Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures

It's a rare find in this day and age to actually locate a new wilderness that has rarely been explored and photographed. The remote region of Nunavik (Northern Quebec) in Canada’s Far North is indeed such a rare place. Previously little known and mostly overlooked, this new wildlife mecca is now open for exploration for the adventurous!

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Polar bears emerge after an icy swim on Ungava Bay, Nunavik – photo copyright Mariela Urra

There are few places left on earth that are unaltered by man. One such place is the remote tundra and sparse taiga forests of Nunavik, Canada. Few have ever seen this strange land, where drinking water can still be dipped and supped right from the ultra-pure lakes and streams and where wild plants still exist undisturbed in a state of natural balance. Harsh winters dominate this remote northern country, sculpting the landscape at whim into graceful and delicate patterns. An abundance of natural activity, animal life and great peace prevails. Woven into the landscape is the vast sense of time unchanged. The tundra here lies in the vast Precambrian shield, a landscape of ancient bedrock-glaciated hills covered with lichens, wildflowers and in protected places, sometimes a variety of shrubs and dwarf trees. This is a story many thousands of years old and one intricately bound up with the relationship between the musk-ox, the caribou, the polar bears and sea life—and the indigenous inhabitants of this starkly beautiful land: the Inuit.

Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures
Northern lights dance over a remote a tundra lake in Nunavik — photo copyright Mariela Urra

Incredible Wildlife! The Nunavik tundra is home to diverse populations of wildlife and birdlife constantly on the move. Large populations of musk-oxen herds can often be observed during the autumn mating period — there are thousands of free-ranging musk-oxen spread over dozens of herds along Ungava Bay and deep into the interior. The Davies Straight and Ungava Bay region host one of the few still-healthy polar bear populations remaining in the world. The polar bears here spend the summer swimming to and fro on the coastal islands, raising their cubs and waiting for the winter sea ice to return.

A musk-oxen herd watches and grazes in autumn colors on the tundra – photo copyright Horst Baender
A musk-oxen herd watches and grazes in autumn colors on the tundra – photo copyright Horst Baender

The region is also home of the migratory route for the Leaf River caribou herd — the largest caribou herd remaining in Canada. In the mid-summer, the cow and calves migrate south from the calving grounds to meet the bulls, then spread out and graze the remote countryside in order to build up winter fat and to prepare for the oncoming mating season. Wild tundra and timber wolves use caribou routes as hunting trails and follow the caribou herds. They stop and dig dens to bear and raise their pups in sandy areas on the tundra. This region is also home to fox and black bear, and roost to ptarmigan, waterfowl, shorebirds and birds-of-prey.

Migrating caribou silhouetted in a backdrop of northern lights – photo copyright David C. Olson
Migrating caribou silhouetted in a backdrop of northern lights – photo copyright David C. Olson

Search for the Legendary Tundra Wolves: Wild wolves remain one of the world's most intelligent and elusive creatures. Following centuries of persecution, hunting and even sanctioned poisoning by trappers, ranchers and intolerant Governments throughout the world — the wilds of northern Canada remain one of the last strongholds — and even here, wolves rightfully tend to be shy of humans and their activities. Every spring, the wild wolves of Nunavik follow the pregnant caribou cows as they head toward the calving grounds far to the north. Nature’s way has it that the wolves must stop first to bear their pups enroute, allowing the caribou some distance and time to bear their calves undisturbed.

Tundra wolf pups on an esker green on the tundra – photo copyright Terry Elliot
Tundra wolf pups on an esker green on the tundra – photo copyright Terry Elliot

Wild tundra wolves are one of the most difficult and challenging of wild animals to see and photograph. Their movements are unpredictable and can rarely be predetermined. Wolves often hunt nocturnally and can venture out from the den site for days at a time to find and bring down prey. The single predictable denominator is the den site to which they will inevitably return to feed their young. In our work as guides we set out in advance of the trips to accomplish the formidable task of locating active wolf den sites in the northern wilderness that can be observed from a vantage point at safe and non-harassing distances. Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures is proud to boast that we are one of the only companies anywhere that offers a high degree of success to encounter wild tundra wolves in their natural habitat. We accomplish this without the use of any artificial means such as captivity, feeding or implanted radio devices. Instead, we take advantage of traditional wilderness knowledge of consistent migratory, hunting and den cycle activities of wolves, caribou and musk-ox that we have learned over four decades of bush flying and guiding in the remote Arctic & sub-Arctic regions of Canada. See www.thelon.com/wolves.htm.

A lone tundra wolf alpha male watches us in the Canadian Arctic – photo copyright Eric Peterson
A lone tundra wolf alpha male watches us in the Canadian Arctic – photo copyright Eric Peterson

Polar Bears, Musk-oxen, Icebergs & Seals: Travel with Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures on our newest camping and boating expedition to the deep wilderness of Leaf Inlet in Canada’s Far North! Encounter musk-oxen herds, seals, icebergs, and experience awesome sightings of polar bears along the coastline in Ungava Bay, Nunavik! Compared to many of the big commercial polar bear trips available out there, this is an altogether new, little-explored and photographed polar bear region that offers a completely new experience. We don't offer trips that involve large groups of people in big ATVs or similar machines. Instead, we quietly travel in small groups on the coastal waters along with Inuit guides who live, trap and hunt here year-round, and who benefit directly from our activities. We gently visit the polar bears and other wildlife in their natural habitat and environment. It's the real deal. The little-explored and remote wilderness of Leaf Bay, Nunavik, is hauntingly beautiful, historically significant and wildlife-rich. The skies here are often filled with a variety of seabirds, shorebirds, migratory waterfowl and birds-of-prey. Ringed and bearded seals and sometimes beluga whales wander up Leaf Inlet from the open sea. Musk-oxen range and graze along the shores and hills. Polar bears spend the summertime on the numerous islands in Ungava Bay as they wait for the sea ice to return. Prehistoric musk-oxen herds roam and graze year-round along the shores on the lush, rolling tundra landscape and semi-mountainous terrain. The tides in Ungava Bay and particularly Leaf Inlet are some of the largest in the world, rivaling that of the Bay of Fundy. In the course of six hours, the tide can raise or fall as much as 20 meters/65 feet! Our travels by boat and the camps we set up in this unique area have to be carefully planned and timed with the extreme tidal fluctuations in mind. Icebergs frequently drift south off of Davis Strait and from Greenland, and are often spotted in Ungava Bay.

A polar bear & her yearling cub wander the shore in Ungava Bay Nunavik – photo copyright Mariela Urra
A polar bear & her yearling cub wander the shore in Ungava Bay Nunavik – photo copyright Mariela Urra

The Leaf Bay area reaches far back in time and is rich with ancient archaeology, Inuit history and aboriginal spirituality. With great respect we will stop, explore and visit many of these special sites while on this journey. Compared to many of our other wildlife trips, extended hiking is optional and not necessary to get excellent wildlife exposures — these special polar bear trips are very easy going with little or no hiking necessary. We will stay at comfortable coastal camps and launch on day-trips out in suitable boats to explore among the numerous islands in Ungava and Leaf Bays in search of bearded and ringed seals, musk-oxen herds, icebergs — and polar bears! See www.thelon.com/polar.htm.

Musk-ox bulls “face off” on the remote tundra of Nunavik – photo copyright Thomas Groening
Musk-ox bulls “face off” on the remote tundra of Nunavik – photo copyright Thomas Groening

Musk-ox, Autumn Colors and Aurora: In late August through mid-September, travel with us to the remote wilderness of Nunavik in Canada’s Far North to see musk-oxen herds during the mating period, migrating waterfowl, beautiful autumn colors and fantastic displays of northern lights! The autumn period on the remote tundra of Canada's Far North briefly offers one of the most spectacular & magical displays of wildlife, colors, clarity and light to be seen anywhere on the planet. During this time of yea,r musk-oxen gather into larger herds for their mating rituals, and are often easy to locate and approach. Hours can be spent watching these beautiful prehistoric animals in full winter pelage graze, mill, lie around and feign with the herd bull. Often, all this activity occurs in incredible backdrops of autumn color. On clear nights the aurora borealis dance and weave intricate and colorful patterns across the Arctic skies!

Beautiful aurora borealis reflects off a tundra lake in Nunavik - photo copyright Andrew Blomfield
Beautiful aurora borealis reflects off a tundra lake in Nunavik - photo copyright Andrew Blomfield

The clarity of the atmosphere here offers a rare glimpse of raw wilderness afforded only to a lucky few — and the time of season offers a very special period that represents nature's power in a truly magical way. The low-bush bearberry and cranberry turn fire red, and the dwarf birch and willows evolve to displays of brilliant orange, yellows and gold, the riot of autumn colors are truly beautiful! See www.thelon.com/autumn.html.

Active musk-oxen grazing grounds and water-crossings, beautiful Arctic sunsets, waterfowl migrating south across the skies, incredible autumn colors and awesome displays of the aurora borealis make these special trips truly a fantastic experience in a genuine naturalists’ and photographer paradise!

New clients arrive to an autumn musk-ox basecamp in Nunavik - photo copyright Mariela Urra
New clients arrive to an autumn musk-ox basecamp in Nunavik - photo copyright Mariela Urra

The Great Summer Caribou Migration: The caribou herds in Alaska and Canada have been diminishing in population at alarming degrees for the past decade. No one is really sure if this is a result of climate change or a naturally repeating cycle. Caribou migrate through some of the most isolated wilderness regions. Difficult access to the remote areas in which the remaining migrations occur makes this one of the most difficult of wildlife movements to see and photograph. One of the very last healthy migrating caribou populations left in the world is now the Leaf River Herd on the Ungava Peninsula in Nunavik, Canada (Northern Quebec), and it is to this region which we operate our expeditions. By the most recent 2015 Government census, the Leaf River caribou herd has 332,000 animals. During late July to mid-August each year, the caribou cows and calves migrate south from their calving grounds to intercept the bulls near the treeline. During this period, the cows and calves will swell into what is known as “bunches,” often at water crossings, and then dissipate again. This cycle continues over a two- to three-week period. Once the bull caribou are met, the animals spread out and graze in small groups in the late summer migratory lull, while they feed and build up fat stores to endure the upcoming winter and mating period. They then migrate southward to their wintering grounds. This cycle is repeated again as the now pregnant cow caribou return to the remote northern calving grounds during the following spring melt.

Migrating caribou cows and calves on the remote tundra – photo copyright Terry Elliot
Migrating caribou cows and calves on the remote tundra – photo copyright Terry Elliot

Travel with us in late July and early August by boat with Inuit guides, up a remote Arctic river deep into the Ungava Peninsula, to camp out and see the Great Summer Caribou Migration! Be one of the privileged few to experience this rarely-seen wildlife phenomenon. For the past three summers clients saw thousands upon thousands of caribou migrating in groups over a period of days - a steady flow of animals at primary water crossings and along age-old trails. We’re going to do it again next summer, so come join us to see the great caribou migration in 2017. See www.thelon.com/caribou.htm.

About our Wildlife Photo Trips: In order to be as unobtrusive as possible to the wildlife and sensitive Arctic terrain, and to provide the best possible service to our clients, in 2017, all of our wildlife photo expeditions will be operated in small, intimate groups of six persons plus field staff. The trip prices includes field lodging, meals, air and boat charters, daily escorted wildlife and natural history programs with field instruction. Our clients also have access to discounted airfares from Montreal.

Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures

Contact us at +608-370-5071 / Email tundra@thelon.com
Visit our photography-filled website for rates, dates and insights at www.thelon.com

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