At this time of year hundreds of Beluga whales gather off Somerset Island to feast on cod, squid, herring and halibut along the way. Hundreds of tourists visit Antarctica each year to see penguins, why not start Beluga tourism ?
During the winter months, the ocean surface freezes and most of the northern belugas move south, keeping ahead of the ice cap. The animals can live for 25 to 30 years and grow to be 18 feet in length. Belugas are found in arctic and subarctic waters along the northern coasts of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. It is roughly estimated that between 72,000 and 144,000 belugas live in Canadian waters. These animals are distributed in the western Arctic (Beaufort Sea), high Arctic (Lancaster Sound, Baffin Bay), eastern Arctic (Cumberland Sound and southeast Baffin, Hudson Bay, James Bay and Ungava Bay) and in the St. Lawrence Estuary.
Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, located on the northernmost point of Somerset Island, overlooks the meandering Cunningham River, which runs across the island, the site is a former whaling station that was transformed into a lodge by renowned North Pole trekker Richard Weber in 2000. Weber, his wife, Josée Auclair, and sons Tessum and Nansen have a contagious passion for the North. They have turned Cunningham Inlet into an arctic traveller’s dream destination by offering comfortable lodging, well researched, safely guided trips and amazing scenery, rich historical sites and herds of nursing, moulting belugas.
Located above the 74th parallel north directly on the Northwest Passage (i.e. close to 800 km north of the Arctic Circle), Somerset island is Canada’s 12th largest island. Every summer hundreds if not thousands of belugas congregate in the Cunningham Inlet estuary at the mouth of the Cunningham River. Here they find shallow and warmer waters. They come to rub against the rocky bottom to molt their skin.
Undoubtedly, Belugas are an untapped tourist draw. The north is filled with wondrous things to see and do that are unique in the world.