A land where snowmobiles outnumber cars and trucks, many parts of Nunavut are literally impossible to reach without the help of licensed pilots or experienced tour guides. Once the ice breaks along Nunavut’s 28,000 miles of coastline in July, visitors can find things to do in the world’s most pristine waters by canoe, or one of the most famous Inuit inventions, the kayak.
Visitors can be miles from any other human beings while camping or hiking in Nunavut’s vast tundra, which also contain challenging mountains to climb and the world’s highest vertical cliff face on Mount Thor in Auyuittuq National Park. Visitors can also hunt polar bears, muskoxen, caribou, and walrus - or simply admire the large wildlife from a safe distance. Nunavut is among the few places on Earth where people can enjoy guided dogsled tours or stand on an ice floe that is up to six miles wide.
Springtime is Nunavut’s floe edge season, when frozen ocean waters begin melting after the long winter. Floe edges are created when open water meets frozen ice and the Great Canadian Adventure Company is just one of many tour companies which organize these once-in-a-lifetime floe edge excursions. Trips often include wildlife and iceberg sightings, as well as a traditional meal of Arctic char, bannock, and tea made from melted iceberg water.
Once the ice melts in Nunavut’s waters, fishing season begins. All Nunavut visitors must purchase sport fishing licenses from lodges, shops, or Royal Canadian Mounted Police stations before signing up for excursions from tour operators like Cambridge Bay-based B & J Flyfishing Adventures. Whitefish, walleye, grayling, pike, trout, and char are the fish which swim in Nunavut’s pristine waters. Ice fishing is possible well into springtime and early into fall.
The Inuit built the world’s first kayaks over 4,000 years ago, and kayaking remains one of the most popular ways to navigate Nunavut’s waters. Sea Kayaking Adventures not only offers exciting sea excursions, but also teaches visitors how to design their own kayaks. More adventurous visitors can attempt white water kayaking along the Soper Heritage and Sylvia Grinell rivers.
Canoeing is an even older way to explore Nunavut’s waters, and Canoe Arctic specializes in excursions across the Thelon River. The Coppermine, Dubawnt, Kazan, Back, and Soper Heritage rivers also all offer top-notch canoeing suitable for all ability levels. Visitors can paddle up to 120 miles without hitting dry land, but no excursion should be attempted without first submitting a travel itinerary and bringing spray decks to keep the water out.
Dog sledding is one of Nunavut’s most popular ways to travel across dry land in the territory with only a handful of paved roads. Central Arctic Services, based in Gjoa Haven nearly 500 miles above the tree line, organizes an unforgettable dog team trip where visitors build their own igloos in which they spend the night. The qimmiq dogs have pulled Inuit sleds for over 4,000 years and are among North America’s oldest domestic species.
Hunters must secure licenses and outfitters like High Arctic Outfitters before attempting to track muskoxen, polar bears, walrus, wolves, caribou, or any other game. Many Inuit still depend on hunting to feed their own families, so Nunavut Wildlife Officers strictly enforce all hunting quotas and seasons.