Trip: Arctic Watch wilderness experience, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctic
Altitude: Sea level with some small hilltops climbed max. 150m
Route: Yellowknife - Somerset island - Arctic Watch Lodge
Duration: 7 Days from Yellowknife - 5.5 Days Activities
Grade: Trekking & Tours – Easy to Moderate
Cunningham Inlet is one of the best spots in the world to observe beluga whales. Arctic Watch was initially built as a whale-watching lodge. Two thousand beluga whales congregate in Cunningham Inlet from approximately early July to August 10th or so. The majority of the whales group at the mouth of the Cunningham River to molt, play and nurse their young. The premier whale watching locations are only a fifteen-minute walk from the lodge. Beluga whale watching can be done at any time.
Hiking and Walking: With mountains to climb and numerous canyons to explore on Somerset Island, hiking and walking are one of the most popular activities. It is an excellent method to approach the local wildlife, view wild flowers and hunt for fossils.
Historical Site Viewing: Dotted throughout Somerset Island and within the vicinity of Arctic Watch, numerous historical and archeological sites are easily accessible by foot, ATV or kayak. The majority of the sites, being Thule (AD 1000 – 1400) and paleo-eskimo, are well known for their simple stone construction.
Fishing: Inuskshuk lake, located within a two hour ATV drive from Arctic Watch, is a well known place for Arctic Char. Char, “the best tasting fish”, is a member of the trout and salmon family. The fish at Inukshuk lake generally run from 3 to ten pounds. Several other locations are easily accessible from arctic watch where one can fish for char. Creswell Bay, located on the southern tip of Somerset Island, boasts world-class char fishing. On a four-hour time period, several hundred char have been cought and released-All ranging from 15 to 25 pounds.
Birding: For the avid birder at Arctic Watch; special trips are made by foot, sea kayak and ATV. A summer home for many species of marine and land birds, Northern Somerset is home to nearly 50 different species:
- Loons: Common, Arctic, Red-throated
- Geese: Snow, Canadian, Brant
- Ducks: Northern Pintail, Eider
- Rough legged hawk
- Peregrine Falcon
- Plovers: Black-bellied, American Golden
- Sand Pipers
- Jaegers: Parasitic, Long-tailed, Pomarine
- Gulls: Herring, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine’s, Ivory
- Arctic Tern
- Black Guillemot
- Snow Owl
- Snow Bunting
Kayaking: A pleaseant and highly popular choice of excursion amongst guests at Arctic Watch, we offer two different kayak tours. Both are offered with the safest and most reliable equipement; Current Design fiberglass kayaks, Seavivor folding kayaks, paddles, life-jackets and dry suits.
The first tour, starting on the banks of Cunningham Inlet, runs along the bay amongst the ice, seals and beluga whales. A guest can photograph belugas swimming underneath the boats, watch seals bob amongst the ice and view the various marine birds fly past.
The second option, equally popular, is to paddle the lower section of the Cunningham River. The river, crystal clear, snakes through a large canyon. A pair of rough-legged hawks nest along the cliffs, enabling us to get a good view. The canyon, teaming with fossils, bends a magnificent 180 degrees and heads towards Arctic Watch. The river is deemed class 1 and 2, meaning swift water, with no rapids. The easy paddle takes roughly 3 hours.
Rafting: Arctic Watch raft trips are run with two inflatable rafts. The first tour runs through the lower canyon of the Cunningham River. A remarkable canyon, carved through the hillside makes for stunning photos. Muskox are frequently seen grazing along the banks and cliff tops. Again, the tour runs along a swift flowing, safe and rapid free route. This voyage takes approximately three hours.
All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs): At Arctic Watch, we are equipped with 9 ATVs, including several auto shifting vehicles. The Island is home to rolling terrain, and packed gravel-like surfaces. The condtions are ideal for traveling on ATVs. The vehicles are used to reach interesting places to hike, reach birding sites, visit archeological sites, find muskox and explore the vast island.
Grade: Trekking – easy to walk the Arctic plains.
Easy trek at group pace, with many stops to observe arctic mammals and flora. Day hiking only.
Land Only - tbd for 2015 - contact us for details. Please contact us to discuss flights, and additional accomadation required for getting to Yellowknife. (Cork, Shannon or Dublin Departures)
Hotel accommodation in Calgary 1 night
Hotel accommodation in Yellowknife , 2 nights
Private charter from Yellowknife to Somerset Island, Nunavut
7 days at Arctic Watch lodge
Chef, meals & all equipment at Arctic Watch
Fully escorted from/to Ireland
Flights from/to Ireland
Meals en route
Bar Bills & laundry
Bar bills at Arctic Watch
*Optional Extra’s: Whale watching trip and hiking in Charlevoix, Quebec - 4 days - for pricing please contact us
- Return flight with a Transit to Quebec or Montreal airport
- Shuttle to Charlevoix
- Whale watching tour or sea kayaking guided tour with the St. Lawrence whales
- Guided trek to Les Hautes Gorges, park entrance fees included
- 3 nights Hotel Accommodation - we only use the best hotels with excellent rooms and food.
Richard Weber and Josée Auclair
Richard and Josée started arctic tourism with the world’s first commercial North Pole trek in 1993, hiking and kayaking trips on Baffin Island. In 2000, they opened “Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge”, Canada’s most northerly lodge on Somerset Island in Nunavut. Arctic Watch Lodge is Nunavut’s largest and most unique tourism operation.
Josée and Richard both started skiing at an early age. Richard was competing by age six and a member of Canada's National Cross Country Ski Team by age eighteen. He retired in 1985 with twenty national titles. Richard has a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Vermont. Richard has co-authored two books about his adventures. Josée also spent some years competing for Canada on the National ski team. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany from the University of Vermont and a teaching certificate from the University of Quebec. Richard and Josée met while ski racing.
Richard’s Expedition Highlights:
Richard made his first arctic expedition in 1985, his first North Pole journey in 1986. In 2007, he completed his sixth journey to the North Pole, starting from land. He has made more successful treks to the Pole than any one in history.
• First North Pole trek with no re-supplies; 1986 Steger International Polar expedition
• First surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean from Russia to Canada; 1988 Polar Bridge Expedition
• First commercial North Pole Trek; 1993 North Pole Dash – last degree
• First and only journey to the North Pole and back with no outside assistance; 1995 Weber-Malakhov Expedition
• First snowshoe trek to the North Pole; first guided unsupported North Pole trek; North Pole classic 2006
• Richard has participated in more than 50 arctic and North Pole expeditions
Josée’s Expedition Highlights
Josée made her first Arctic expedition in 1988, a first crossing of the Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island. Her first North Pole experience was in 1999.
• 1999 – 2004 Annual treks covering the last degree to the North Pole
• Woman Quest; an all woman trek to the North Pole in 2001
• South Pole; 2007 an all woman trek covering the last degree to the South Pole
Food & Water- Nutritionally Balanced (Vegetarian Food Available). Water purified daily for trekkers.
Here is a sample daily itinerary, on booking you will be issued a more detailed version. We can also customise the itinerary to your needs if required. Contact us
Day 1: Leave Ireland - Arrive in Calgary Airport in the afternoon- Hotel & Rest Day
Day 2: Flight to Yellowknife - Cultural tour, country specialty food - Hotel
Day 3: Early morning private charter to Arctic Watch - 4 hours flight with a stop in Cambridge Bay Inuit airport for refueling, welcoming activities at the Arctic lodge, great meal, evening walk to the whales, and rest.
Day 4 to Day 10: All different day trips depending of the weather conditions
- Sea kayaking with the belugas
- Hiking and bird watching in the canyons
- Scenic rafting in Cunnigham river and muskoxs observation
- ATV to Polar Bear point
- Fly fishing at Inukshuk lake
- Hiking the Cunningham Bay and Day 10: Half day activity of choice, and private charter back to Yellowknife.
Day 11: Flight back to Ireland - option to transit by Montreal or Quebec for the whale watching option (4 additional days)
Day 12: Arrive Ireland
A person looking at this trip will already be able to walk/trek comfortably for at least 2 hours. The trip does not require previous experience for the activities involved and is quite relaxed. If you are a total beginner to walking then a 3-6 month training program is recommended and would require notifying us prior to booking this trip. Please discuss this progression with us if you are a total beginner prior to booking this trip. For more info on our Fitness Assessment and day walks, go to our Ireland Section.
You will need a valid full passport, please ensure it has at least have six months before expiring, prior to our departure.
Vaccinations and Medical Precautions:
Please ask your doctor about traveling to Canada, they should be able to offer you the most sensible and up-to-date advice. A dental check-up before you go is also most important, as facilities on the trip are non-existent.
Gear - for further information on gear, please contact us
A light down top or extra fleece.
Personal first aid and medicine kit. (All our guides will have these for emergencies only)
UV sunglasses – Cat. 2 or 3 recommended.
2 x Earplugs pairs – If you have an inside pocket in sleeping bag, leave one there full-time.
Sun-block (very important and use it!)
Backpacking towel and general toiletries.
Extra Clothes for traveling and/or socialising.
Camera with wide lense and telephoto of 200-600mm, extra memory and battery. Battery depletes faster in the cold.