Northwest Passage & Baffin Island Voyage

This classic expedition voyage explores the stunning and wildlife-rich Canadian Arctic as you sail up the east coast of Baffin Island and through the infamous Northwest Passage (NWP) in search of plentiful polar wildlife and marine life including bowhead and beluga whales, narwhals, walrus, seals, huge seabird colonies and of course, Polar Bears. 

Polar Bear with Cubs in Canadian High Arctic

Beginning on the stunning west coast of Greenland, wildlife opportunities begin almost immediately with the possibility of bowhead and humpback whales in Disko Bay, and only increase as you sail west to Isabella Bay on Baffin Island; this important summer and autumn feeding ground for a large population of bowhead whales is part of the Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area which is also home to ringed seals, polar bears, narwhals and seabirds. Heading north, you will enter the ‘wildlife superhighway of the north’ at Lancaster Sound. Now part of the huge Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area, which emcompasses an area over over 109,000km2, the rich waters here are important summer feeding grounds for a variety of polar marine mammals and seabirds. As you enter the NWP you will plan to visit Cunningham Inlet on Somerset Island, which you may have seen on the BBC’s Frozen Planet, famous for it’s regular visits from beluga whales who come in their hundreds to exfoliate their skin in the shallow, stony bays. Nearby Coningham Bay is also home to some very healthy polar bears who take full advantage of the easy picking from beluga whales in the rocky shallows!

Throughout the journey you will also enjoy spectacular scenery including the UNESCO World Heritage Site at  Ilulissat Icefjord, also known as the ‘birthplace of icebergs’, the soaring, sheer cliffs of Sam Ford Fjord that seem to shoot out of the sea, the mountains, icefields and glaciers of Bylot Island which is part of the Sirmilik National Park and the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, home to approx. 500,000 nesting seabirds in the summer. The tundra plains of Devon and Somerset Island stand in stark contrast to these dramatic coastal features, but provide excellent hiking opportunities and unique geological characteristics. 

Humpback Whale in Disko Bay, West Greenland

Naturally, you cannot explore the NWP without thinking of the many explorers and adventurers who made it their life’s ambition to chart and conquer this infamous, fabled searoute since 1497. During your journey you will learn more about some of these expeditions and follow in their footsteps as you sail through the icy waters including the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1845 and the first successful passage made by Roald Amundsen in 1906.

Travelling on a modern x-bow ice-strengthened expedition ship, you will enjoy opportunities throughout the voyage for shore landings, hikes and zodiac cruises with your onboard Expedition Team. You will also plan to visit some traditional Inuit communities along the Baffin Island coast where you can learn more about their way of life in the High Arctic. Your experienced Expedition Team will also offer a series of lectures and presentations throughout the voyage with a focus on history, culture and wildlife. An optional kayaking programme is available onboard (not included in your voyage price and must be pre-booked), this is an exhilarating and intimate way to experience the stunning coastlines around Greenland and Canada near to where the kayak was invented by the Inuit almost 4,000 years ago.

Itinerary

Sample Itinerary (East to West - 17 Days)

This classic 17 Day itinerary explores the stunning Canadian Arctic and deep into the infamous Northwest Passage in search of wildlife, history and culture.

Please note that our polar itineraries are written to provide a flavour of each voyage.  The actual route will be decided by the captain and expedition team in accordance with prevailing ice, weather and sea conditions and opportunities to see wildlife and wilderness scenery.

Day 0: Toronto

We strongly recommend that you arrive in Toronto at least one day before your trip is due to begin to mitigate against any potential flight or baggage delays and to allow yourself time to relax and explore before your trip begins!

Day 1: Toronto

Today is free to explore the city of Toronto at your leisure. A hotel is included in the city tonight.

Day 2: Fly to Kangerlussuaq for embarkation

This morning you will fly to Kangerlussuaq on Greenland’s west coast and will enjoy a short tour of the town before you are transferred to your expedition ship for embarkation. Be sure to spend some time out on deck as you sail out of Søndre Strømfjord, with its towering mountains on both sides it certainly is magnificent. 

Day 3: Eternity Fjord

Evighedsfjorden, or Eternity Fjord, is one of the more spectacular fjord complexes in west Greenland. Here you can hope to witness hills become towering snow-capped mountains as countless glaciers pour down from sheer cliff walls. Occasionally, the thunderous sound of a calving glacier breaks the silence in a place where you are unlikely to see another soul.

Day 4: Ilulissat

Known as the ‘birthplace of icebergs’, this region produces some of the most dazzling icebergs found anywhere on earth. Hike to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Icefjord and stand in awe of its immensity. Sermeq Kujalleq, also known as Jakobshavn Glacier, is the most productive glacier – not only in Greenland but the entire Northern Hemisphere. It produces 20 million tonnes of ice each day, all floating into the Ilulissat Icefjord and Disko Bay. 

Conditions permitting, you can enjoy a Zodiac cruise at the mouth of the fjord. Those who have joined the onboard kayaking programme can kayak through sea ice and icebergs. An optional 90-minute helicopter flight (not included in your voyage price) over the icefjord is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Day 5: Qeqertarsuaq (Disko Island)

This compelling island seems to have more in common with Iceland than Greenland. While most of the interior is mountainous and glaciated, its beautiful shorelines boast black sandy beaches, unusual basalt columns, hot springs and dramatic lava formations. On a guided hike, you can enjoy a diversity of arctic flora. You can also hope to take a zodiac cruise in Disko Bay, a hotspot for marine life including humpback, fin and minke whales.

Day 6: At Sea, Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island

You will spend today at sea, crossing from West Greeland to Baffin Island. Your onboard team of experts will entertain you with informative talks about wildlife, geology and epic tales of early explorers such as Franklin and Amundsen. Be sure to spend some time out on deck keeping watch for humpback, sei, sperm and fin whales, as well as various species of seals such as ring and harp seal.

Day 7: Isabella Bay, Sillem Island

Farther north along the east coast of Baffin Island lies Isabella Bay, an important summer and autumn feeding ground for a large population of bowhead whales. Stacked side-by-side, numerous soaring cliffs of Sam Ford Fjord make for a majestic site as you sail by. One of the most isolated places on the planet, this big-wall playground attracts climbers eager to scale the sheer rock faces that seem to shoot straight out from the sea. 

In the afternoon, you will sail around Sillem Island, with glacial features on all sides. A slow cruise offers the chance to see many glaciers as well as a variety of seals and other arctic wildlife.

Day 8: Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Bylot Island

Pond Inlet, overlooking Eclipse Sound, is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges and numerous glaciers and fjords. You will spend some time today exploring the town and can visit the Natinnak Center to see exhibits showcasing the culture and history of the local Inuit people.

In the afternoon, you will plan to sail along coastline of nearby Bylot Island. Covered with mountains, icefields, steep cliffs, snowfields and glaciers, Bylot provides nesting habitat for large numbers of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. A total of 74 unique species of arctic bird thrive on this island. A large portion of the island was also included in the Sirmilik National Park, established in 2001.

Day 9: Lancaster Sound

At a latitude almost 75° degrees north, you are now truly in the High Arctic. Here, nutrient-rich waters support an abundance of wildlife, giving the area the moniker ‘wildlife super highway’ of the Arctic. This important wildlife habitat is now part of Tallurutiup Imanga, one of Canada’s newest National Marine Conservation Areas.

Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on earth with flat-topped mountains and glacial valleys giving Devon Island its unique character. You may explore Croker Bay or Maxwell Bay, both offering opportunities for Zodiac cruising. Dundas Harbour offers walks on undulating tundra and birdwatching opportunities. A dilapidated Royal Canadian Mounted Police outpost and remnants of a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post can be found here. In the bay, walruses are sometimes present.

Day 10: Lancaster Sound, Beechey Island

At the western end of Devon Island lies Beechey Island. Named after Frederick William Beechey, the island is a designated Canadian National Historic Site. During the Franklin expedition of 1845–46, Franklin attempted to sail through the Northwest Passage with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with perilous results – three of his men died here. Roald Amundsen landed at Beechey Island in 1903, during the first successful voyage by ship to fully transit the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Days 11 – 15: Expedition Cruising in the Northwest Passage

You will spend these 5 days exploring in the Northwest Passage. In true expeditionary style, your itinerary for the following days is heavily dependent on unpredictable sea ice. The following places are where you can hope to visit:

Prince Leopold Island
On the southern side of Lancaster Sound from Beechey Island lie the towering bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island, a historic site where in 1848, English explorer James Clark Ross overwintered during the search for the missing Franklin expedition. Prince Leopold Island is the most important bird sanctuary in the Canadian Arctic, with approximately 500,000 birds nesting here in summer. Ringed seals are often spotted on the sea ice around the island and polar bear often lurk nearby. The shallow gravel beds attract beluga whales, who come to moult in this part of the Arctic each summer.

Cunningham Inlet
On the north coast of Somerset Island, when factors such as weather and whale behaviour align, you might see the spectacle of hundreds of beluga whales shedding their skin on shallow sandy banks. The local scenery makes for excellent guided walks, where waterway trails lead to waterfalls and higher ground.

Prince Regent Inlet, Fort Ross
Sailing down the east coast of Somerset Island, you might spot beluga whales and narwhals as they feed on the large numbers of arctic char that enter Creswell Bay in late summer. An important bird area, the bay also attracts such species as black-bellied plovers, king eiders and white-rumped sandpipers. At Fort Ross, see an abandoned Hudson’s Bay Company trading outpost founded in 1937, which closed in 1949 because supply ships could not get through the thick sea ice. Here you can hope to enjoy guided walks on the tundra.

Bellot Strait
A deep and windy waterway bordered by steep slopes, Bellot Strait is characterised by strong, swirling, tidal currents that require navigation to be undertaken close to times of slack water (four times a day). Point Zenith, the most northern continental point of the Americas is located in the strait. 

Important Note: Due to swirling currents up to 10 knots, Bellot Strait is better transited during eastbound voyages because if it is blocked, there is the alternative to continue north through Peel Sound. On a westbound voyage, it would be necessary to make a long detour back north through Prince Regent Inlet.

Coningham Bay
Across from Victoria Strait, Coningham Bay lies on the shores of Prince of Wales Island. This is a polar bear hotspot where the majestic creatures come to feast on beluga whales often trapped in the rocky shallows at the entrance to the bay. It is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons – and very healthy-looking polar bears!

King William Island
In 1859, a Franklin expedition tent camp was discovered at Cape Felix. Remains attributed to the Franklin expedition have been found at 35 locations on King William Island and on nearby Adelaide Peninsula. South of Cape Felix, in Victoria Strait, you can hope to visit Victory Point and get close to where the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were abandoned in 1848.

Day 16: Disembark in Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay)

You will disembark in Cambridge Bay this morning, bidding farewell to your crew and expedition team as you take your final zodiac trip to shore. You will be transferred to the airport for your charter flight to Calgary, where a final hotel night at an airport hotel is included.

Day 17: Depart Calgary

You can depart Calgary at any time today, though we do recommend an afternoon or evening flight to mitigate against any potential delays in returning from Cambridge Bay. Or consider extending your time here to see more of the city.

Dates

Notes

Included:
- Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary
- All meals, snacks, coffee and tea onboard
- Beer, house wine and soft drinks during dinner
- Transfer package including 1n accommodation in Toronto & Calgary, charter
  flights Toronto-Kangerlussuaq // Cambridge Bay-Calgary*
- All shore excursions and zodiac activities
- Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced
  expedition staff
- All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
- Comprehensive pre-departure material
- Aqua-Firma automatically offsets the Carbon Emissions of your polar voyage
  and flights booked through us in getting to and from your voyage.
- Expedition parka (to keep)
- Use of waterproof boots onboard (loan)

Excluded:
- International flights (please enquire)
- Pre and post land arrangements (please enquire)
- Optional activities (e.g. kayaking, diving) unless stated
- Travel insurance
- Fuel surcharge if applicable
- Passports and visas
- Canadian eTA (required for non-Canadian or US visa-exempt passengers)
- Arrival and departure tax
- Meals ashore
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry etc)
- Tips

*Greg Mortimer voyages only

Single supplement:
There is no single supplement to pay if you are willing to share your cabin with someone of the same gender. For a cabin to yourself the supplement is 1.5x the per person rate.

Potential Fuel Surcharge:
If the cost per Brent barrel price rises significantly then there may be an additional fuel surcharge applied to some voyages.

Activity Level:
Low to Medium

  • Ilulissat Icefjord in West Greenland
  • Beluga Whales in Cunningham Inlet, Northwest Passage
  • Polar Bear in the Northwest Passage
  • Prince Leopold Island in the Northwest Passage
  • Walrus in the Northwest Passage
  • Musk Ox in West Greenland
  • Zodiac Cruising in Buchun Gulf, Baffin Island
  • Kayaking in Baffin Island

Arctic

Canada

  • Kayaking by an Iceberg near Baffin Island
  • Narwhal in Arctic Bay, Northwest Passage
  • Beluga Whale in Cunningham Inlet, Northwest Passage
  • Sea Ice in the Northwest Passage
  • Polar Bear in the Northwest Passage
  • Graves on Beechey Island
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