other delights daily to satisfy you at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Before or after a meal, relax, socialize or attend a lecture in the main lodge’s Great Room or explore the extensive Arctic Library and Interpretive Center housing local artifacts, maps, and 42 million year-old fossils.

16 private guest cabins welcome adventurers; thick duvets atop queen beds and wash facilities to ensure proper rest. Private showers are located in the main complex. A generator provides electricity to the cabins from early morning until 11:00 pm.

There’s no electricity at night, not that you need it under the midnight sun. There are no permanent human residents on the 25,000 sq. km island, but it’s home to polar bears, muskox, arctic foxes and is a world-class beluga observations site (one of the biggest beluga nurseries on earth).

Experience the beauty and wonder of the Arctic in remarkable comfort and hospitality at 74° North.

Activities

Wildlife/Nature Sightseeing; Hiking & Walking; Kayaking, Rafting & Paddle Boarding; Fishing; Biking & ATVs; Archeological Site Viewing

Amenities

  • Arctic Watch – 16 private cabins
  • Common area with Lounge, dinning room, espresso bar & archeological centre
  • Electric assist mountain bikes
  • Kayaks – sea & river
  • Paddle boards
  • ATVs, Unimogs
  • Small group focus – Average of 1:1.5 Staff/Guest Ratio

BELUGA WHALE FACTS

Everything you need to know about beluga whales.

Arctic Watch: Kayaking in Cunningham Inlet with Belugas
Arctic Watch: Kayaking in Cunningham Inlet with Belugas. (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Beluga whales are gorgeous white silhouettes that glide past your kayak. They’re inquisitive whales that chirp, click and “toot” while chasing one-another in shallow water. The white whale is curious; they toss kelp, rocks and investigate nearly everything in their surroundings. Beluga whales are known to be one of the intelligent and playful whales in the Canadian Arctic.

Staying at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge you are in best position to experience an estimated two thousand whales congregate annually in July and August to nurse, socialize and moult. Cunningham Inlet is regarded as one of the last beluga nurseries on the planet.

Belugas & Guests at Arctic Watch
Belugas & Guests at Arctic Watch (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Belugas can grow up to 5 metres in length and weigh 3500 pounds. An Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean, they belong to the family Monodontidae, along with the narwhal, and the only member of the genus Delphinapterus.

Beluga whales typically live to about 30 years. Babies are born grey or nearly black, turning white between 4 and 7 years old. Adult beluga whales are white and can have yellowing skin. These animals are a toothed whale; feeding on regional food sources such Arctic char, Arctic cod, squid, octopus, scalping, herring, smelt and salmon.

They are an opportunistic feeder; their habits depend on the regions and season. A great example is around Somerset Island (Cunningham Inlet), they tend to eat Arctic cod, Arctic char, sculpin and octopus. In Alaska, beluga whales are known to eat Salmon, Arctic cod, smelt, flounder and herring.

Arctic Watch: Beluga whale rises up to soak up the sun. (Credit: Nansen Weber)
Arctic Watch: Beluga whale rises up to soak up the sun. (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Beluga whales are often referred to as “canaries of the sea”. A highly intelligent mammal that is amongst the most vocal of whales species, they use two forms of “sounds” – echolocation to see and vocalizations through their nasal sacs near their blowhole to “speak”. It is important to note that belugas can see within and above water (using their eyes, not echolocation).

Essentially, they speak through their nose and “see” using their forehead (the melon) to send echolocation and eyes. It is important to remember that in winter months, beluga whales will spend several months in almost complete darkness – hence the evolution of echolocation. The melon used to project echolocation is malleable; its shape changes during the emission of sounds.

A beluga moults on the river stones near Arctic Watch (Credit: Nansen Weber)
A beluga moults on the river stones near Arctic Watch (Credit: Nansen Weber)

Beluga whales are gregarious – they form groups and live in social structures. Mothers will help-one-another during feeding times, often leaving an adult with several young while others feed. While little is known about their social structures, but it is witnessed that numerous adult whales work in unison to (for example) deter predators from younger whales, hunt together and more.

At Arctic Watch, belugas are seen swimming with their heads above water for more than 15 minutes, rubbing in shallow river water, spinning, breaching and more. 


Itinerary

In the wild and unpredictable Arctic the weather patterns and wildlife can disrupt even the best-laid plans. Therefore all of the itineraries are marked as ‘suggested’ – most excursions will happen, just not necessarily on the days noted below.

Arrival Instructions

All adventures to Arctic Watch include accommodation in Yellowknife the nights before and after at the Explorer Hotel. Guests arrive into Yellowknife the day before the private charter departs for Arctic Watch.

Day 1

Fly to Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and spend the night at the Explorer Hotel.

Day 2

After breakfast, depart Yellowknife on a private charter for the 3-hour flight to Arctic Watch. Guests will land in the Arctic later that afternoon. After an introduction to the lodge and the surrounding landscape by the Arctic Watch team, guests will have time to settle into their cabins. Before dinner is served, a short hike up to the local mountain is offered; breathtaking views of the Northwest Passage and ice formations on the Arctic ocean.

Day 3

ATVs are our most practical form of transportation to cover long distances on the tundra. Attend a hands-on introduction to all-terrain vehicles followed by a short drive to the Cunningham Estuary to watch beluga whales. Archaeological sites and artifacts dating to Viking contact can be seen along Somerset’s coastline. Enjoy a delicious lunch buffet back at the lodge before departing for a short afternoon hike to the Triple Waterfalls. This short 5km roundtrip hike gives you an introduction to the plants and animals that live in the area. Encounters with muskox are common.

Day 4

Travel by ATV across the Cunningham River delta, to Muskox Ridge. This scenic trail provides spectacular views of the area and is a great vantage point from which to see muskoxen and arctic foxes. From the high ridge, hike down into one of the many depressions where muskoxen often spend the summer months foraging. After a picnic lunch at Inukshuk Lake, fishing gear will be supplied to catch-and-release arctic char. Head back to the lodge along the River Trail keeping an eye out for birds such as snowy owls, jaegers, rough-legged hawks and more. After dinner, an informal lecture by Richard Weber on his North Pole expeditions – highlighting his historic (and unrepeated) 1995 unassisted journey -will be offered.

A human powered option is also offered for guests – use electric bikes to explore the tundra with your guide.

Day 5

Sea kayak the gin-clear water of Cunningham Inlet while enjoying views of Gifford Point in the distance. Watch for beluga whales passing by your boat as they travel between the open water of the Northwest Passage and the mouth of the Cunningham River. Hop out on the other side of the inlet at Kayak Falls with stunning views of the Northwest Passage, and (with luck!) spot polar bear. After dinner, an informal lecture by Nansen Weber on wildlife photography will be offered.

Day 6

Travel by Mercedes Unimog to the east side of Cunningham Inlet where a number of unnamed canyons offer great hiking opportunities. The afternoon will be spent at the estuary to watch the beluga whales play in the freshwater as it spills into the Arctic Ocean. Packing into the turquoise waters of the sheltered bay, they can be seen splashing and gurgling as they rub themselves on the river stones. This particular spot is renowned because of the density of the whale population and their proximity to the shore.

Day 7

Enjoy the views of the Northwest Passage from passenger seat of the four-seater all terrain vehicles. Driving along the west shore of the inlet, stop at historic 1,000 year-old Thule sites situated along the coast and learn more about the rich history of the area. Turning west at Polar Bear Point, look for wildlife as we drive along the Northwest Passage. A short hike to Nansen’s ridge offers incredible views across the passage and showcases the characteristic Arctic landscape.

Day 8

Climb into the all-terrain Mercedes Unimog truck and head to the raft put-in on the Cunningham River. Hike the last stretch through the Badlands, a unique landscape with ancient 8,000-year-old bowhead whale skeletons exposed on the tundra. The area is inhabited by muskox, snow geese and arctic foxes. Savour a picnic lunch by the river as the team prepares the rafts, kayaks and/or standup paddle-boards for the two to three hour return to Arctic Watch. Leisurely paddle as the river narrows into a towering canyon, eventually opening up again into the braided flats in front of the lodge. Upon the return, it’s the final dinner of the adventure. In the evening take the polar plunge!

Day 9

By now, guests are familiar with the area, and can opt to do an activity that they missed during the week or would like to repeat. There’s lots of time before the flight departs in the late afternoon. Upon arriving in Yellowknife you will spend the night at the Explorer Hotel before your return flight home.

Day 10

Depart Yellowknife for the return flight home.

How to Book:

You can book with Weber Arctic’s (who owns and runs The Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge and all its programs) partner agent in India, Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd, which is a Boutique Travel Design company based out of Delhi, and Arctic Travel Experts.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer

B-10 Green Park Main
New Delhi, Delhi 110016
India

Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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