(Lyn Hughes and Simon Chubb)
Article Words : Mark Carwardine | 01 November

Bunking down with the bears in Nunavut, Canada

Northern Canada's wilderness is one of the best places to see bears frolicking in their own pristine, snow-drizzled habitat

I’ve just spent a week with a man who has to drive 230km by snowmobile – a 12-14-hour round-trip – every time he needs a pint of milk.

Peter Kapalok lives in a tiny settlement called Umingmaktok (population 12) in Nunavut, northern Canada. The nearest town is Cambridge Bay, some 320km north of the Arctic Circle. Peter is a subsistence hunter, shooting and trapping everything from caribou to seals, but he makes the long and sometimes treacherous journey to town for other supplies.

Grizzly goings on

For a few weeks each summer Peter also runs Elu Lodge, a delightful collection of wooden cabins 190km from his home. The lodge offers the ultimate comfy adventure – warm cabins, excellent home cooking – in a truly wild, remote corner of the world.

The first night gave me a hint of my week to come. I’d just fallen asleep to the sound of howling wind and a trillion mosquitoes persistently battering the window above my head when an earnest knocking on the cabin door woke me. It was Peter shouting “Bear! Bear!” in a loud stage whisper. I leapt out of bed just in time to see the hindquarters of a barren ground grizzly disappearing over the hill. We stayed up for a while, in the 24-hour daylight, and later saw a mother grizzly with her two playful cubs in the river behind the lodge.

Ironically, despite days spent hiking and exploring the ice-edge and islands by boat, there was as much wildlife around the lodge itself as anywhere else. As well as frequent visits by grizzlies, there were muskox (shaggy cow-like animals with long, curved horns – and the main reason for my visit), Arctic ground squirrels, Arctic hares and ringed seals.

Elu isn’t the easiest place to get to (take scheduled flights from London to Edmonton to Yellowknife to Hay River to Cambridge Bay and then a wonderful 1949 Beaver float plane across the North-West Passage virtually to the front door of the lodge). But once you’re there the good news is that Peter provides the milk, and everything else.

Mark travelled to Elu Lodge with Frontiers North Adventures