High-Arctic Wildlife: Beluga Whales, Polar Bears, and Musk Ox
Join Muench Workshops pro Kevin Pepper for an exciting adventure in the High Canadian Arctic! On this workshop, we’ll travel to the shores of the fabled Northwest Passage, nearly 500 miles (800 km) above the Arctic Circle. Cunningham Inlet, our destination, is one of the last remaining beluga whale nurseries on Earth, and other arctic wildlife abounds in the surrounding region. There are no roads here, no human structures outside our lodge. We’ll have exclusive access to landscapes of incomparable beauty, accompanied by the best, most experienced wildlife guides the region has to offer.
Since we’ll be visiting in the summertime, we’ll have the advantage of endless days—that means plenty of photography time. You won’t believe the Arctic light! Temperatures this time of year this far north are typically 45–54F (8–12C), but can dip as low as 32F (0C). No worries though, Kevin will teach you to manage your equipment and your personal warmth in these temperatures. He’ll also teach you composition elements, camera settings, and post-processing techniques, and there will be plenty of time for reviews and critiques.
The exclusive, family-owned Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge offers comfortable accommodation, with handcrafted furnishings—the multi-generation Weber family has made a home here, and they can’t wait to share it with you. You can also expect food that is second to none, from locally-sourced delights like Arctic char and Baffin Bay turbot, to Alberta organic beef, French Canadian cheeses, and more. You won’t go hungry!
July 30–August 8, 2020
Itinerary and General Information
About the Wildlife: This workshop offers significant opportunities for photographing wildlife, and while we do our best to maximize our wildlife encounters—based on past experiences, local knowledge, and the current conditions—we need to impress upon you that the wildlife really is wild and that we don’t control it.
July 30, 2020: Gather at our hotel lobby in Yellowknife by 6:00 PM. After a meet and greet, we’ll have a group dinner.
July 31, 2020: After breakfast, depart Yellowknife by private charter for the 3-hour flight to Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. After an introduction to the lodge and the surrounding landscape by the Arctic Watch team, you will have time to settle into your cabin. Before dinner is served, a short hike up to the local mountain—with breathtaking views of the Northwest Passage—will be offered. After dinner, relax, socialize, or attend a lecture in the main lodge’s Great Room. You may also wish to explore the extensive Arctic Library and Interpretive Center, housing local artifacts, maps, and 42 million year-old fossils.
Aug 1, 2020: Our day will begin with a hands-on introduction to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), followed by a short drive to the Cunningham Estuary to watch beluga whales. ATVs are our most practical form of transportation on the tundra. Archaeological sites and artifacts dating to viking contact can be seen along Somerset’s coastline. After, we’ll enjoy a delicious lunch buffet back at the lodge before departing for a short afternoon hike to the Triple Waterfalls. This short 3 mile (5 km) roundtrip hike gives you an introduction to the plants and animals that live in the area. Encounters with muskox are common.
Aug 2, 2020: This morning we’ll travel by ATV across the Cunningham River delta, to Muskox Ridge. This scenic trail provides spectacular views of the area and is a great vantage point from which to see muskox and arctic foxes. From the high ridge, we’ll hike down into one of the many depressions where muskox often spend the summer months foraging. After a picnic lunch at Inukshuk Lake, fishing gear will be supplied to catch-and-release arctic char. We’ll then head back to the lodge along the River Trail, keeping an eye out for birds such as snowy owls, jaegers, rough-legged hawks, and more. After dinner, we’ll be offered an informal lecture by Richard Weber on his historic (and unrepeated) unassisted journey to the North Pole.
Aug 3, 2020: We’ll sea kayak the clear waters of Cunningham Inlet while enjoying views of Gifford Point in the distance. Watch for beluga whales passing by your boat as they travel between the open water of the Northwest Passage and the mouth of the Cunningham River. We’ll disembark on the other side of the inlet, at Kayak Falls, and (with luck!) spot a polar bear. After dinner, review images with Kevin in the main lodge.
Aug 4, 2020: We’ll travel by Mercedes Unimog to the east side of Cunningham Inlet, where a number of unnamed canyons offer great hiking opportunities. The afternoon will be spent at the estuary to watch the beluga whales as they as they rub themselves and play in the fresh water. This particular spot is renowned because of the density of the whale population, and their proximity to the shore. Afterwards, we’ll return to the lodge in time for dinner, followed by image reviews.
Aug 5, 2020: Enjoy the views of the Northwest Passage from the passenger seat of a four-seater all-terrain vehicle. We’ll drive along the west shore of the inlet, stopping at historic 1,000 year-old Thule sites situated along the coast. Turning west at Polar Bear Point, we’ll then look for wildlife as we drive along the Northwest Passage. A short hike to Nansen’s ridge offers incredible views across the passage and showcases the characteristic Arctic landscape.
Aug 6, 2020: We’ll climb back into the all-terrain Mercedes Unimog truck and head to the raft put-in on the Cunningham River. Hike the last stretch through the Badlands, a unique landscape with ancient 8,000-year-old bowhead whale skeletons exposed on the tundra. The area is inhabited by muskox, snow geese and arctic foxes. Savour a picnic lunch by the river as the team prepares the rafts for the two- to three-hour return to Arctic Watch. Leisurely paddle as the river narrows into a towering canyon, eventually opening up again into the braided flats in front of the lodge. Upon the return, it’s the final dinner of the adventure. In the evening take the polar plunge!
Aug 7, 2020: There’s lots of time before the flight departs in the late afternoon, so everyone will have a chance to enjoy a hearty breakfast and lunch out on the tundra. If the weather is good, we can look for more wildlife, or just enjoy the comforts of the lodge. Upon arriving in Yellowknife, everyone will have time to check into our hotel before we enjoy one last group meal.
Aug 8, 2020: Flights home can be arranged at any time this day.
Lodge info: There are 16 private guest cabins, each equipped with a marine toilet and sink. Private showers with hot water are located in the main complex. At night, hot water bottles are provided to place under the thick duvets. A generator provides electricity to the cabins from early morning until 11:00 pm. There’s no electricity at night, but you won’t need lights under the midnight sun.
What to Bring and How to Prepare for Your Workshop
Please see our How To Prepare For Your Workshop page now for guidelines on workshop prep, gear, and packing. Approximately 90 days before your workshop, you will be sent a PDF with more specific instructions.
All lodging during the workshop
All meals during the workshop
Photographic guiding and instruction by Kevin Pepper
Image reviews and post-processing instruction
Fun, inspiration, and a great time!
What’s Not Included?
Travel from your home to Yellowknife, Canada (YZF airport code) and back. Passport and visa fees, if any. Any meals and accommodations before or after the workshop dates. Medical Evacuation Insurance (required). Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended). Items of a personal nature. Alcoholic beverages. Anything not specifically listed as included.
Your deposit of $5,000 will hold your space in this workshop. A second payment of $5,995 is due by September 1, 2019. Once second payment is made, deposit, second payment and final payment are non-refundable. The balance of $4,000 will be due not later than May 1, 2020. All of our standard terms and conditions apply. Need special payment arrangements for your deposit? No problem, just ask us.
While drone photography is allowed on this workshop, there will be special considerations, and drone usage is allowed only by permission of our hosts. Please contact us for more information. This unique experience will sell out fast! Don’t wait, click the SIGN ME UP! button and we’ll see you there.