Ultimate Arctic Expedition - 12 Days
In a single trip you’ll have the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit both Arctic Watch and Arctic Haven. This exclusive adventure encompasses the best of what the Arctic has to offer from the midnight sun to the spectacular Northern Lights.
First stop: Arctic Watch nestled along the shores of the Northwest Passage on Somerset Island. It’s a photographer’s paradise with beluga whales, polar bear, muskox, and more; go rafting, paddle boarding or kayaking on the Cunningham River; visit archaeological sites, spectacular waterfalls and canyons; bike the tundra; and fish for arctic char.
Second stop: Arctic Haven on the shores of Ennadai Lake in the Barren Grounds. The lodge is on the path of one of the last great caribou migrations, so the chances of a close encounter with a caribou is extremely high. Hike and see the unique and stunning flora and fauna of a treeline environment and its wildlife - bears, wolves, wolverines, and eagles. And experience some of the best fishing in the Arctic - grayling, northern pike and lake trout. Enjoy the landscape and animals from the sky with a helicopter safari of Ennadai and its surrounding area.
ABOUT THE LOCATION
Located 800 km north of the Arctic Circle on the shores of the Northwest Passage in Cunningham Inlet, Somerset Island, Nunavut, is the most northerly fly-in lodge on earth - Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. At 74° North and being a marine environment means the weather can change quickly - as much as 10°C in an hour. Normal daytime temperatures range from 8° to 14°C, and warm days can go as high as 21°C.
Situated on the shores of Ennadai Lake, Nunavut in the Barren Grounds treeline environment is Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge. Fly-in 700 km from the nearest city, Yellowknife, NWT, to Nunavut’s only green-energy powered lodge. At 60° North the weather can change quickly - as much at 10°C in an hour. Normal daytime temperatures range from 5° to 18°C, and on warm days go as high as 22°C.
Wildlife/Nature Sightseeing; Hiking & Walking; Water Sports; Fishing; Cycling & ATVs
Travel to the high Arctic used to mean a tent on the tundra. The construction of Arctic Watch in 1992 radically changed this - and now both our locations set a 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. At Arctic Haven there are 12 private guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms, in addition to the common areas and dining room.
Where the wild meets the refined, enjoy a distinctly Canadian epicurious experience with gourmet meals inspired by every province. Taste locally sourced arctic char, Baffin Bay turbot, Ennadai Lake trout sashimi and gravlax, tundra blueberry compote, along with Okanagan Valley wines, Alberta Organic Beef, French Canadian cheeses and more. Daily our talented chef prepares fresh breads, yogurts, ice creams and other treats to satisfy you at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Arctic Watch - 16 private cabins
- Arctic Haven - 12 private rooms with ensuite bathrooms
- Common area
- Kayaks - sea & river
- Paddle boards
- 6 - 18’ Aluminum Crafts
- 2 - 21’ Aluminum Crafts
- 3 - 25’ Vessels
- Fat bikes/Mountain bikes
- One hour Helicopter time at Arctic Haven
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP
Proper preparation and gear for an adventure in the Arctic is key to your enjoyment, comfort and safety. Please read through and make a checklist of the gear required. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us.
Travel Recommendations & Notes
All travellers must purchase travel insurance - even Canadian guests. We recommend trip interruption, cancellation and health insurance that includes air ambulance. If an air ambulance is required to Yellowknife, Iqaluit or Ottawa, all non-Nunavut residents are responsible for the cost.
Baggage allowance on the charter flight from Yellowknife to Arctic Watch is 20 kg per person, including carry-on. If you have additional gear that will exceed the weight limit please let us know in advance.
- Neoprene Boots - A comfortable update to the traditional rubber boot with neoprene uppers and a neoprene/polyurethane foot. The best brand is Muck Boots - muckbootcompany.com.
- Hiking/Walking Boots - Sturdy, waterproof/water-resistant leather lightweight boots are ideal, but a pair of Muck Boots also works.
- Light Winter Jacket/Down Vest - In the cooler evenings, a warm jacket is a must.
- Comfortable Hiking Pants - Pack a couple pairs of quick dry pants made from tightly woven, wind-resistant material. No cotton or silk content.
- Long Underwear - A couple sets of long underwear made from synthetic or wool - no cotton or silk content.
- Day Pack - You’ll need a day pack to carry cameras and extra clothing on your excursions. We recommend Osprey Backpacks. Waterproof/water resistant storage compartments are a must for water sports.
- Personal Items - Toiletries, cameras, sunglasses, extra glasses/contacts or any other items you might require.
- Fishing - We have gear, but if you prefer your own - bring it.
- Raincoat and Rain Pants - These items are primarily for protection against the wind while on the ATVs, and the jackets are a necessity when hiking on cool days. Ensure your jacket is waterproof and seam-sealed.
- Lodge Shoes - Light, comfortable shoes to wear in the lodge are useful. We will supply guests with lodge shoes.
- Fleece Jacket - A fleece jacket is another necessity as an extra layer under your raincoat, for warmer days, or just to wear around the lodge.
- Hat - A wool toque or fleece hat. Any cap really that is made from a material that dries easily.
- Gloves - Wind-resistant gloves/mittens for cold days or the ATV excursions.
- Socks - Several pairs of good wool or wool-synthetic socks are a must. No cotton or silk content. Smartwool socks are available for purchase at the lodges if needed.
- Sunscreen - The summer sun in the Arctic is extremely strong - not to mention it shines almost 24 hours a day at Arctic Watch. So pack sunscreen.
- Binoculars - We recommend bringing binoculars (great for spotting wildlife!). We suggest Swarovski Optiks.
- Both lodges have gear available for use on specific excursions: ATV helmets, fishing gear, paddling dry jackets and pants, life jackets, and more.
In the wild and unpredictable Arctic, weather patterns and wildlife can disrupt even the best-laid plans. All of our itineraries are ‘suggested’– we strive to ensure your visit to Arctic Watch is a trip of a lifetime and showcases the variety of activities and sights Arctic Watch has to offer. Each day’s activities take into consideration the dynamic environment we operate within and may not always reflect the suggested itinerary outlined below.
We recommend guests arrange their flights to arrive the day before the private charter departs for Arctic Watch. If you need a hotel suggestion, we recommend the Explorer Hotel.
Fly to Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and take in the sights and gather any last minute gear that may have been forgotten.
Day 2 - August 12th
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 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.
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. The coastal area of Somerset has a unique history; archaeological sites dating to viking contact can be seen. 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.
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 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.
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 and take a short hike to explore the small canyon.
Hike across the Badlands of Somerset - a preserved ocean floor, 10 km from the sea - with 8,000 year-old whale bones and shells. See muskox, arctic fox and snowy owls. This time of year the muskox begin to rut - so have your cameras ready. The hike will conclude at the Cunningham River raft launch followed by lunch on the beach. Then there is a choice to kayak, paddle board or raft back down stream on the the river through the canyons back to Arctic Watch Lodge. After dinner there’s a traditional Inuit games workshop.
Time to make the move south from the High Arctic to the treeline and Arctic Haven. Departure time is midday, with a stopover to stretch our legs and refuel in Baker Lake, Nunavut - the calving grounds of the Qamanirjuaq caribou. The nomadic Inuit that once lived long the shores of Ennadai, now live in the community of Baker Lake. We will visit the town and local community centre before re-boarding for the final leg. Arriving in the early evening, guests will meet the Arctic Haven team and settle into their rooms before dinner. Afterwards there will be the opportunity to unwind in the wood fired sauna by the lake and take in the Northern Lights.
Breakfast is served daily at 8:30 am. A water safety briefing will be given prior to going out on Ennadai Lake. Head to the northern reaches of the lake, above the tree-line where the numerous islands are used by migratory wildlife - search for the Qamanirjuaq caribou, wolves, and wolverines. The photo opportunities are unparalleled so be sure to bring your camera. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach. Spend the afternoon cruising around the islands and going on short hikes to get a closer look at these majestic animals. Visit archaeological sites where the Ahiarmiut in the area have camped for hundreds of years. Return to the lodge for a gourmet meal, and an informal lecture by Richard Weber on his North Pole expeditions - highlighting his historic (and unrepeated) 1995 unassisted journey. There will be the opportunity to unwind in the wood fired sauna and take in the Northern Lights.
An active day of fat biking along the expansive western esker is a great option for a clear sunny day. A quick helicopter ride will drop you off on top of a long reaching esker from where you will start your bike ride. Eskers are formed by glacial deposition which, after the retreat of the last ice age, left long winding trails of sand. Sitting above the marshy tundra, eskers offer a great vantage point of the surrounding scenery and wildlife. Well drained due to their elevation and sandy composition, eskers are not only perfect for hiking and biking but also a popular location for animals to den. Returning to the lodge by boat, guests will enjoy the final evening’s gourmet meal. For those wishing to sea kayak - we also offer the option to kayak amongst the caribou islands on Ennadai Lake. A small series of islands used by caribou to migrate south, the sea kayak excursion is often an excellent place to observe wildlife! Afterwards, your host Josée Auclair will give an informal workshop on local edible tundra sourced items.
Guests are invited to join us as we explore the tundra via helicopter - it’s the ultimate way to experience the wildlife and stunning landscapes. Stop to hike or fly fish along the way. Helicopter flight time is included in this adventure but additional time can also be purchased, see the ADD-ON section at the bottom of this page. After dinner there will be a presentation on the Ahiarmiut or “people of the deer” - the Inuit who lived on the shores of Ennadai until the 1950’s.
For those interested in experiencing the thrill of landing a grayling on the end of their line, Epic Creek offers amazing fishing and is only accessible by helicopter. Grayling are not only stunning fish, with an impressive dorsal fin, but are also tenacious fighters and highly sought after by anglers. Small but mighty, these energetic fish are known to put up a hard fight. With a pickup and drop-off by helicopter, fishermen can enjoy a full day casting into the steady and even current of the small arctic stream. After a freshly caught fish fry lunch and a full day outdoors, an informal evening presentation on the Mythology and Folklore of the Northern Lights will be given - it is inspired by stories from around the world about the Aurora Borealis.
Day 12 - August 22nd
By now, guests are familiar with the area, and can opt to do an activity that they missed or would like to repeat. It is possible to kayak, hike bike or fish. It’s an afternoon departure for Yellowknife on the first leg of your return flight home.
Fly the Northwest Passage/Beechey Island
Take to the sky and see the beautiful landscapes from above as you fly the Northwest Passage. Observe narwhal, bowhead and beluga whales, seals and polar bear. If time and weather permit, you’ll land and explore historic Beechey Island and the Franklin Graves. In 1845, the Franklin Expedition’s search for the Northwest Passage went horribly wrong. After wintering on Beechey Island, both the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost. 129 men perished but what actually happened still remains a mystery. A minimum of 7 guests is required.
PRICE: $1,300 person/per day
Charter Flight: Sea-Run Arctic Char Fishing in Creswell Bay
Love fishing? Creswell Bay is one of the top locations to fish for arctic char, their bi-annual migration offers a world-class fishing opportunity just a 40 minute flight from Arctic Watch. The Arctic char range in size from 6-20 lbs. A minimum of 2 guests is required, maximum of 10.
PRICES FROM: $1,200 - $3,900 person/per day
View the 300,000+ strong Qamanirjuaq caribou’s migration and the Barren Lands from above - it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Get into the helicopter and take in the vibrant and transforming Spring or Fall landscapes. The colours of Fall are magnificent bursts of rich reds, purples and oranges in the sandy eskers and marshy tundra. Different spots will offer opportunities to land and hike for a closer experience with the animals and environment.
PRICE: $800 person/per hour over and above the one hour included.
Any cancellations before 180 days prior to the departure date will receive a full refund less a $500 administration fee, per person. Any cancellations after that are not eligible for a refund.
ADD-ON POLICY: If an Add-On trip is cancelled due to weather or insufficient numbers, everyone who signed up will receive a full refund.
As per Canadian Law, all quoted rates are GST applicable at 5%. Prices are in Canadian currency.