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Live life like Australian entrepreneurs in Antarctica

January 29th, 2015 | By | Filed in Featured Trip

Ocean Nova in Antarctica

Ocean Nova in Antarctica

An article about 100 Australian entrepreneurs participating in a think tank in Antarctica is circulating. For an experienced traveller to the most southerly continent on the planet, there is some interesting subtext. Why did the group fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, rather than Hobart, Australia or Christchurch, New Zealand, for instance? Because our trip to Antarctica begins in Punta Arenas, I will speculate, and give you some insight into an Antarctic travel option.

Why fly to Antarctica from Chile like Australian entrepreneurs?

The number one reason people choose an Antarctic Fly and Cruise expedition is to avoid sailing the Drake Passage. The Drake is the narrow strait between the tip of South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. When you look at a map of Antarctica, there is thousands of miles of open water surrounding the continent, with the exception of the Drake Passage. Narrow is relative. The Drake is 800 km across (500 miles). That is sufficiently narrow in comparison to the rest of the continent to funnel the ever present winds that circle Antarctica, creating some of the stormiest and rough seas on the planet. My first crossing of the Drake was in a Force 9 gale. The Holy Grail of Antarctic travel became a method of getting to that outstanding landscape without sailing the Drake. A flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to an air base on King George Island was the answer. Just like those Australian entrepreneurs! But...just like those might have to wait a day or two before you actually lift off. Built into the Antarctic Fly and Cruise package are contingency plans to keep you entertained while waiting for the weather to clear. The plans cover getting to Antarctica and leaving Antarctica.

What happens when you get to Antarctica?

You board the ship-shape Ocean Nova. The small vessel was built for the icy waters of Greenland. She has a Scandinavian flair and a single dining room. I have slept aboard her. Ocean Nova is as comfortable a ship as any that ply the Antarctic Peninsula. You will visit penguin rookeries, Port Lockroy, Deception Island, and if the conditions are perfect the Gerlache Strait, one of the most beautiful stretches of water on the western coast of the Peninsula.

Why did those Australian entrepreneurs choose the Punta Arenas route?

Because there is virtually no passenger departures from Hobart anymore. Icebreakers service the Australian Antarctic research bases in the Australian territory. Those entrepreneurs had to travel like you and me, from South America.

Dare to #compare our Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Safari

January 21st, 2015 | By | Filed in Current Trips, Wildlife

Mother polar bear and cub

Mother and cub

I overheard someone who had completed a polar bear trip to Churchill. He was right. Churchill is a great place to see polar bears. But there is an alternative.

Polar bear mothers and cubs at eye level

Our Expedition Leader and bon vivant, Jason Hillier, took the photo of this mother and cub when he led a trip to our polar bear camp on the western shore of Hudson's Bay. Do you notice the camera angle? He was eye level with the bears. How did he do that? He was leading our land-based adventure like Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari.

"But my partner doesn't like to rough it."

This objection to adventure travel is one of my personal favourites, because whoever says it takes the words right out of my mouth. There is no badge of honour in my mind for discomfort while exploring the wild. Our polar bear cabins are rustic, but they all the mod cons: each of the four cabins has an en suite bathroom and a private shower. The cabins sleep two people. So do the math, no more than 8 people are sharing the extraordinary landscape, and fabulous food with you. No waiting in line. No boarding a buggy. No taking your turn behind 20 others at the buffet. Give me good food, a private cabin, facilities en suite, a sense of exclusivity and wildlife in their natural habitat on my doorstep and I will "rough it" every time!

Flights to the Arctic are expensive

No kidding! But there are bargains, especially if you know a specialist like Arctic Kingdom. We are currently quoting a rate of $1,100 + $185 (taxes & fees) per person return from Winnipeg to Churchill. The private flight from Churchill to our camp is included in the trip price. If you are dreaming of a polar bear adventure in 2015, I dare you to compare.

Cannot think of a better way to have celebrated my 50th

January 19th, 2015 | By | Filed in Diving, Featured Trip

Narwhal at the floe edge

Narwhal at the floe edge

I have been going through our guestbooks this morning. What a pleasure it has been, I say with no modesty whatsoever.

A 50th, or 21st or just for the heck of it

One entry inspired today's post. Elaine wrote this at the end of her Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari: "There are no words good enough to express the once in a lifetime experience of this trip. The Arctic is beautiful. The people beyond friendly. The wildlife and environment awe inspiring. The people met just great. The Arctic Kingdom crew fabulous, friendly, helpful. Just a lovely experience and I cannot think of a better way to have celebrated my 50th. Thanks, thanks, thanks." We can't think of a better way to celebrate any special occasion than a visit to the Arctic. don't have wait for a special occasion...because an Arctic Adventure is always a special occasion. Don't take my word for it. Read what Angie had to say about her Great Migration adventure: "Am amazing, too short, week in the Arctic. My obsession continues as I already look forward to a return trip. Truly fabulous photography at the floe edge. I will take the badge for Arctic diving, although probably the shortest dive completed. and I will leave the honor of acquiring an underwater split of a narwhal to a more adventurous photographer." Is 2015 your year to take the Arctic off your bucket list?

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Arctic

January 7th, 2015 | By | Filed in ACTIVITIES, Featured Trip

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

I had romance on my mind yesterday, so I used a well-known travel site for some comparison shopping. I want to spend Valentine's Day in the Arctic. How romantic would it be to spoon under the Northern Lights? [As I tell everyone, they are a natural phenomenon, so there is no guarantee they'll appear on Valentine's night just because I want them to.]

Valentine's Day Arctic Weekend Getaway

Why was I comparison shopping, you might be asking, because I work for an Arctic tour operator? We like to keep our promises honest. We've been promising the best value Arctic Weekend Getaway for some time now. That well known travel site offered 2 nights hotel with flights from Ottawa - and that is it - nothing else - for $2,821 per person, including taxes and service charges. Guess what our weekend package price for the Valentine's Day weekend costs? $1,515.99 per person, including taxes and service charges. That's a romantic savings of $1,305 per person. $2,610 a couple! Our price includes 2 nights hotel, the airfare from Ottawa to Iqaluit, a city tour and airport transfers in Iqaluit! Plus...we amp up the romance by adding a bottle of champagne and a dog-sledding trip for $500 a couple - you'll still save $2,110 a couple!

What is romantic about dog-sledding?

If you have to ask, you have never cuddled under a blanket aboard a travelling sled. You get to squeeze your main-squeeze in a wonderland of snow. Warm up with hot chocolate afterward. You are going to thank me! Book your Valentine's Day Arctic Weekend Getaway online, right now.

Narwhal or Narwhals? 5 things you may not know about the Arctic whale

January 6th, 2015 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals

A pair of narwhal

A pair of narwhal

What is the plural of narwhal?

The answer to that trick question is narwhal and narwhals are equally correct. What you choose to use is up to you.

What is a tusk made of?

The tusk is a tooth that grows from the upper jaw of the male of the species. Every tusk has as many as 10 million nerve endings inside it. On rare occasion one has been seen with two tusks.

What color is the Arctic whale?

That depends on its age. Blue-gray is the colour of a newborn, with juveniles turning blue-blac. Adults are mottled. Narwhal that live to an old age turn almost all white.

What is the Inuktituk name for narwhal?

Qilalugaq tugaalik is the traditional name. Scientists refer to the whale as monodon monoceros. Linguists claim that the English name comes from the Old Norse: Nar (corpse) and hvalr (whale).

Where can you see them in the wild?

We are glad you asked! The greatest number  summer in the Canadian Arctic at the north end of Baffin Island and Prince Regent Inlet. Baffin Island is the narwhal capital of the world. Our adventure - Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari - occurs when the narwhal migrate from Baffin Bay where they spend the winter months.

Do you have what it takes to #enjoy an Arctic adventure?

January 5th, 2015 | By | Filed in Uncategorized, Upcoming Trip

Iceberg and woman

At last, my dream has come true

If you have decided to book an Arctic safari or getaway, you are already a special type of traveller. Most likely you are curious about the natural world, passionate about wildlife and have a sense of adventure. You could have been motivated by the desire to go where few have gone before. Perhaps, you grew up reading about the search for the Northwest Passage and dreamed of seeing it yourself one day?

How to enjoy your Arctic adventure

When you pack your bag, there are some essentials that do not take up room or put your luggage over the weight limit. These must-packs are free, but have great value, because they will ensure that you enjoy your Arctic adventure: Flexibility - local conditions and the natural behaviour of wildlife dictate a day's agenda while on the land. Change is inevitable. Patience - wildlife don't read itineraries. We use local Inuit knowledge to place our camps near known wildlife haunts, but you may find you have to wait patiently by the floe edge until the mammals appear. Adaptability - provisioning an Arctic camp takes months of planning. Every bit of food and equipment must be carried in...and out. More than 15 years of experience outfitting our trips has taught us what works well. Be prepared to try new foods and new things. Adaptability is a key quality for enjoyment. If you are flexible, patient and adaptable then you have what it takes to enjoy an Arctic adventure. Join us on the adventure of a lifetime?

Polar Bear Dips – More than anybody else

December 30th, 2014 | By | Filed in ACTIVITIES, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Authentic Polar Bear Dip

Polar Bear Swimming

January 1 is famous for polar bear dips: Events that raise money for charity and goose bumps on the hardy souls who plunge into frigid water. Through our social media network, we are encouraging people to support their local polar bear plunge or dip this New Year's Day.

Authentic Polar Bear Dips

On the other hand, we are famous for authentic polar bear dips: The kind where human beings watch safely from the edge of an ice floe as a polar bear swims about in the water.  Did you know that polar bears are marine mammals, capable of swimming great distances? Research has discovered that the kings of the North regularly swim 30 miles (48 km). Another fact you may not know is that we offer more opportunities to watch bears swim, in more places, and in more months than anyone else on the planet! You aren't limited to a few weeks in the fall.  We can take you to see polar bears under the midnight sun between June and July as well as in March or between October and November. There are five trips in particular with polar bear sightings as a focus. To make learning about your polar bear trip choices easier, we've built a page with a simple comparison chart. You can find it here >

Entering Canada by Air: 5 Tips for Travellers

December 30th, 2014 | By | Filed in TRIPS

Taking flight

Photo credit: Michelle Valberg

You might be wondering about entering Canada by air, if you are planning to take one of our polar bear safaris or an Arctic Weekend Getaway.  Here are 5 tips to make arriving in Canada simpler. You may need a visa, or you may not. Check before you leave home.  Click here to find out if you need one. 
(1) You will be asked to complete a declaration card on the plane, so carry a pen in your hand luggage. (2) You may list up to four people living at the same address on one declaration card. (3) Alcohol and tobacco have limits all their own - and they are not generous. Only one of three options is permitted to enter duty-free - 1.5L of wine OR 1.14 L or liquor OR 24 x 355 ml cans or bottles of beer or ale. (4) You have to be of legal drinking age per the province of entry. (5) The duty-free allowance for visitors entering Canada are gifts (excludes alcohol and tobacco) valued at no more than CAN$60 per visitor. (At the time of writing).

The finer points of entering Canada by air:

Education, healthcare and legislation governing the consumption of alcohol are provincial responsibilities. They differ from province to province and territory to territory. We have two official languages at the Federal level, but only one province has made bilingualism law - that is New Brunswick. Most Canadians cannot speak both official languages - French and English. Many Canadians, however, are bilingual - English and Mandarin or French and Arabic, or Inuktitut and English - are examples.
There are restrictions on the amount of currency or monetary instruments a visitor may bring into the country without declaring it. The declaration card has a section that asks you to declare weapons you are carrying, commercial goods, currency and a long list of food stuffs, such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products and fruits. Read the section carefully on your declaration card, and answer truthfully. Better to have a piece of sausage confiscated than be refused permission to enter the country.  

Themed Adventures and Special Occasions in Iqaluit

December 14th, 2014 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Inuit Culture/Art, Sports

Special Occasions Special occasions require a memorable setting and activities that are once in a lifetime. Our themed adventures in Iqaluit will make your special occasion unforgettable. Here are two that are coming up very soon.

Special Occasions

Valentine's Day - February 13 to February 15, 2015 - The Arctic for the Romantic

Spend 2 nights and 3 days in the territorial capital of Nunavut on Baffin Island.  Share with your beloved a Swedish couple's massage, followed by a romantic cocktail and dinner at the Discovery restaurant. Breakfast is included in our Valentine's adventure package, as well as dog-sledding and an immersion in Inuit culture. Email us for complete package details and pricing.

Toonik Tyme Festival - Sports, culture and good times in Iqaluit - April 3 to 6, 2015

One of the best annual festivals in the North, Toonik Tyme celebrates the spring break-up. Our package includes a VIP ticket to the events - igloo building, seal skinning, snowmobile racing. Speaking of snowmobiles, you'll enjoy a ride to a polynya - open water surrounded by ice, where marine mammals could be seen surfacing to breath. Email us for complete package details and pricing.

Themed Adventures

Arctic Survival Expedition - turn any weekend into a test of courage and skill

We're stripping this weekend to the bare essentials - man vs. nature. You'll fish for your supper and build your own accommodation. Transportation is by snowmobile. Survival training is by Arctic Kingdom. Complete package details and pricing is available by Email.

Northern Lights - a natural phenomenon that can't be controlled

Any weekend between August and November, you can fly to Iqaluit in search of the Northern Lights. Like any great quest there is no guarantee that your first attempt will be successful. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that is completely unpredictable. We do guarantee to light up your night with a bonfire in Sylvia Grinnell Park. To learn more Email.

2 free nights in Santiago, Chile if you book our #Antarctica cruise

December 12th, 2014 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Adelie Penguins - Antarctica Cruise

Adelie Penguins

Our Antarctica cruise has always been great. You fly across the Drake Passage, notorious for its seasickness inducing waves, and see the best of the Antarctic Peninsula. The ship is marvellous - and the number of passengers is small. Well the best of the best just got better for a limited time. Book and deposit before December 31, 2014 on any 2015-15 Fly 'n Cruise and you can stopover in beautiful Santiago at the Singular Hotel. The $640 value includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, and is based on double occupancy. The bonus details This offer applies to new bookings only made between now and December 31, 2014. The deposit for the trip is due by December 31 too. You must deposit to receive the bonus stay, which is subject to availability. Flexibility The bonus can be taken as a 2 night pre or post extension OR - this is an excellent option - it can be split one night before, and one night after. Splitting the bonus ensures you have time to make connections and adjust to jet lag before your Antarctica cruise. What you will see on your Antarctica cruise Day 3 to 6 are spent cruising the Antarctic Peninsula. Unlike a motor coach tour, exploring the Peninsula is never the same from trip to trip. Weather, animal activity and those serendipitous moments that travellers always dream about may compel the Expedition Leader to change plans by the hour or minute. That is true expedition style cruising. Paulet Island, Hope Bay, Port Lockroy, Petermann Island, Paradise Bay and Deception Island are iconic names on the map of the Peninsula. Perhaps the most iconic is the LeMaire Channel, often referred to as the most photographed spot in Antarctica. All or any of these locations are possible on our Fly and Cruise itinerary.
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