Getting to the Canadian Arctic
Because the Arctic Archipelago extends over such a vast area, there are different means of travel depending on the remoteness of the location. Canadian North Airlines have flights from a number of Canadian cities and fly into most Northern Canadian communities (Canadian North Reservations, 800.661.1505). First Air serves 26 different Nunavut locations from Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal. Air Nunavut operates out of Iqaluit to a number of local destinations, as well as Labrador and Greenland. Areas that cannot be reached by these or a few other charter airlines may require helicopter, boat or snowmobile transportation.
When to Go to the Canadian Arctic
This will depend on what you want to accomplish on your Arctic adventure, and will be your primary consideration before booking any flights. If you’re prepared to bundle up to witness the wondrous northern lights or to take a dog-sledding trip, time your trip for late winter to early spring so that you can not only enjoy the north’s winter activities but also soak up at least a little sunlight.
If water activities like kayaking or rafting down some of the mightiest rivers in the world are more up your alley, then you’ll want to hold off until late June through September, when the sun never sets and the waterways open up. Keep in mind that some bodies of water still have ice chunks in the middle of July. The further north you travel, the tighter the time restrictions to enjoy the waterways; do your research carefully to determine local climactic conditions in the region you’re headed to.
Getting Around the Canadian Arctic
Exploring the many islands of the Arctic can be done in a number of ways, such as snowshoe, snowmobile, cross-country skiing and dogsled. There are plenty of places to rent equipment from, and there are multiple companies offering guided tours (see “What to See and Do”). To travel between the islands, you can take a boat or charter flight depending on the season, but you’ll want to check the schedule ahead of time since not all islands have daily service. Boat tours are becoming a popular way to explore the Arctic during the sunny season. These are a good choice if you’re inexperienced with the harsh climate and rough terrain, and are trying to see as much as possible in a short amount of time.
What to See and Do in the Canadian Arctic
The Arctic Archipelago is home to seven of the world’s largest islands, including Baffin Island, which ranks fifth in the world. Here, if you’re lucky you may be able to catch a glimpse of polar bears along the sea ice, but the bears, despite their cute and cuddly appearance, are fierce. The Arctic possesses many of the world’s natural wonders and should really be experienced in all its beauty, day and night, winter and summer.
Some of the most beautiful scenery and diverse wildlife can be found along the Arctic’s northern coastlines and countless fjords. Sea kayaking routes range from moderate to extremely challenging, but all promise a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Keep in mind that frigid water temperatures are always a danger in the north, and floating ice and icebergs can also pose a serious threat to your safety.
You haven’t had a true Arctic experience until you’ve yelled “Mush!” at the top of your half-frozen lungs. Sled dogs, of course, are no longer the only form of land transportation in the north, but they are still used in the snowiest months, especially in more remote areas. You can take all kinds of tours, from one hour around town to a week or two through the wilderness.
The Arctic offers hikers and backpackers all kinds of terrain. Organized treks through parks or marked territory may be the best option for those new to the north. There are numerous companies to help plan your adventure, such as Outfitter Central Arctic Ventures at www.huskydog.com, but if plotting your way through untouched nature is the only way for you, the most important thing is to do your research and prepare for every possibility. Remember, satellite phones for safety when out on the land are a must. Outpost’s expedition to King William Island was supplied with a sat phone by Baka Communications at 800.268.1711 ([email protected]).