Search for Narwhals at Floe Edge

Narwals gather in the Arctic. Paul Nicklen photo.
Narwals gather in the Arctic. Paul Nicklen photo.

An Arctic Search for the Legendary Narwhals

By Steffi Porter

Narwhals break through the Arctic ice
Narwhals break through the Arctic ice

It’s not every day you get to see a Narwhal

So where can one go to catch sight of these rare creatures? A tour of Arctic Canada called “Search for Narwhals at Floe Edge” can will give you the opportunity to glimpse the uni-tusked porpoises, plus a rare chance to delve into the culture of Winnipeg and Repulse Bay.

At Floe Edge, where the open sea meets the frozen waters, curious travelers are getting to glimpse these seldom-seen, cold-water mammals, along with polar bears, seals, walruses, bowhead and beluga whales along with an abundance of arctic birds.

Springtime in Arctic Canada

This spring, The Great Canadian Travel Company has put together a one-week program, taking outdoor adventurers to floe edge, at the edge of the arctic ice in Canada, in search of narwhals, an arctic animal few people will ever get to see in their lifetime.

Tour group explores Arctic Canada
Tour group explores Arctic Canada

Every year, a small group of eager tourists, approximately four, take to arctic Canada, where they are taken on boat tours by a local guide. Costing $6,000 per participant, this trip draws in dedicated nature enthusiasts, most of whom have already participated in previous nature tours through the Company, and are passionate about rare and exciting wildlife.

“It’s a really unique wildlife experience,” says Jan Graham of the Great Canadian Travel Company. “It’s an opportunity to get immersed in the culture of the area, meet the locals…it’s all very local, and it’s wonderful that way.”

Included, are two nights’ accommodation in Winnipeg, 3 nights in Repulse Bay with full board, two full days to explore the floe edge, a drum dance cultural presentation, and country foods celebration in Repulse Bay. Also, the services of a local tour guide, an Arctic Circle crossing certificate, and a tour of Winnipeg, plus entry to that Winnipeg’s Manitoba Museum.

The price of the expedition may sound steep, but it includes roundtrip airfare between Winnipeg and Repulse Bay, an Inuit settlement located on the Arctic Circle, its population only about 750 people. All lodging and a week of outings and adventure are also part of the package deal.

There’s More

That’s not all you can expect from a narwhal expedition. Travelers also get to go on a guided community tour of Repulse Bay. This tour will include landscapes, roads, and trails around the Bay.

Visible along the way are Inuksuit, stone sculptures and figures that stand mysteriously along pathways and roads, and are some of the oldest objects placed in the arctic by humans, and have become a symbol of the Inuit people, indigenous people who inhabit Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, and the United States.

Inuksugalait sits mysteriously along pathways in Repulse Bay.

Lodging The Great White North

person on ice
Person on ice

Travelers on their search for the legendary narwhals do not get the typical ‘tourist’ experience, according to Graham. They stay in what is called Arctic Coops, which Graham described as dormitory-style ‘hotels’, run by local community members that offer a unique opportunity to stay in the same general vicinity of those who they will be touring with, and who will be guiding them on their tours.

In these Arctic Coops, the person working the front desk could be your tour guide, and you get to know the culture and the area you are staying in before even getting on the boat and searching for narwhals. That, Graham says, is the “charm of these tours.”

“It’s going to be fabulous to see the narwhals and other wildlife as it presents itself,” Graham said of the upcoming Spring expeditions.

A Small Group. A Big Adventure.

polar bear walks along the rocks in the Arctic
Polar bear walks along the rocks in the Arctic

As Graham explained, they only take small groups on these expeditions, creating a very personal travel experience. The tours are popular with their specific audience, booking up a year in advance.

Now, over thirty years later, they are still serving their clientele with the kind of travel they are looking for, staying true to the motto the Company was founded on: “Interesting travel experiences for interested people.

The Fascinating Narwhal

Narwhals, referenced in National Geographic as “unicorns of the sea” are “pale-colored porpoises” that dwell in both rivers and Arctic coastal waters. Their famed unicorn-like tusk is really one of their two teeth, which is prominent in male narwhals and can grow up to 8.8 feet (2.7 meters).

The closest relatives of the Narwhal are beluga whales, harbor porpoises, bottlenose dolphins, and orcas. They are known to swim in groups of approximately 15 to 20 narwhals, though larger groups have been sighted.

Full-grown narwhals can reach 13 to 18 feet long, males being slightly larger than females, and weighing on average, 1,800 to 3,500 pounds. They are carnivores, eating fish and other aquatic life, and for over a thousand years, have been hunted by the Inuit people for meat and ivory.

 

steffi-porter

 

 

Steffi Porter is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and a graduate of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies. She lives in NYC.

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