The welcoming residents of this traditional Nunavut community help visitors truly immerse themselves in local cultural and wilderness experiences.
Suggested tweet: How Arviat residents help visitors immerse themselves in local cultural + wilderness experiences http://ow.ly/vacKl @NunavutTourism
Watch thousands of migrating caribou stream across a tundra blazing with fall colours while an Inuit eco-guide points out a wolf following slyly behind. Listen to traditional storytelling and share a laugh with lively elders in their home over tea and bannock. In summer, go polar-bear spotting; in winter, learn ice-fishing; in the evenings, gather for throat singing and drum dancing.
The welcoming residents of Arviat, one of Nunavut’s most traditional communities, have opened their doors and saved a seat on the dogsled for visitors keen on steeping themselves in a cultural and wilderness experience run entirely by Inuit.
The motivated Barrenlands hamlet on the shores of Hudson Bay came up with a grassroots plan to create the Arviat Community Ecotourism Initiative (ACE). Local hunters and fishermen became certified guides and chefs trained to cook at the new boutique hotel. Guillaume Saladin, creator of the Arctic circus, ArtCirq, helped orchestrate cultural performances including a troupe of professional local dancers, singers and musicians. Meanwhile, young people working with elders researched their cultural heritage, including two nearby National Historic Sites.
Training hard in hospitality skills, the town launched unique programs so that visitors could comfortably experience traditional and contemporary Inuit lifestyles. The result is a 100% Inuit owned and operated enterprise that offers a diverse menu of half- to multi-day visits to the hamlet of 2,800, just a 40-minute flight north of Churchill, MB.
Start with a town tour to get involved in community events. Meet a carver working outside his home and commission a soapstone polar bear. Learn to build an igloo and sleep in it. Stretch your vocal chords with throat singing. Shop for locally made arts and crafts at the Kiluk Sewing Centre. Then head “out on the land,” just as the Inuit love to do.
Arviat is above the treeline, on the migratory route of many Arctic critters including the flight path of over 100 bird species, such as the sandhill cranes heading to nearby sanctuaries. It’s also on “polar bear alley,” a highway for hundreds of white ursus trekking north each fall hunting for sea ice.
In summer, slip on gum-boots and putter along the coast watching for polar bears, beluga whales, seals, barren ground grizzlies, muskox, wolves, Arctic foxes and wolverines. In fall and spring, hop on an all-terrain vehicle or ski plane to watch one of the biggest caribou herds on earth move beneath the midnight sun. Learn Inuit survival skills and pick tundra blueberries; fish for Arctic char; explore remnants of ancient cultures at archeological sites.
End the day dining on authentic “country foods” such as musk-ox, snow goose, caribou and Arctic char prepared by the ACE cooking team. Nibble muktuk (beluga whale blubber) for the first time, then stand outside and stare up at a sky splashed with the shimmering red, green and yellow ribbons of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Now you know the Inuit legends surrounding Mother Nature’s spectacular light show.
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