2018 Caribou Migration Photography Safari

Join Marc Muench and Kevin Pepper on a journey to one of Canada's northern territories. Our destination, Nunavut. The first impression many visitors have of Nunavut is that of its vast expanses of pristine wilderness and exotic wildlife. Comprising most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, about one fifth of the total landmass of the nation, Nunavut is the size of Western Europe. It is the largest yet least populated of all the provinces and territories in Canada, and one of the least densely populated places on the planet.

Our reason for travelling to such a remote destination; to photograph one of the largest Caribou migrations in North America, the 250,000 strong Quamirjuaq caribou herd. For thousands of years this herd has migrated across the Barrens west of Hudson Bay. From late August onwards, throughout the autumn, the caribou are spread out over the tundra of south western Nunavut in one of the most remote places in the world that very few get to visit each year.  Together we will experience the reward of autumn colours of the tundra – crimson reds, vibrant yellows and shimmering oranges as a backdrop to caribou with full racks that can, at times, walk within meters of you.

Together we will witness mothers with young calves along with males with their fully grown antlers, full of velvet.

This authentically Canadian experience is at the heart of Canada's Remote Wilderness - the Arctic Barrenlands - a three hour private flight charter from Yellowknife and 400km west of Hudson Bay.

Caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, over twenty-five species of ducks and more are just some of the wildlife that call our tour destination home. 

This is an experience you will never forget. From local guides who know the traditional routes of the caribou, knowledgable staff on hand to give presentations on the animals and the flora and fauna, to shimmering northern lights in the evening, to the silence of the tundra broken by the hooves of caribou, this late summer/early autumn Arctic experience will surprise and delight at every step.

This uniquely Canadian adventure is unsurpassed at offering all the beauty and real wildlife Canada has to offer. 

A male Caribou walks over the fall colours on the tundra

A male Caribou walks over the fall colours on the tundra

Details of Photography Workshop

Dates of the Workshop: September 5, 2018 to September 12, 2018

Workshop Instructors: Marc Muench and Kevin Pepper

Attendees: A maximum of 10 people will be on this trip. NOW ONLY 3 SPOTS REMAIN

Price of Workshop: $9,495USD

Deposit Information: Your deposit of $3,000 will hold your space in this workshop. A second payment of $3,500 is due by March 1, 2018. The balance of $2,995 will be due not later than June 1, 2018. 

Inclusions: Hotels in Yellowknife, meals in Yellowknife, Private charter flight from Yellowknife to Lodge, all boat usage while at lodge to and from the wildlife; all meals prepared and served daily at the lodge; shared accommodations for all nights (one night may be spent in the remote camp if we decide). Boats for transportation. We have satellite telephone communication available at the lodge. Also included is the return private plane charter back to Yellowknife.

Exclusions: Air transportation from your home to/from Yellowknife, NWT. Visa or passport fees. Items of a personal nature. Alcoholic beverages. Travel medical, medical evacuation, and trip insurance (recommended!). Anything not specifically listed as included.

Flight Information: You will be flying into Yellowknife Airport (airport code YZF)

Packing Information: Your equipment must be carefully chosen to be durable, weather resistant and insect-proof. Layered clothing for temperature control is best. Outer garments such as cotton or wool are advisable when approaching to observe wildlife, as they are much quieter than plastic or nylon. All clothing should be dull colour or camouflage. Bright coloured clothing or fluorescent are a NO-NO when stalking animals. Synthetic lining in the bag is a good idea. Boots should be worn in and suitable for hiking off trail over sand, rocks and wet terrain. You should have waterproof rain gear that you can comfortably hike in. A daypack suitable to carry your own camera equipment and bag lunch for shorter hikes is great. 

Recommended Photography Equipment:

• Wide angle lens such as a14 to 24mm and an aperture of F2.8 or faster
• A medium telephoto in the range of 70-200mm
• Telephoto of at least 300mm, preferably longer like a 400 to 500mm length
• Sturdy Tripod
• Remote control for your camera for landscapes and aurora
• Two camera bodies, sufficient memory cards, chargers and batteries for each body

‘Quicklist’ of Things to Bring:

• Day pack (for camera equipment, lunches etc.)
• Personal items (towels, soap, shampoo, etc.) and sunglasses and sunscreen
• Pocketknife
• Warm jacket
• Insulated coveralls
• rubber boots (NEO Overshoes are suggested)
• hiking boots
• Water bottle
• Warm clothing that you can layer
• Quality rain gear
• Flashlight
• Hat and gloves

A more detailed list, and suggestions on how to travel with this gear will be supplied prior to the trip. 

A male caribou stands on the tundra in morning light. 

A male caribou stands on the tundra in morning light. 

A Wolverine runs over the Tundra

A Wolverine runs over the Tundra

Itinerary of Photo Workshop

Day 1 - You arrive in Yellowknife and will be taken to our Yellowknife Hotel. We will gather at night in the hotel lobby and go and grab a group dinner. During dinner we can discuss the awesome adventure you are about to embark on and better prepare you for the week ahead

Day 2 - Flying from Yellowknife with our private plane, we land at or home for the week. The lodge sits on a peninsula overlooking the lake. This eighty-four kilometre long lake has natural narrow points where the caribou cross. Using our own fleet of aluminum boats we conduct day trips from the lodge along the lake to look for opportunities to observe and photograph the caribou swimming in the water as they cross the lake or walk along the shore. Migratory birds also pass by the lake in autumn. Ducks, loons, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, thousands of snow geese and Canada geese, arctic terns and eagles can be seen and heard as they begin their migrations south.

The wolves and wolverines also know about the crossing points and wait for the caribou. A keen observer can spot these wary animals but their fresh tracks can often be seen on beaches or in the tree lines waiting for the caribou.

The caribou walk along the eskers following the trails they have been using since the last ice age. You too can walk these trails that are worn into the ground - unique paths that stretch for nearly 500 kilometres and can be seen from the air. The lodge's surroundings are home to a unique history as the lakes and rivers were once inhabited by the Ahiarmiut - Farley Mowat’s “People of the Deer” - for nearly one thousand years. Numerous unspoiled historical sites dot the tundra. Some of which we will visit and photograph by boat and explored by foot.

In the early afternoon, at the airport in Yellowknife, guests meet the private charter plane that will fly them the 500 miles to our Lodge. Your wallet is no longer of any use, your worries from the south are behind you, this is the start of your once in a lifetime Arctic Adventure. The plane that we take today is a modern and comfortable aircraft; you will pass from trees, across the tree line and over the Barren Lands; it’s time to sit back and relax, get your cameras ready and prepare to be amazed.

Flying to to our lodge, you’ll see the Barrens from the air; the endless lakes and caribou paths forged into tundra, the sparse trees dotting the tree line amidst a fall backdrop of crimson reds, bright oranges and dark greens. The plane lands on the private strip beside the Lodge. Nestled on the tree line, this lodge is situated on the shores of one of the largest expanses of water on the Barrens, the eighty-four kilometre long Ennadai Lake. Guests are welcomed into the lodge, a short introduction is given and guests are given the opportunity to settle into their rooms.

After dinner, guests are welcomed to walk the surrounding tundra, where numerous caribou trails can be explored in solitude. For those looking to relax and unwind, we are proud to offer a wood-fired sauna on the shore of our lake for your comfort and enjoyment. For the keen fisherman, or avid learner, great trout fishing can be enjoyed just a short walk from the lodge.

Each night is a chance to witness the northern lights. Virtually every clear night there is a light show in the sky.

Aurora over the lake 

Aurora over the lake 

The Nunavut Tundra

The Nunavut Tundra

Day 3 - Breakfast, typically includes fresh espresso coffee, home-baked pastries, muffins, cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, yogurt, muesli, French toast or pancakes with Quebec maple syrup, eggs, organic double-smoked bacon and sausages.

Guests are given an introduction prior to heading out onto the waters of Ennadai Lake by boat. We will use some of the three twenty- five foot enclosed custom boats as well as a fleet of smaller boats. These boats are used on a daily basis as our mode of transportation to find and view caribou, to explore the far reaches of the lake and to arrive to locations where great hiking and panoramic views of the Barren Lands can be enjoyed.

Today’s excursion explores the northern reaches of Ennadai Lake. It is here above the tree line that caribou can be found on islands and shorelines. This trip features great views, photographic opportunities and even the unique experience of tracking and viewing caribou from the land.

Majestic bulls can be seen on the shores, grazing and slowly making their way south. Females and calves can be seen cautiously moving across the tundra. A lunch spread of soup, gourmet meats and cheeses, hummus and vegetables, and fresh-baked bread and sweets is served by your guides on the unique and picturesque beach on Paradise Island.

The afternoon is spent cruising amongst the islands to spot caribou with short walks on land to view them closer. The full day of adventure stirs up an appetite. Our chef greets guests from a day of adventure on the Barren Lands tundra with a Canadian gourmet meal. Flavours include AAA Alberta prime rib glazed with a Dijon, garlic and rosemary rub; radicchio, prosciutto and reduced maple-balsamic appetizers rolls, fresh arugula and blueberry salads with desserts such as maple creme brûlée.

In the evening, Marc and Kevin will pull out the laptops and help you with your images as we hopefully wait for the skies to clear and the skies to come alive with the aurora.

For those wishing to perfect their aurora borealis photography skills in a more remote location than the lodge, the staff at the lodge provide an evening excursion beneath the northern lights to focus on capturing the green, red and purple shimmer as they dance along the evening skies.

As always, the sauna awaits you at the end of a long day on the lake and on the land. Our staff are happy to fire it up for you at any time. A cooling dip in the lake under the aurora borealis is an experience not to be missed!

Day 4 - We begin today’s adventure with a short, 20-minute boat ride to arrive at the shoreline where our hike to the Blind Hill esker begins. This 9-kilometre hike takes you from the soft and wet blueberry flats to a dry and well-worn caribou trail on the spine of an esker, to an open tundra ridge overlooking the lakes and land below. The eskers are remnants of the great glaciers that covered this land in the last ice age.

They are unique sandy ridges and hills that were deposited by the rivers flowing beneath retreating and melting glaciers. The ease of travel on eskers make them an ideal migration route for caribou. With your guides interpreting the flora along the way, the hike makes its way to a sheltered forest gully where another gourmet lunch spread is prepared for you. The hike continues over rolling terrain to a high point where an Inuit stone hunting blind still sits on the ridge above the tundra below.

An observer on top of the esker can look northward and see treeless Barrens or look south and see the dark green of the boreal forest. This is the tree line. As we make our way across the high ridge, lakes and rivers and tundra can be seen below, amongst the blanket of vibrant autumn colours. various types of berries carpet the ground; blue berries, lingo berries, crow berries and more.

We re-enter the black spruce forest and esker paths before ending our hike on the blueberry flats near the lake. Here you are more than welcome to harvest blueberries which our chef will be happy to incorporate into our meals and baking. An alternative option to hiking today is a fishing trip at Richard’s shoal and Grayling Rapids. At the shoal, trout like are abundant and Grayling Rapids offers an opportunity to fly fish for grayling.

Both experienced and new fisherman are provided with equipment and accompanied by expert guides. The shallow waters of the rapids spilling into the lake and the narrow crossing point of land make for the perfect location for a convergence of wildlife. The caribou trails dig deep into the tundra and caribou frequent this crossing point.

Any guests who wish to try their hand at fishing for Arctic Grayling, either on a fly or spinning, have the opportunity to do so. No prior experience is required, some love the way a winged Arctic Grayling will treat a well-presented fly. Others are fascinated by its rarity and appearance. Either way, this fish provides ample action for a great light tackle experience.

The full day excursion is complemented by a gourmet meal that awaits guests upon arrival. Arctic Haven’s chef focuses on local flares to the evening dishes, including fresh arctic lake trout gravlax. The Arctic Haven wine list offers some of Canada’s best wines, paired to match the local dishes. This evening, a presentation on the Ahiarmiut of Ennadai Lake will shine light on the history and culture of the Inuit people who once called the lake home, hunting from kayak, living off the land and subsisting almost entirely on caribou.

Several thousand Inuit once lived along the shores of Ennadai Lake and the surrounding area. This population was reduced to forty-five people by the mid-1950’s; a result of starvation and disease, when the Ahiarmiut were tragically relocated from their homeland to coastal communities.

Wolverine on Caribou carcass

Wolverine on Caribou carcass

Aurora in the tundra

Aurora in the tundra

Day 5 - Another hearty breakfast begins the day. Today we board our boats and head to the North Arm exploring the far reaches of our lake where caribou are most frequently seen. As we enter the North Arm we begin to cruise the shorelines, looking for caribou either on land or swimming between the islands. Our lodge has a remote camp in this part of the lake and staying a night is an option, as it will give you the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy the remoteness of the Barren Lands. Here we dine on another great picnic spread and guests are free to explore the island, perhaps even catching a glimpse of caribou on nearby islands.

Our day includes a short hike up to Big Bear, the highest point on the lake. The terrain is quite different from the rest of the lake; here the bedrock is exposed and round rocks have been placed on top by glaciers. From the summit, a truly awe-inspiring panoramic view is enjoyed and guests are given time to explore, relax and take in the scenery in solitude.

We embark the boats yet again in search of more caribou, which if given the opportunity, we will try to stealthily approach from land to get a better view.

This evening, after another spectacular meal, photographer Nansen Weber, offers an informal lecture on his photographic experiences on the Barren Lands. The principal photographer at Arctic Haven and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, Nansen has spent the past 10 years photographing some of the most important and dramatic wildlife events in the arctic. He highlights his presentation with local photography - both of wolves and caribou.

DAY 6 - Today’s breakfast can begin with an espresso, tea or juice, Arctic blueberry and lingonberry waffles topped with fresh cream, French Canadian maple syrup, fresh fruit and organic Alberta breakfast sausages.

Today we can offer a range of activities, using our cabin outpost as a central hub. We board the boats for a 40 minute boat ride to Cabin Island, where guests can disembark and explore before choosing their activity for the morning. Optional activities for those that choose include; kayaking amongst the islands, and visits to archaeological sites in the surrounding area.

Kayaking is led by our certified sea kayak guides who teach you proper technique and bring you to sheltered bays and inlets amongst the islands where the opportunity to see caribou is high. Also available, and one we strongly suggest is the unique photo opportunity to visit historical sites where Ahiarmiut have camped for hundreds of years. Here we see stone caches and cairns, tent rings, tent poles, stone tools, and more recent tools like pots, plates and even a harmonica. It is an honour to be able to explore these untouched traditional camping and hunting grounds.

Back at Cabin Island after another morning of photography, a bonfire on the beach is ablaze throughout the day and a fish fry lunch will supplement our usual gourmet spread! The cabin itself offers a cozy abode for those desiring a relaxing morning or afternoon. The cabin offers a wood stove, cozy sleeping platform, comfortable chairs and amenities such as coffee, tea, gas stove for heating water and cooking, outdoor fire pit and Muskoka chairs.

But dont relax too much, there is more to see as we are in prime wildlife country and we will be heading back out to follow some of the migratory Caribou on the colorful tundra.

Weather permitting, this is the perfect opportunity to see the aurora borealis in a private and secluded location and could be the highlight of your trip. The pace today is relaxed and all about taking photos of the surroundings and everything the islands have to offer. There is something for everyone!

After returning to the lodge and enjoying another healthy and hearty meal, we invite you to attend a short informal presentation on the Mythology and Folklore of the Aurora Borealis. This talk is a labour of love and inspired by stories from around the world about the northern lights and their relation to the living on land. If its a clear night, your evening could come to a close gazing out above the lake at the majestic aurora with memories of the folklore presentation in your minds, and northern lights on your memory cards.

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DAY 7 - Today’s adventure necessitates a gourmet breakfast to start. Heading south into the tree line, today’s excursion starts with a short boat ride up the Kazan River - one of the largest rivers on the Barrens. Here, the tundra begins to turn into forest – birch, black spruce and tamarack trees adorned in full autumn colour lay claim to the territory, with caribou trails weaving amongst the sparse yet impressive arctic forest.

Moose have been seen in this forested and marshy area as well. This location is also excellent for tundra swans; the majestic Arctic swans nest on the edge of the river bank, in small grassy openings. This area was burnt by natural forest fire some years ago. Now the new growth is clearly visible all around. For the more adventurous, there is a spectacular 7 km walk along the eskers, following caribou, moose and wolf tracks that takes us back to Birch Bay on Ennadai Lake.

The walk normally takes about four hours. For those who want to walk less, a short walk amongst the forested eskers bring us to the final paths of the Qamanirjuaq caribou - only a few miles south from here they overwinter. Have your camera ready! Wolves have been seen here in the past and a den is strategically placed near one of the eskers.

After lunch, the caribou and wolf watch continues as we travel the river and visit locations frequently used by the caribou herd at this time of year.

After dinner guests are welcome to join our guides for catch-and-release arctic lake trout fishing. The shallow beach on the shoreline in front of the lodge is excellent for lake trout at sunset. That evening, for the foodies at heart, Josée Auclair, co-owner of the lodge, provides an informal cuisine class. At Arctic Haven, everything is prepared fresh and homemade from bread to ice cream. All the meat is organic. On the tundra are edible wild foods. There is also a seminar of cleaning and filleting fish.

As always, we are happy to fire up the sauna for those interested in relaxing by the lake. Today is the last opportunity to take in the northern lights! Cozy up in a blanket on the front deck Muskoka chairs and enjoy a glass of fine Canadian wine with your cameras ready as the lights begin their show.

Day 8 - This is your last day in the Barren Lands and you will be familiar with the area of Ennadai Lake and Lodge. Today we offer a short hike following the caribou trails on the esker near the lodge. Wolf and caribou tracks can be followed in the sandy paths and beautiful shimmering ponds are seen through the black spruce forest.

We return to the lodge for a hearty lunch and guests are free to relax for the afternoon before the plane arrives. One final unique Arctic experience; homemade tea and bannock - a staple food of the Arctic. The tea is infused with fresh, fragrant and local Labrador Tea and the bannock is freshly baked and served with blueberry jam, honey and butter.

In the late afternoon, the plane will arrive to take us back to Yellowknife where you can board your plane to go home, memory cards full of spectacular images and personal memories that will last a lifetime. 

Are you ready to experience one of the most unique experiences in your life? Click on the Contact Me button and I can answer your questions.

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