The congregation of beluga whales at Cunningham Inlet is a unique natural phenomena. Nowhere in the world do so many whales, gather so consistently, every year, where they can be observed, so easily by humans. Some 2,000 beluga whales visit the pristine arctic environment of Cunningham Inlet each summer for about 5 weeks. Their arrival times with the melting of the ice, their departure is usually about August 7 to 10. Spectators can stand on the shore, sometimes only a few feet away and watch the whales as they play, molt, nurse their young, and mate. Arctic Watch Lodge is only a 15-minute walk from the beluga whale’s favorite meeting place. On a calm day, you can hear them from Arctic Watch. The whales can be photographed and watched at any time. A special tower can be used to photograph and observe the belugas from above. Truly the best place for beluga whale watching! Click on photograph to enlarge.
Listen to the beluga whale sounds recorded at Arctic Watch! Watch arctic whales. Come for beluga whale watching.
From mid-July through to the first week of August, approximately 2,000 beluga whales find their way to Cunningham Inlet and the river’s estuary. They come to the inlet to breed, raise their young, shed their skin and enjoy the warm river water. From the shoreline, one can stand within a few feet of these magnificent animals. Belugas are very vocal, both in and out of the water. On a calm night you can hear them from the lodge.
The beluga whales of Cunningham Inlet love to rub on the river rocks, often arching in a "banana" pose.
Beluga whales are inquisitive creatures - often spy hopping or swimming with their heads above water!
Beluga whales will often slap the water as part of their social interactions in Cunningham Inlet.
Cunningham Inlet is an internationally recognized location for beluga whale photography. Guests can stand mere feet from hundreds of whales playing in the shallow river water. BBC Frozen Planet, National Geographic and BBC Planet Earth have all filmed here.
The beluga whales congregate approximately 1km from Arctic Watch. Easily accessible on foot, guests can wander down on evenings after dinner to sit on the shore with a glass of wine in hand to watch the beluga sat play.
Cunningham Inlet is recognized as one of the last beluga nurseries on earth. Born nearly black at birth, beluga whales turn white at 9 years old.
Arctic Watch is home to a wide range of mammals including polar bears, muskox, and Arctic foxes. Situated on the shores of the Northwest Passage, we also see bowhead whales and narwhals. Click on photograph to enlarge.
The Arctic fox, also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra environment. Extremely well adapted to living in cold environments, its fur is a snow white in winter and brown/grey during the summer. Scientific name: Vulpes Lagopus
Polar bears live on the Northwest Passage near Arctic Watch. They utilize the Cunningham River delta as a migratory path during the summer to transect the island.
The polar bear is an omnivorous bear whose range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. Polar bears near Arctic Watch spend the majority of their lives in and around the Northwest Passage.
The bearded seal, also called the square flipper seal, is a medium-sized pinniped that is found in and near to the Arctic Ocean. It gets its generic name from two Greek words that refer to its heavy jaw. Curious in nature, they often swim up to kayaks to investigate the presence. They live on the ice floes of the Northwest Passage near Arctic Watch
The Arctic hare, white rabbit or polar rabbit, is a species of hare that is adapted to polar environments. The Arctic hare survives with a thick coat of fur and usually digs holes in the ground or under snow to keep warm and sleep. Weighing as much as 7kg, they measure 43 - 70cm in height and have a lifespan of approximately 5 years.
A prehistorical Arctic mammal of the Bovidae family, it is noted for its thick coat and strong door emitted during the seasonal rut by males.
Polar bears are omnivorous - the graze on grass and shrubs as well as kelp in the summer months when their normal food sources are scarce. They are most often photographed on the north shores of Somerset Island near Arctic Watch.
All walks of life. Families, couples, individual travellers, photographers, private groups. Ages 6 to 91 years. Arctic Watch welcomes guests from across the globe every summer. Click on photograph to enlarge.
Arctic Watch is located at the heart of the Northwest Passage - nestled on the shoreline of Somerset Island, Arctic Watch is situated in the Canadian high Arctic.
Paddle boarding with beluga whales in Cunningham Inlet near Arctic Watch
One of our favourite adventures - Muskoxen, Arctic foxes, snowy owls, fishing for Arctic char at Inukshuk lake and exploring the tundra!
Arctic Watch is a great place for private groups. We welcome custom reservations for guests looking to tailor their experience.
Exploring the Arctic ocean for polar bears, seals and birds near Arctic Watch!
A packed lunch served on the tundra. Specialty meats and cheeses, freshly baked desserts, hot and nutritious soups, coffee, and tea keep you going out on the land.
Walking out on the sea ice in the northwest passage. Sea ice unlike ice bergs is formed in the ocean and can be categorized in three different age groups: 1.New ice, silas and, young ice all of which are types of unconsolidated slush and ice particles. 2. First year ice, which is stronger and thicker but hasnt yet survived a summer 3.Old sea ice more often found in the arctic; it is ice that has survived a summer
Daily excursions are matched to the best of what mother nature is offering - we typically offer three to four excursions per day.
A far cry from the original kayaks that Inuit and Aleut people used for hunting and transportation. Framed with driftwood and whale bones with a skin made water proof with whale blubber. Kayaking is sill an amazing way to explore the arctic environment
Wildlife photography at its best. Arctic Watch is home to Muskoxen, Arctic foxes, polar bears and more.
Sea kayaking in Cunningham Inlet with beluga whales. Beautiful, intelligent and, curious animals belugas often investigate kayaks in Cunningham inlet.
Arctic Watch is located on Somerset Island Nunavut. At 24,500 square kilometres, Somerset island is the 46th largest island on earth. Located on the Canadian Arctic archipelago, the island is on the shores of the Northwest Passage on the Arctic ocean. Click on photograph to enlarge.
Arctic Watch is located in Cunningham Inlet on Somerset Island, Nunavut. Located on the shores of the Northwest Passage, Arctic Watch is accessible by private charter aircraft from Yellowknife NWT. Yellowknife is an accessible hub for international travellers with daily flights offered.
Arctic Watch guests hiking on the tundra near Cunningham Inlet. Located on the shores of the Northwest passage, Somerset Island, offers 25,000 square kilometres of unspoiled landscapes to explore.
Somerset Island offers easy passage to exploration on foot - one of the many canyons of Somerset Island; Gull Canyon. Aptly named for the unique gull rookery.
As the spring melt takes place on Somerset Island, Cunningham Inlet begins to thaw. Spectacular colours on the tundra with the Northwest Passage in the foreground.
During the summer at Arctic Watch the sea ice on the Northwest Passage often forms unique pressure ridges. Polar bears, seals and marine birds call this environment home.
Exploring one of the many deep canyons of Somerset Island while hiking and trekking on the tundra. They were formed as the result of shifting fault lines and their walls, mostly vertical, vary from 200 to 1,000 feet. Millions of fossils of prehistoric plants and animals litter the ground.
The deep canyons and untamed tundra of Somerset island offers great hiking and walking. Arctic landscapes that come out of the snow for 6 short weeks every summer!
The 3 waterfalls canyon is home to this 5 story waterfall. These hanging waterfalls are a product of the different layers of sedimentary rock being worn away by the rushing water of this small tributary to the cunningham river
Arctic willow is a tiny creeping willow that has adapted to survive in harsh Arctic and Subarctic environments. It grows in tundra and rocky moorland, and is the northernmost woody plant in the world. It is also the main food source for the muskox on Somerset Island. Since the willow grows much more slowly in the Arctic, a two-centimetre trunk means the tree is approximately 200 years old.
Arctic cotton or cottongrass is a perennial Arctic plant in the Cyperaceae family. It is one of the most widespread flowing plants in the northern hemisphere and tundra regions. Upon every stem grows a single round, white and wooly fruit. The seed heads are covered in this cottony mass and usually disperse when the wind carries them away. They also have narrow, grass-like leaves. This plant is food for migrating snow geese, caribou and their calves. The Inuit used the seed heads as wicks in oil lamps. Clumps were placed into babies' pants and then thrown away when soiled.
With a striped, dropping, bell-like flower with tiny inconspicuous white or lilac petals, this plant grows on wet tundra and moist meadows, and flowers in July and August. On Somerset Island the flower’s stems are 5 to 15 cm high.
Woody, short, horizontal rooting branches, bicolour leaves and creamy white flowers on stalks 3 to 10 cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) high, the aven grows on gravel and rocky barrens in dry areas where snow melts early. Feathery hairs of the seed head first appear twisted together and glossy before spreading out to an expanded ball that the wind quickly disperses.
ATVs are a great way to explore regions of Somerset Island further away than one can reach on foot. To minimize our impact on the environment, we utilize designated trails for our guests.
Beechey Island is the last known location of the Franklin expedition. Several graves from perished sailors and artifacts dot the site. The franklin expedition overwintered on the island during their expedition to discover the Northwest Passage.
Sea kayaking is a great way to explore the marine environment of Somerset Island. A great shot from guest Gretchen Freund shows guest paddling the Arctic ocean with beluga whales.
800 year old whale bones are a source of nourishment for high arctic flora - many of the ancient whale bones on the shorelines of the Northwest Passage (likely hunted by the Thule culture), are gardens for local flora.
The purple saxifrage plant has matted trailing branches or dense clusters with small, leathery leaves and bristly edges. The large purple flowers have short stems. It is usually the first plant to flower in late June on Somerset Island, and can grow in a variety of climates and soils, but generally in neutral to alkaline soil.
An Arctic Watch guest paddle boards the Cunningham River - a great way to explore the arctic rivers and ocean of Somerset Island and the Northwest Passage.
Somerset Island's tundra is littered with fossils; coral, trilobites, gastropods and shells
Trilobites are remarkable, hard-shelled creatures that existed more than 300 million years ago in the Earth’s ancient seas. They were extinct long before dinosaurs came to inhabit the Earth, and are one of the key signature creatures of the Paleozoic era, the first era to exhibit a proliferation of the complex life forms that established the foundation of life as it is today.
There is a large variety of marine and land birds in the Cunningham Inlet area, including Arctic terns, ptarmigan, three types of jaegers, snow buntings, black guillemots, kittiwakes, northern fulmars, black-legged kittiwake, Arctic & red throated loons, snow geese, brant geese, white fronted geese, eider ducks, ivory gulls, peregrine falcons, rough legged hawks, snowy owls, red phalaropes, lapland longspurs, willow ptarmigan, rock ptarmigan and more. Click on photograph to enlarge.
A mother snow goose tends to her chicks on in a canyon river near Arctic Watch. Somerset Island is home to several types of geese: Snow geese, brant geese, Canada geese, white-fronted geese and false geese.
Lapland Longspurs are one of the migratory birds who inhabit Somerset Island in July & August
Both Eider & King Eider ducks inhabit the Somerset Island and the Northwest Passage near Arctic Watch during the summer months of July and August. A migratory bird, they utilize their soft down to build nests on the tundra of Somerset Island
Sand Pipers migrate to Somerset Island every year. They nest inland on the tundra on Somerset Island laying as many as 6 eggs!
Red Phalaropes are a migratory bird that lives on the shoreline of the Northwest Passage. They are best photographed in July at Arctic Watch
Somerset Island is home to two species of ptarmigan; both the willow and rock ptarmigan.
Somerset Island is home to numerous species of gulls including ivory, herring, northern fulmars, kittiwakes and glaucous