Head to Nunavut in spring for a rare glimpse of spectacular wildlife, majestic icebergs and unique insights into Inuit culture.
Suggested tweet: Spectacular wildlife, majestic icebergs + Inuit culture = unforgettable Arctic safari in Canada https://goo.gl/PqjJIq #explorecanada
There’s something downright thrilling about sleeping outside in a tent, in the Arctic, atop the frozen ocean six kilometres from shore. Peeking outside my vestibule, a massive iceberg towers alongside our tiny base camp where our Inuit guide is perched on his snowmobile with a rifle on his lap, on polar-bear watch in brilliant sunshine... at 2 am.
When round-the-clock daylight melts, cracks and breaks off winter’s crust of Arctic Ocean ice in spring, it opens the ocean—a rich all-you-can-eat-buffet—to a seething mass of hungry critters, ranging from migratory seabirds such as eider ducks and snow geese arriving en masse from the south to seals, narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales.
During a narrow window in May and June before the ice is suddenly swept away, northern outfitters like Black Feather offer true Arctic safaris from the hamlet of Pond Inlet at the northern tip of Baffin Island, NU, to the floe edge where the sea ice meets the open ocean. Travel is via a snowmobile-drawn komatik, a traditional Inuit sled, across the ice between Baffin and Bylot islands, a dramatic and jagged mountainous landscape with dozens of glaciers.
Nights in camp are spent in two-person tents with hearty meals served in a heated geodesic dome. Daytime is for wildlife viewing during the seasonal feeding frenzy, when the skies fill with birds swooping and kamikaze-diving into the sea where whales are gorging themselves. Bears prowl the ice edge for carcasses, leftovers from Inuit hunters who arrive here to fill their families’ empty pantries after winter with fresh “country food.” The trip is also a unique opportunity to get to know Inuit, not only in a small Arctic town, but “out on the land,” as English-speaking Inuit guides join each trip. They share insights into their millennia-old culture and skills as active hunter-gatherers, as well as their often-wicked sense of humour.
A floe edge trip is a non-strenuous expedition of walking and hiking that offers a rare, easily-accessible glimpse of the wild Arctic to almost anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Explore spectacular groves of icebergs locked into sea ice, and visit ancient Thule campsites and abandoned whaling outposts with their rusted rendering pots. Walk across tundra dotted with wildflowers, an ankle-high bonsai forest of miniature shrubs and willows. Spot seals popping up through their breathing holes, then listen to their high-pitched calls through hydrophones dropped through the ice. Or be deafened by the screeching of thousands of seabirds nesting in every tiny niche of towering cliffs. The Arctic can be every bit as exotic as Africa.
In 2014, Black Feather began offering active floe edge trips with backcountry skis to snap into to experience touring on sea ice. Sea kayaks are also on hand for those with a dream to paddle open Arctic waters in the company of whales, if it’s your lucky day!
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