A beluga whale sticking his head above water along the shoreline.
A polar bear walking along the shoreline in Canada's Arctic.
A group of 5 narwals swiming in dark water seen from above.
Two muskoxen rutting on the tundra in Canada's high Arctic
Cunningham Inlet in the Arctic in early July with multiple tributaries of water flowing through the tundra. Seen from above.
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Polar Regions Arctic Land Tour

Arctic Watch

Spend 10 days exploring the Canadian Arctic at this unique wilderness lodge and world-class beluga whale observation site on Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada, just a 3.5-hour scenic flight from Yellowknife. Situated 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the lodge offers guests fully guided opportunities for diverse adventure activities including hiking and kayaking, and extraordinary polar photography thanks to 24 hours of daylight. Search for the elusive musk ox, polar bear, ringed seals, bird cliffs, fox dens and much more iconic Arctic wildlife in their natural habitat. 

Highlights may include arctic safaris, rafting the Cunningham River, sea kayaking with hundreds of beluga whales, hiking and trail running the tundra, spotting polar bears roaming the Northwest Passage and fishing for Arctic char. See the tundra via ATV excursions to explore areas farther away, including Red Valley, Muskox Ridge Trail, Cape Anne and Thule Inuit sites with ancient stone and whale bone houses.

Added-cost activities extend the opportunities for engaging Arctic exploration. A flightseeing excursion over the Northwest Passage and Beechey island (with a possible landing) offers stunning aerial views and the possibility to spot seals, polar bears, narwhal, bowhead and beluga whales; plus historic markers such as the graves of famous explorer John Franklin and his men. A charter flight to nearby Creswell Bay provides access to one of the top locations to fish for arctic char during their bi-annual migration.

Staying at the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge offers comfortable accommodations and superb food along with ATVs, a Mercedes Unimog, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, fat bikes, rafts and fishing equipment for exploring the region. This active Arctic journey is sure to be an adventure of a lifetime.

Read on for details about this trip, or view all of AdventureSmith’s Arctic tours.



Itinerary

Arctic Watch Itinerary

This 10-day Arctic adventure offers days of Arctic exploration and wildlife observation and begins and ends in Yellowknife, Canada with a flight to and from the Arctic Watch Lodge.

Map of 10-day Arctic Watch wilderness adventure, operating round-trip via charter flight from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, with daily excursions from the lodge on Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada.
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Day 1
Arrive Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Fly to Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and enjoy the included overnight.

Accommodations

Explorer Hotel

Meals

dinner

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Day 2
Fly to Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Today, board your private chartered plane to fly the 1,000 miles to Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. During the 3-hour flight, pass over the treeline and cross the Arctic Circle. Following a refueling stop in the community of Cambridge Bay, circle above Cunningham Inlet. Enjoy aerial views of the lodge below before landing on the private airstrip on Somerset Island. A half-mile walk across the tundra and a 110-yard raft ride across the Cunnigham River will bring you to the lodge. After an afternoon tour of the facilities, you’ll be escorted to your cabin. In the evening, meet your hosts for a safety briefing and overview of the exciting activities and options ahead.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 3
Cunningham River Estuary

After a hot breakfast, a typical first morning at the lodge may include receiving a hands-on introduction to driving ATVs, which are easy and fun to operate. Later, you 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 freefalling water. There, watch for nesting peregrine falcons and other birds such as loons, snow buntings, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks. Exploring this canyon introduces the delicate beauty of wild arctic flowers. Encounters with muskoxen are common.

During your gourmet dinner, pair your meal with a fine Canadian bottle of wine 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, the skeletal remains of arctic fauna, and a collection of traditional Inuit clothing from Canada, Greenland and Siberia.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 4
Muskox Ridge & Inukshuk Lake

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.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 5
Cunningham Inlet & Kayak Falls

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.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 6
Somerset Island Canyons

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 as they rub themselves and 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.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 7
Thule Sites & Nansen’s Ridge

Enjoy the views of the Northwest Passage from the 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.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 8
Cunningham River Rafting

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 from the lodge. Opt to hike the final 4 miles through the Badlands, passing the skeletal remains of two bowhead whales that date back 8,000 years. On the way to the launch there may be encounters with muskoxen, snow geese, jaegers, arctic fox, sandpipers and rough-legged hawks.

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 that at one point make a 180-degree turn. Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner and evening at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge.

Accommodations

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 9
Fly to Yellowknife

Today bid a fond goodbye to the lodge team and the High Arctic. You may have time to take advantage of one last activity before you depart. In the late afternoon return to Yellowknife, where you will be transferred to your included hotel.

Accommodations

Explorer Hotel

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 10
Depart Yellowknife

After breakfast, make your way home at your leisure or spend some more time exploring the Yellowknife area.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodations in Yellowknife on Day 1 and Day 9; round-trip charter flights Yellowknife to Arctic Watch; daily accommodation at Arctic Watch; all meals as indicated in the itinerary; all activities per the daily program; leadership throughout the expedition; formal and informal presentations by the Expedition Team; coffee, tea, water and juice available around the clock; all miscellaneous service taxes throughout the program; all luggage handling at the charter terminal and at the lodge.

Exclusions

International airfare; passport, visa or fishing license fees or expenses; meals outside the lodge, with the exception of breakfasts in Yellowknife; wine and spirits; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess-baggage fees on international flights; voluntary gratuity at the end of the expedition for staff; additional overnight accommodation; additional expenses (meals, accommodation, international flight change fees, etc.) incurred by delay or cancellation of activities due to suboptimal weather; items of a personal nature; 5% Canadian GST tax; added-cost activities.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 20% of the total trip cost is required per person at the time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 180 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
180 days or more – $500 admin fee (per person)
179 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The Arctic Watch adventure begins and ends in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (YZF). We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to arrive to Yellowknife by 6:00pm on day 1 of the itinerary. Depart from Yellowknife anytime on the final day of your trip, however, AdventureSmith strongly suggests that a flexible air ticket be held for your journey home in case you need to change your travel arrangement following a delay of the return charter flight. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Internal Flights

This trip includes a 3.5-hour charter flight from Yellowknife to Arctic Watch lodge on Somerset Island.  Although the flight will have a scheduled departure time, there is significant variability based on weather conditions. Be prepared to depart the hotel for the airport on the group transfer at any time. There is a strict luggage limit of 44 lbs (20 kg), including carry-on. Should you have additional luggage, it can be stored at the hotel in Yellowknife. There is no option to pay for additional luggage.

Activities

Arctic Watch offers a range of unique adventure travel experiences including fat biking, river rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, hiking, kayaking, trail running and all-terrain vehicles. Guests receive a hands-on introduction to driving ATVs, which are a fun way to explore the terrain of Somerset Island; helmets are provided. A robust onsite photography program offers a variety of interesting, enriching ways to improve your wildlife, landscape and nature photography skills under the guidance of award-winning Arctic wildlife photographer Nansen Weber. All these activities are included and subject to weather and ice conditions.

Guests of all fitness levels will find an activity they feel comfortable with; a basic level of mobility is required. The first mandatory walk is a quarter mile from the airstrip to the river, over fairly even terrain. Many of the hikes are much longer (several hours) and over hilly terrain.

Optional Activities:

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, call for pricing.

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, call for pricing.

Room Configuration

Single travelers willing to share can reserve a twin-shared cabin, where you will be matched with a person of the same gender. If the other space goes unsold, you will not be penalized. In 2020 there is a single supplement for solo travelers requesting a private room (call for pricing).

Families & Children

Due to the expedition nature of this trip, children must be 8 years old or older at time of departure. Children under 16 years of age must be supervised by a parent/guardian at all times.

Travel Insurance

Emergency evacuation insurance to a minimum benefit of $100,000 USD per person is strongly advised for this trip. In addition to the emergency evacuation insurance, we highly recommend our travelers protect their investment with travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and other benefits. Our partners at Travelex offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. You must purchase your travel insurance policy within 15 or 21 days of booking (depending on plan) for it to cover pre-existing medical conditions; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the guides’ discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of adventure travel unique. The beluga whales famed in this region typically do not arrive until the second week of July and depart around the first or second week of August; of course, this is only an estimate and wildlife encounters are unpredictable. Flexibility is the key to the success of any Arctic expedition.

Rates & Dates

Trip Rates & Dates

Jul 01 - Jul 10, 2021
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 10 days
From $12245USD
Per Person
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Jul 08 - Jul 17, 2021
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 10 days
From $12245USD
Per Person
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Jul 22 - Jul 31, 2021
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 10 days
From $12245USD
Per Person
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Aug 05 - Aug 14, 2021
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge • 10 days
From $12245USD
Per Person
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Accommodations

Learn About the Lodges & Hotels on Your Itinerary

Lodge
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, located 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 50 miles from the nearest town, offers hotel-like accommodations in a remote Arctic setting in a world-class beluga whale observation site on Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.

Hotel
Explorer Hotel

The Explorer Hotel is North Canada's top hotel destination and is a proud member of the Northern community. This hotel's aim is to offer modern comforts while existing side by side with traditional ways of life.

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