Your Haven Away From Home

By Sara Smith

In the middle of the remote arctic, surrounded by wildlife and stunning landscapes, wilderness lodges provide the coziest of modern comforts.

Every summer, the distinctive beluga whales congregate in shallow arctic waters to roll in the gravel and scrub away their winter layer of skin. This group moulting session happens on remote shores in Nunavut, far from community centres and the convenience of hotels. To bear witness to the spectacle, one would have to travel hundreds of kilometres and camp on rugged terrain in frigid weather.

For the guests of Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, however, this phenomenon takes place mere steps away from their accommodations. After viewing the graceful ivory beasts taking part in a seasonal grooming ceremony, they may choose to relax with a glass of wine, take a nap in a cozy bed, or check their emails.

Visitors get up close and personal with belugas enjoying a spa treatment.

“It’s not being in a hotel, and it’s not being in a tent – it’s something in between,” says Josée Auclair, co-founder and host of Arctic Watch and its sister lodge, Arctic Haven. She explains that a wilderness lodge offers guests a proximity to the arctic wilderness that is usually only accessible by camping. However, the lodges provide amenities and a level of comfort that could never be achieved in a tent.

In the middle of the remote arctic, a warm bed is extra inviting.

Wilderness lodges can be found in remote regions across Nunavut (see a list of lodges here, each with their own unique characteristics. One thing that most have in common is that they aren’t reachable by any roads. Generally, guests will fly in and out of their wilderness lodge experience.

In addition to a welcoming atmosphere, warm showers, and incredibly cozy sleeping quarters, Arctic Watch and Arctic Haven boast world-class food and drink.

“People are often very surprised to see the quality of food and wine we have,” says Auclair.

Menus are comparable to the fare one would expect at top restaurants in the south, and are paired with the finest Canadian wines imported from the Okanagan. Modern comforts such as WiFi are offered as well, although they’re not always reliable. “If there are clouds in the sky or stormy weather, you might be out of luck,” she says. The chance to disconnect, and soak in the luxe accommodations and otherworldly scenery, may even be a blessing in disguise.

Four-star food is served after a day of epic excursions.

While many of Nunavut’s wilderness lodges are prime fishing destinations, Auclair’s two facilities focus primarily on viewing the rich wildlife and plant life that abound near the lodges, as well as recreational outdoor activities. Instead of weekly itineraries for guests, the lodge staff formulate a plan each morning, tailoring possible excursions to the current guests in residence, and always going with the flow of the latest weather forecast. With 18 staff on duty to care for 26 guests at a time, experiences and client service are highly attentive and personalized.

Lodge staff tailor each day’s adventures to the interests of their guests, and the weather.

In the case of inclement weather, guests of a wilderness lodge can expect to be well cared for. “The beauty of this lodge is that the guests are safe and sound at all times,” says Auclair. “If the weather is unfavourable and a flight is cancelled, we can organize alternate plans, the guests don’t have to pay extra for their delay. Forget about your wallet, forget about your credit card, you’re taken care of.”

Even if you aren’t sure what shape you want your vacation to take, a place like Arctic Watch will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We will make sure that you are really busy, and when you go back home your life will be changed, because that’s what Nunavut does to people,” says Auclair.

Indeed, many who leave this place find that they are called back time and again, to revisit and reconnect with the magic of the North. For travelers who prefer their adventures on the more comfortable side, and yet yearn to experience the most beautiful and thrilling parts of Nunavut, wilderness lodges offer the best of both worlds.