Arctic Bay, Nunavut

Go With The Floe

If there is ever a time and place to use the word 'wow', late spring on Baffin Island is it.

As the sun becomes an ever-present fixture in the sky, the frozen landscapes begin to shake loose, the ice cracks and Nunavut's iconic wildlife take centre stage.

Visit with narwhals, polar bears and walruses at the sinaaq – the floe edge.

Welcome to Arctic Bay

Situated well above the Arctic Circle, the hamlet of Arctic Bay in Nunavut's Qikiqtaaluk region is home to 800 residents.

Its Inuktitut name Ikpiarjuk ('the pocket') reflects its strategic location protected on three sides by hills. It is one of the northernmost communities in the world and provides access to the fjords, inlets and rock cliffs of northern Baffin Island.

It is here that you'll find Arctic Bay Adventures, an Inuit-owned tour company that employs members of the community as guides to showcase the beauty of Baffin Island to visitors.

In the late spring and early summer, the main attraction is the floe edge, known as sinaaq in Inuktitut. A floe is a large piece of drift ice, up to 10 kilometres wide. This ever-shifting landscape is where sea ice meets the open water of the Arctic Ocean. Long an important part of Inuit culture, the sinaaq is a place for hunting and fishing during the spring months.

For visitors, the Floe Edge is a time to experience the power of the Arctic Ocean, get up close to wildlife and see life on the edge.

From Arctic Bay, it takes approximately four hours by skidoo to reach the floe edge. Guides depend on traditional Inuit knowledge of the land to know where to go and where it is safe. Once at the floe edge, guests and guides stay in heated tents under the midnight sun. With nearly 24 hours of daylight, the days and nights are perfect for enjoying traditional meals and taking in the rhythm of the Arctic landscape.

Photo by Travel Nunavut

Photo by Travel Nunavut

Photo by Arctic Bay Adventures

Photo by Arctic Bay Adventures

"The distance is so vast, it is beyond comprehension unless you experience it," says Chris Mitchell, the General Manager at Arctic Bay Adventures. "Up here, there's lots of space."

The sheer vastness of the territory – Nunavut makes up one-fifth of Canada's landmass – and the small number of residents makes for big, open and pristine landscapes.

"If we take you on the Floe Edge tour for 10 days, you may not see another soul out there for those 10 days," Chris says. "Maybe a hunter or two will come by for a cup of coffee, but mostly it is just us."

While people may be scarce at the floe edge, the guides are excellent storytellers and the ever-changing influx of wildlife provides steady entertainment.

Polar bears are pretty much a given when visiting the floe edge, Chris says, but belugas, narwhals, seals and walruses are frequently present. Guides from the local community, who have grown up on this land, know how to keep visitors safe and are a necessity when visiting this breathtaking, but challenging environment.

The best time to visit the floe edge is from May to July.

Photo by Michelle Valberg/Travel Nunavut

Photo by Michelle Valberg/Travel Nunavut

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Photo by Michelle Valberg/Travel Nunavut

Photo by Michelle Valberg/Travel Nunavut

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