Walking on the Wild Side

By Sara Smith


Community tours provide visitors with a new perspective on Nunavut.

When visiting a destination as special as Nunavut, there are certain items you may hope to cross off your bucket list: standing on an ice floe as pods of narwhal glide beneath your feet, camping like a true adventurer in one of the coldest and most remote regions possible, or catching a glimpse of the noble nanuq (the Inuit word for polar bear).

The experience that many travelers don’t count on is the opportunity to learn about, and from, the local Inuit who call this land home. And yet when their adventure is over, these community tours and cultural demonstrations are often looked back upon as a highlight of the journey.

Community tours provide a new perspective for visitors to the Arctic.

For many non-Canadians, the unique way of Inuit life is a surprise in itself. “We get a lot of global visitors, and there isn’t a lot of knowledge about the culture of the north,” says Liz Carino, marketing manager for Arctic Kingdom, a touring and expedition company.

“When it comes to the Arctic, people tend to think about polar bears, but they don’t know a lot about the people living here.”

Community tours with Arctic Kingdom take place as part of an Arctic safari expedition package or weekend getaway, landing travelers within one of the 25 small hamlets of Nunavut. Inuit cultural experiences take place, which can include throat singing or sharing stories with a revered elder. Visitors also get the opportunity to explore the community at their leisure.

Cultural demonstrations, such as throat-singing, are shared with guests during the tours.

The aim of these experiences is to emphasize to visitors the importance of the Inuit, and to foster a deeper appreciation for this incredibly unique culture. To only focus on the weather and wildlife would be overlooking an essential aspect of Northern life.

“For travelers, you’re going to some of the most remote places in the world to have these incredible experiences, but these are the people who have been living there for thousands of years,” says Carino. “This is their home.”

For a list of companies who offer community tours in Nunavut, click here.

Carino explains that Arctic Kingdom relies on the traditional knowledge of the Inuit to also guide expeditions outside of the communities. “They know the land well, they know the wildlife, and they’re the best people to help us to showcase the beauty of the region,” she says. “Our Inuit guides also offer a unique perspective for travellers, like applying traditional hunting methods when searching for wildlife to photograph.”

Inuit guides expertly lead expeditions using traditional knowledge of the land.

More than just providing an appreciation of the culture, community tours help to financially bolster the towns they take place in. New jobs are created, and food is purchased from local vendors. Visitors can contribute as well, by purchasing handcrafted art at nearby shops. “Our company is very committed to sustainability and preserving the arctic, and a lot of that is about supporting the local communities,” says Carino.

Storytelling is an important aspect of Inuit culture, and community tours are a form of sharing these stories – about the land, about the people, and their history. Carino has seen many visitors go from unaware of the ways of Inuit life, to advocates of the culture and the experience of visiting the North. “It opens people’s eyes and is a transformative experience,” she says. “They end up coming back as ambassadors for the North.” In this way, travelers who experience a community tour are contributing to the cycle of storytelling as well, by going on to share the tale of their own arctic adventure.