The town of Churchill is a starting point for many adventures into this untamed wilderness and visiting the various parks and attractions is an experience in itself, as you venture aboard expedition ships, soar above the tundra by helicopter or navigate the desolate plains in a self-contained tundra vehicle. Arviat is a remote town that boasts the famous Polar Bear Alley, where these lovable white bears gather between October and November. Baffin Island surprises some for being the fifth largest island in the world and is a land of glaciers, fjords, streams and mountains with excellent wildlife spotting.
With a population of just 2,300, Arviat is located on the western shore of Hudson Bay, the southernmost community in Nunavut. The name itself derives from the Inukitut name for the bowhead whale, Arviq. Arviat is an overwhelmingly simple and isolated town, with about 95% of the population being Inuit. Previously known as Eskimo Point, it was renamed in 1989 and is located about 200 miles north of Churchill. Most of the people of Arviat, Arviamiut, spend a lot of time harvesting food and we feel it is important to immerse yourself in the culture, acquainting yourself with the Inuit way. Arviamiut predominantly speak in Inukituk, but can converse in English and it is always fun to share languages.The waters and lands are abundantly rich in wildlife, with beluga whales and caribou.
A spectacularly remote land of dramatic scenery, Baffin Island features rugged mountains contrasting the flattest lowlands, and coasts that start with sheer, icy cliff drops. Just begging to be explored, this is the fifth largest island in the world, and the largest in Canada, separated from the mainland by the Gulf of Boothia, Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait. The estimated population of this 507,451 square kilometre area is approximately 11,000, of which around half live in Iqaluit - the capital and a majority of whom are Inuit. Along the eastern coast, the Arctic Cordillera runs, dominated by alpine mountains, characterised by sharp peaks and ridges, alongside the occasional flat-topped mountain. This forms a shield, which then slopes to the west to form a sedimentary basin. The two largest ice caps on the island - Penny and Barnes - have smoothly rolling terrains. The west of the island is typically closed throughout the year, however the east is open to tourists in the summer, allowing you to explore this fascinating winter wonderland of glaciers, icebergs and crystal streams. In the summer waters, harp seals, walrus and beluga whales make an appearance, as well as the fascinating narwhals, known for their long spiralling tusks.
On the shores of Hudson Bay, Manitoba, sits the small outpost town of Churchill, a frozen frontier with a population of about 1,000, at the top of many wildlife enthusiasts’ lists. This is where you have the highest chance of seeing the King of the Arctic in his natural habitat, as he roams the tundra waiting for the ‘Big Freeze’. Each year, by the end of July, the ice throughout Hudson Bay melts completely, effectively stranding the polar bears on land. This natural process results in the bears needing sufficient fat reserves to survive approximately four months without access to their principle food source - seals. Unable to go out and hunt for these blubbery critters, they roam the land, sometimes coming into the town in search of food. October and early November, the bay begins to freeze once more and thousands of bears congregate on the peninsula and, despite being thought of as solitary animals, some form temporary friendships and can be seen play-fighting on the tundra. This is the best time to visit, before it is again each bear for themself as they can finally set out again onto the frozen ice in search of seals. This process is unique to Churchill, as in more northerly areas the ice doesn't melt completely so the bears can go about their daily lives without interruption. The focus of many wildlife documentaries, films, and photoshoots, Churchill is known as the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’.
Ellsmere Island is 196,235 square kilometres in area and 830 kilometres in length, making it the third largest island in Canada, and the tenth largest in the world. The most mountainous of all the islands in the Canadian Arctic archipelago, it is dominated by the Arctic Cordillera. A national park was proclaimed on Ellsmere Island in 1988, Quttinirpaaq National Park, right on the northern tip, just 800 kilometres from Greenland. The park is covered in the north by the Grant Land Mountains - 100,000 year old rocks shrouded in ice nearly a metre thick, pierced by nunatals (rock spires). This is one of the driest regions in the northern hemisphere, with hardy plants and willow shrubs surviving where there is enough soil for them to be able to send down roots. Here a strange thermal means a surprisingly warm summer in the otherwise, very extreme climate. During the summer, this is broken into colourful flowers, especially around Lake Hazen.