Rugged mountains, stunning glaciers, flocks of northern seabirds, the wonderful Narwhal, and traditional Inuit culture – this is what awaits us on a truly amazing Arctic tour to the wilderness of northern Baffin Island.
We experience this dramatic Arctic landscape at a time of year when the sun never sets and wildlife is returning to this very rich area of the Arctic. There are northern birds in abundance, including Thick-billed Murre, Black-legged Kittiwake, and King and Common Eiders. Other highlights include Sabine’s and Thayer’s gulls, Red-throated Loon and with much luck, we may see the all white Ivory Gull! In addition, the mixing of ocean currents from Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound makes the marine life very rich! At this time of year, the sea ice is melting back and marine mammals are traveling north along the ice floe edge where food is concentrated. We hope to see several species of seals and the amazing spiral-tusked Narwhal. With luck we will also see polar bear or the endangered bowhead whale. Remote wilderness, striking Arctic landscapes, rich northern wildlife, and fascinating culture – this promises to be the experience of a lifetime!
Day 0: Arrival in Ottawa
Participants will need to be in Ottawa the night prior to our flight to Pond Inlet. We are happy to help arrange this night in Ottawa. If schedules allow, we can meet for an evening meal in Ottawa to discuss our upcoming polar bear and narwhal tour. Those arriving early may enjoy a visit the Canadian Museum of Nature before dinner. Night in Ottawa.
Day 1: Travel to Pond Inlet
Our Arctic tour begins in earnest today! We meet for breakfast and head for the Ottawa airport in the morning for our flights to Pond Inlet at the northern tip of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. After a plane change in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, we should arrive in Pond Inlet in the afternoon. After dinner we have a chance to visit a couple of local stores and walk around town. Hotel night in Pond Inlet.
Day 2: Travel to the floe edge
In the morning we will explore the shoreline, tundra and ponds close to Pond Inlet. We will encounter some of the more common species such as Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark and Snow Bunting, and we will be looking for Common Ringed Plover here and elsewhere. This mostly Palearctic species has a very small breeding range in North America, restricted to the eastern Arctic of Canada. After lunch, we will depart for the floe edge. We travel by komatik, which is a wooden sled lashed together and pulled behind a snowmobile. This is the traditional means of travel for the Inuit, the only difference is that snowmobiles have replaced dog teams.
Enroute we may have the opportunity to get up close and personal with several icebergs that have spent the winter frozen in place. These can be both beautiful and enormous as they await break up of the ice before they continue to drift southward.
The floe edge is where the winter ice meets the open waters of Baffin Bay and it is where the wildlife is concentrated on their northward migration. We should have wonderful opportunities to photograph and enjoy the wildlife. The birding at the floe edge should be superb! Hundreds of Northern Fulmars, Common and King eiders, and all three species of jaegers will be a treat. We will see hundreds or even thousands of Thick-billed Murres, many Black Guillemots, and with luck, several Dovekie in their very sharp breeding plumage! We will also see a collection of northern gulls: Glaucous, Iceland, Sabine’s, Black-legged Kittiwake, and with much luck, Ivory Gull. You have to travel very far north to find this beautiful all white arctic gull, but here we will be in the heart of its range. Unfortunately, they have become quite scarce in the last several years and are now an endangered species. We will have the opportunity to watch as these and possibly other species move northward along the floe edge.
Days 3–6: Floe edge and Bylot Island
Our daily activities will depend on the location of the floe edge and weather conditions, but will likely include these highlights. We will use a camp near the floe edge for these nights.
Part of Bylot Island is a component of Sirmilik National Park and is one of the largest bird refuges in the world. We plan to go for a walk near our camp to see the remains of several traditional sod and whalebone houses, used until recently by the Inuit. On the tundra, we look for many of the common northern species that are returning from the south at this time of year. Shorebirds are sparsely distributed, but we hope to find several species nesting including American Golden-Plover, Baird’s Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper. On the cliffs, we will look closely for Gyrfalcon, including white-morph individuals, and Peregrine Falcon. In the ponds on Bylot Island and around Pond Inlet, we will search for Red-throated Loon, Greater Snow Goose, and Long-tailed Duck. It should be a spectacular setting being on the tundra surrounded by the rugged snow-covered mountains that rim the eastern Arctic.
Visit to Seabird Colony
From our camp, if ice conditions permit, we will travel to the seabird colony on Bylot Island. North of Cape Graham Moore, these cliffs rise thousands of feet and host over 40,000 Thick-billed Murres and 6,500 Black-legged Kittiwakes. Hundreds of them will be coming and going from their precarious ledges as they head east to feed at the floe edge.
At the Floe Edge
We will likely spend most of our time at the floe edge with the hope of seeing some of the more elusive species that will be moving by, including the marine mammals. Waiting patiently at the floe edge should improve our chances of seeing that amazing northern whale, the Narwhal. We will be watching for groups of these bizarre creatures, with their long spiraled tusks – the male’s tusk can be up to 7 feet long! This will surely be a highlight! It is also possible to see Bowhead Whales, Walrus, and that creature of legend, Nanook, the Polar Bear, but we will need some luck for these. The floe edge will also give us the chance to see Ringed, and possibly Bearded and Harp Seals.
Day 7: Return to Pond Inlet
After a final morning at the floe edge, we leave our camp for our return to Pond Inlet. On our journey we view the towering cliffs of Bylot Island plus the spectacular landscape of mountains and massive glaciers. We arrive in Pond Inlet in the afternoon in time for dinner and a possible final walk around town in the evening. Night in Pond Inlet.
Day 8: Travel to Ottawa and onward
Our Narwhals & Polar Bears tour ends today. Our exact plans depend on the flight schedule. We prefer to travel all the way to Ottawa in one day, but it is most likely that we will have an overnight in Iqaluit on the way south.
We have breakfast and lunch in Pond Inlet with some final time to explore the community. We then catch an afternoon flight to Iqaluit where we will spend the night (not included in the tour cost). We some time to explore Nunavut's capital and browse the art shops. We will then finish our journey with an afternoon flight to Ottawa, arriving in the evening. We highly recommend you spend this night in Ottawa rather than trying to connect to a flight home. We will head home with many fond memories from this amazing Arctic tour in the land of the midnight sun.
Departures & Prices
Tour Price Includes
- 2 nights in hotels, 5 nights comfortable camping near floe edge (equipment provided)
- Ground transportation
- Travel by komatik (sled) to/from the floe edge
- Includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on Day 8
- Eagle-Eye Tours guide plus local Inuit guides with 5 - 11 participants
Tour Price Does Not Include
- Round-trip airfare from Ottawa to Pond Inlet (2023 price was $3,595 CAD + 13% tax | $2,895 USD + 13% tax).
- Mandatory emergency medical and trip interruption insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Taxes (5% GST)
- Additional expenses in the event of flight delays
- Hotel nights in Ottawa before and after the tour and possible hotel night in Iqaluit after the tour
What to Expect
What to Expect
The daily activities on our polar bear and narwhal tour will be focused on looking for and watching narwhals & polar bears. We will also be happy to enjoy watching birds and other wildlife at the floe edge or on the tundra, and we won’t hesitate to enjoy other aspects of the natural and cultural history of this area on this incredible Arctic tour.
Participants should anticipate embracing a more relaxed pace on this tour, respecting the unhurried rhythm of Inuit culture, which often operates without strict adherence to timelines. Your flexibility and patience will enhance your immersive experience. While we have outlined an itinerary above, this schedule and our daily activities will be variable and great flexibility will be required. Our daily activities will be very dependent on the daily weather and ice conditions and may require us to stay at our camp if conditions are unsafe at the floe edge (usually due to wind). Keeping you safe is our top priority throughout this tour.
Walking on this tour is generally easy, but we will be walking on ice at our camp, plus we walk up small hills and on uneven tundra. We spend most of our time traveling in the komatiks (sleds) and will set ourselves up at the floe edge for wildlife viewing, but we typically do one or two optional hikes on the tundra for a couple of hours as well.
Please understand that due to the weather in the Arctic, flight delays are more common than elsewhere. If our flights are delayed we will do our best to adjust and get on our way as soon as possible. Additional costs due to flight delays (e.g. extra hotel nights or meals) are the responsibility of the participant, but should be covered by your trip interruption policy (see below).
Travel from the community of Pond Inlet to the camp typically takes about 4-5 hours including a couple of stops, but this depends on the weather and how rough the ice is. Travel from the camp to the floe edge will generally take an hour or more, depending on ice conditions and where the floe edge forms. The ride in the komatiks can be bumpy, but we will work to make you as comfortable as possible. We usually put 3 people in each komatik.
We have a cook that prepares food for us at the camp. Breakfasts may include eggs, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, or cold cereal and oatmeal depending on the day. Lunches are usually out at the floe edge and we typically provide supplies to build your own wrap/bagel/sandwich plus we have hot soup. Dinners are back at camp and may be a stew, pasta and sauce, or something similar. We provide snacks, coffee/tea and hot water during the day. As we are camping in the high arctic and the diversity of local ingredients is limited, meals may be basic, but we aim to keep you well fed.
Late May and early June are still cold in the Arctic. Temperatures may not be much above freezing and it could snow, but warm layered clothing along with the insulated waterproof boots should keep you warm. It can be sunny though and the sun is up 24 hours and reflects against the snow, so bring sunscreen and sunglasses. We will send you a suggested packing list upon tour confirmation.
Please note that the deposit for this tour is $1000 CAD/USD. Due to the remote nature of this tour and the high cost of evacuation, emergency medical insurance is required on this tour. Due to the potential for flight delays and cancellations due to weather, trip interruption insurance is also mandatory. Trip cancellation coverage is highly recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Both trips are very similar. On both trips you are travelling by komatik each day, (a wooden sled pulled behind a snowmobile), to the floe edge, where you will spend your days looking for wildlife with your Eagle-Eye Tours guide and local Inuit guides. The chances of seeing narwhals and polar bears is the same on both trips. We feel the chance of seeing beluga whales is higher in Arctic Bay. The birdlife is very similar in both locations. The chance of seeing walrus or bowhead whales is equivalent in both locations.
In Arctic Bay, some of the tents you sleep in are taller and have a small propane heater, but not all of them. In Pond Inlet, you are in an expedition dome tent. You can sit up in these tents, but you cannot stand. They are unheated and you need to crawl in and out of the tent under the vestibule. You sleep on a thick mattress on the floor of the tent and we provide warm sleeping bags to keep you comfortable.
Depending on the ice conditions and where the floe edge forms, the travel from the camp to the floe edge is typically longer each day on the Arctic Bay tour (1.5 hrs+ each way).
Camping in the Arctic with us is comfortable, but basic. We will provide all of the necessary camping equipment, including a thick mattress and a warm sleeping bag. We sleep in 3 person expedition dome tents, but never put more than 1 or 2 people in a tent. Single travelers get their own tent. You can sit up in these tents but not stand up in them, therefore you must be agile enough to crawl on hands and knees to get out of the tent.
There will be a large tent for the kitchen and a separate large tent for communal dining, where we will eat together for breakfast and dinner. Please note that due to the remote location of the camp and distance from advanced medical care, the camp is unable to cater to those with severe (airborne) food allergies.
The skillful camp staff construct camp toilets which are surprisingly comfortable and private. It is essentially a toilet in a tent. These are brought with us into the field. There are no showers available, so we recommend bringing Wet Wipes.
We can accommodate most dietary restrictions or food allergies, including offering vegetarian or vegan meals. If you have complex or uncommon needs, you are welcome to contact us to discuss how we can accommodate them.
We welcome single travellers and believe that group travel such as this tour is a fantastic way to meet like-minded people. Single tents are available at camp, however we cannot guarantee single occupancy in our hotel in Pond Inlet. You may have to share with another person of the same gender.
Most people gather in Ottawa before flying north on the first day of the tour. We will organize your flights to and from Pond Inlet and add this cost to your invoice unless you wish to purchase the tickets yourself. On the second day, you will travel by komatik to the camp, and we plan to travel to the floe edge on subsequent days when conditions permit.
We recommend that participants bring some cash with them. Major credit cards are widely accepted and can be used to cover meals in Ottawa or any purchases in the stores in Pond Inlet.
Whatever you can fit in your bag! You can check one bag for free on our flights. We do not put any limitations on the amount of equipment that you bring with you to the camp. Most of our travellers will be taking photos on a device of some kind. Bring a spare battery, as the cold weather can be hard on them. Drones require special permission, please contact us if you wish to bring one.
There is a generator for charging electronics in the evening when we are back at the camp. You can bring CPAP machines that have a battery and recharge them daily.
There is much to do and see in the Arctic, but we do not arrange custom extensions of tours. We are happy to adjust your flight booking to match your plans.
You must be able to walk for 2-3 hours on flat ground. You must be able to crawl on your hands and knees out of a tent.
We keep a very watchful eye out for polar bears while in camp and while at the floe edge. We camp away from the floe edge to drastically reduce the chance that a bear will be in the area of our camp. Our Inuit guides travel with firearms, but we work hard to avoid any negative encounters with bears and are happy to watch them from a safe distance when we do spot them.
While cultural activities aren’t a focal point of this tour, the daily interactions, conversations, and observations will provide a profound insight into the heritage and traditions of the Inuit people. You may even get a chance to try local Arctic Char! This cultural immersion promises an authentic and respectful experience.
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Polar Bear
- Ringed Seal
- Thick-billed Murre
- Northern Fulmar
- King Eider
- Common Eider
- Pomarine Jaeger
- Long-tailed Jaeger
- Northern Wheatear
- Common Ringed Plover (mid-June tour only)
Past Tour Checklists
Past Tour Checklists
View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.