When most people think of safaris, they conjure up images of the Serengeti or maybe just of the animals you’d find roaming the savannah. Arctic Safaris can be even more thrilling for wildlife enthusiasts, adventurers and travellers seeking unique experiences.
While much of an Arctic safari is modeled after typical mobile African safaris, from the tented safari camp to wildlife photography opportunities, they offer incredible experiences you can get anywhere else in the world.
Here’s what sets Arctic Safaris apart:
The Arctic Big 5
The Big Five is a term that refers to the most sought-after animals to be seen in Africa. These animals are elusive to find and spotting one makes a safari so exciting. Travellers revel the chance to snap a photo of an animal that most people will never see in person.
In Africa, this coveted title refers to lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalos, and rhinos. These are the royalty of African safaris, the top species travellers want to see. People from around the world travel to Africa in hopes of hearing the trumpets of elephants as they stomp by or seeing an exhausted lion pride lounging in the grass.
The Big Five of the Arctic are incredible wildlife exclusive to the Arctic. The most sought-after animals of the Arctic are polar bears, Arctic fox, narwhal, belugas and bowhead whales.
While African animals can be hard to spot because of tall grass, the sheer vastness of the Arctic make these animals difficult to spot, not to mention catching a glimpse of some of them as they dive under the ice.
Imagine the thrill of noticing the tusk of a narwhal as it emerges from seemingly nowhere! This ‘unicorn of the sea’ is so elusive it has a mythical status. The tusk of the narwhal can be compared to the horn of a rhino. Did you know the narwhal’s tusk is actually a tooth?
Elephants are thought of as such gentle giants. We love their floppy ears and playful nature, but have you seen the smile on playful beluga whale? These curious creatures are highly social and are often found playing together in their pods, even joining pods of migrating narwhal.
When people think of leopards most are drawn to their remarkable patterned coat of fur; it’s not just striking, its iconic. For those thinking of the Arctic they may think of the beautiful fur of an Arctic fox. In the winter it becomes the most stunning shade of white. This coat is so thick that Arctic fox don’t begin shivering until -70oC (-94oF). What can represent the strength and resilient beauty of the Arctic like an Arctic fox?
Like the lion in Africa, the polar bear is the top carnivore of the Arctic. In fact, they’re the largest land carnivore in the world and can grow as big as 544 kg (1,200 lbs). The Canadian Arctic is home to more than 60% of the world’s polar bear population and offers opportunities to see these Arctic icons nearly year-round.
There are few things more incredible than seeing an enormous male bear hunting along the floe edge or polar bear cubs keeping up with their mother.
It’s hard to think of African safaris without the image of grazing African buffalo as they roam across the grasslands. In the Arctic you can see bowhead whales migrating to seasonal waters as they follow the food. In spring, bowhead whales start their migration towards summer feeding grounds. This migration is quite a spectacle because, like a herd of buffalo, bowheads are highly social and are known for their intense social group interactions.
People often seek out safari locations untouched by humans. Untamed landscapes where wild animals roam.
More remote than many places in Africa, the Arctic is one of the last real wildernesses on Earth. Arctic safaris take you to a place that is as exclusive as the rare species that call it home.
With so much to offer, the Arctic landscapes continually surprise and delight travellers. From dramatic mountains ranges, deep fiords, and soaring icebergs standing like pillars across the horizon, the views alone are worth the journey.
As the Arctic undergoes one of the greatest seasonal shifts in the world, it offers dramatic changes in its landscape season over season. Visitors in the autumn will find a drastically different Arctic than those that come in the spring. Few travellers expect the burst of life that emerges as the Arctic warms up under the Midnight Sun, and the vibrancy of an Arctic summer.
Ideal places to see Arctic wildlife
Safari guests travel far and wide in hopes of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. With such elusive species, this isn’t always easy! The trick to a successful safari is understanding the animals’ behaviours.
With the Arctic undergoing immense changes throughout the seasons, following the migration patterns of wildlife is key to getting chances to see certain animals. Arctic Safaris take you to the right place at the ideal time of year to see the Arctic Big Five.
For example, in May and June the floe edge becomes a dynamic ecosystem at the northern reaches of Baffin Island. As the Midnight Sun starts the ice break-up, algae grows bringing in zoo plankton and other organisms, which in turn attracts migrating whales, seals and polar bears looking to hunt. This offers some of the best, and only, opportunities to see the mythical narwhal, as well as beluga. Different times of year provide other opportunities for viewing polar bears, Arctic fox, bowhead and more.
Arctic Safari Experience
There’s more to a safari than seeing wildlife. Sometimes a guest’s favourite part of their trip is completely unexpected. Activities, natural phenomena or cultural experiences can often become the highlights.
African safaris often offer beautiful drives in a jeep through exotic scenery. In the Arctic, it’s rides in qamutik sleds, a traditional Inuit sled pulled by a snowmobile. This is an incredible way to take in breath-taking landscape on a unique adventure. On Arctic Safaris that include a fly-in experience, the thrill of viewing the vast and spectacular Arctic landscapes is truly unforgettable.
Activities like kayaking with narwhal, snorkeling at the floe edge and learning from local guides about traditional Inuit practices also become cherished memories. In addition, natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and Midnight Sun are experiences you can’t match.
Experience an Arctic Safari
Get chances to view elusive Arctic wildlife and experience the majesty of the Arctic on safaris from March to April. View all Arctic Safaris here.
Ready for adventure? Contact our Arctic Travel Advisors to book.
By: Mat Whitelaw