Enjoy an included night in Yellowknife and meet your fellow travellers at a welcome expedition briefing, followed by boot and parka distribution.
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, we’ll pass over the treeline as we 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 us to the lodge. Following a tour of the facilities, you’ll be escorted to your cabins. After settling in, meet your hosts for a safety briefing and overview of the exciting activities and options ahead. POSSIBLE SITES VISITED WHILE AT ARCTIC WATCH CUNNINGHAM INLET Every summer, this sheltered inlet is home to about 2000 beluga whales who pass through the Cunningham River estuary on Somerset Island, Nunavut. Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge is located within walking distance of this cluster of whale activity, and we will be able to view them enjoying the warmth of the river water and socializing. TRIPLE WATERFALLS A hike from the lodge brings you to a five-story torrent of free-falling water. Here you can see nesting peregrine falcons and other birds such as loons, snow buntings, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. MUSKOX RIDGE TRAIL The trail provides a scenic overview of the entire Cunningham River delta. Here you will see an arctic fox den and are very likely to encounter musk ox herds. INUKSHUK LAKE Located two hours from the lodge by ATV, at Inukshuk Lake you can fish for arctic char as part of the lodge’s catch and release program. FLATROCK FALLS Here you can view the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the result of shifting fault lines. Their most vertical walls vary in height from 200 to 1,000 feet. Keep your eyes open for fossils of prehistoric plants and animals. GULL CANYON Named by Arctic Watch owners Richard Weber and Josée Auclair, Gull Canyon shows the striking biological contrasts between barren canyon and lush gull rookery. CAPE ANNE A trip to Cape Anne includes seeing scenic vistas, icebergs, ancient Thule campsites and giant prehistoric whale bones. The Thule were a culture of bowhead whale hunters, and 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. YELLOWKNIFE Beautiful Yellowknife is a thriving community on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, featuring endless summer days and incredible arctic scenery. Originally a gold-mining town, Yellowknife has now reinvented itself as Canada’s “Diamond Capital”, and is an interesting gateway to the expansive world of the north. Numerous opportunities abound for an active and unique vacation, including seeing Northern Lights, dogsledding, or hiking on the Canadian Shield. INCLUDED ACTIVITIES AT ARCTIC WATCH HIKING 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 eke out a living in this polar environment. You’ll find each hike is different - exploring shorelines or 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. RIVER RAFTING The Cunningham River is swift-flowing, crystal-clear water with no difficult sections or rapids. Typically lasting a full day and including an optional hike to the starting point and lunch along the shore, guests will travel by raft on this river excursion. Guests are given a hands-on introduction to rafting prior to departing, and no previous experience is required. ATV A great way to better explore the varied terrain of Somerset Island is by all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Guests can opt to ride as passenger, or receive a hands-on introduction to driving ATVs, which are easy and fun to operate. Helmets and a safety briefing are provided. KAYAKING Led by experienced kayak guides, guests will paddle among icebergs, on the watch for ring and bearded seals and beluga whales. Sightings of sea birds, 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. FISHING Guests have the opportunity to try “catch-and-release” fishing for arctic char at Inukshuk Lake. Fishing equipment and gear is supplied, and spinning equipment is also available. Fly fishing is also welcome and guests are free to bring their preferred gear. Nunavut fishing licences are available for purchase at the lodge for a small fee.
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 drive. Later, we 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 musk ox are common. During your gourmet dinner, choose a fine Canadian bottle of wine to pair 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, skeletal remains of arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.
One of today’s activities may be kayaking in Cunningham Inlet. Paddle among icebergs, looking out for ring and bearded seals as well as beluga whales. Sightings of sea birds, including arctic terns and eider ducks, can be expected. After a lunch served along the shoreline, we’ll take a short hike to explore a local canyon aptly named “Kayak Falls.” From there we’ll enjoy stunning views of the Northwest Passage and the opportunity to see polar bears. In the afternoon, we’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 their proximity to our lodge. You may even be able to see them while you stand on the river banks, and be close enough to hear their calls. Guides will use hydrophones so you can also hear their underwater song. In the evening, following a 5-star dinner, we’ll hear a lecture on the beluga research being conducted in Cunningham Inlet.
Following breakfast, we’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 (multi-purpose four-wheel drive truck). We’ll visit the Somerset Island canyons, formed as the result of shifting fault lines. Their steep walls vary from 200 to 1,000 feet (up to 305 meters). Millions of fossils of prehistoric plants and animals litter the ground. You may also have the opportunity to observe nesting sites of local birds, including terns, plovers and snow geese. An al fresco lunch is served directly on the flat rocks that surround this canyon. After lunch, we’ll travel to Gull Canyon, where you can see the striking color contrasts between the barren canyon and a lush gull rookery. The Canadian Wildlife Service recently declared this spot to be a unique eco-system due to the gull rookery and the presence of peregrine falcons. In the evening, a scientist in residence will give an informal lecture.
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 dated from eight thousand years ago. On the way to the launch, you may encounter musk oxen, snow geese, jaegers, arctic foxes, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. We’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 and, at one point, a 180-degree turn. Tonight, we’ll enjoy our farewell dinner and evening at Arctic Watch.
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 we depart. In the late afternoon, return to Yellowknife. Upon arrival in Yellowknife you will be transferred to your included hotel.
After breakfast and boot return, you can make your way home at your leisure or spend some more time in the Yellowknife area.