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Why Arctic Safaris are the new African Safari

December 11, 2018

When most people think of safaris, the Serengeti or a pride of lions roaming the savannah may pop into their heads. Many don’t know that an Arctic safari can be even more thrilling for wildlife enthusiasts, adventurers and travelers seeking unique experiences.    

While much of an Arctic safari is modeled on African safaris, from the tented safari camp to wildlife photography opportunities, Arctic safaris offer incredible experiences you can’t get anywhere else. 

Arctic photographer


The African Big Five vs Arctic Wildlife — What You Can Expect To See

The Big Five is a term that refers to the most sought-after animals to be seen in Africa. These animals are elusive to find, and spotting one is what makes a safari so exciting. Travelers revel in the chance to snap a photo of an animal that most people will never see in person. 

In Africa, this coveted title refers to lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalos and rhinos. These are the royalty of African safaris and the top species travelers want to see. People from around the world travel to Africa hoping to hear the trumpets of elephants as they stomp by or see a lion pride lounging in the grass. 

Meanwhile, the Big Five of the Arctic refers to the incredible and elusive wildlife exclusive to the region. The most sought-after animals of the Arctic are polar bears, Arctic foxes, narwhal, belugas and bowhead whales.  

Arctic wildlife

While African animals can be hard to spot because of tall grass, the sheer vastness of the Arctic makes it even more challenging to spot the wildlife that roam the icy landscapes.




Imagine the thrill of noticing the tusk of a narwhal as it emerges from seemingly nowhere! This ‘unicorn of the sea’ is so elusive it has a mythical status. Did you know the narwhal’s tusk is actually a tooth

In the summer, the Canadian Arctic is home to around 90 per cent of the world’s narwhal population, after which they spend their winters in Baffin Bay-Davis Strait between Canada and Greenland under almost complete sea-ice cover. 




Elephants are commonly perceived as gentle giants due to their kind nature. Although we adore their droopy ears and playful behavior, have you ever noticed the joyful grin on a playful beluga whale? These curious creatures are highly social and are often found playing together in their pods, even joining pods of migrating narwhals.  

Beluga whales produce a series of clicks, whistles and chirps, which give the magnificent creatures their other name, the ‘canary of the sea.’ It may sound like just noise to human ears, but important information is being conveyed to fellow belugas. 


Arctic Fox  

Arctic fox

When people think of leopards, most are drawn to their remarkably patterned fur coat — it’s not just striking, it’s iconic. Its Arctic counterpart, the Arctic Fox, has a beautiful coat of white fur so thick the animal won’t even begin shivering until temperatures hit -70°C (-94°F). 

During the long winter months, when food becomes scarce, Arctic foxes are known to follow polar bears on their hunting trips to scavenge any remaining scraps left behind. These majestic creatures will eat almost anything — from rodents and birds to insects and fruit. 


Polar Bear 

Polar bears

Like the lion in Africa, the polar bear is the top carnivore of the Arctic. They’re the largest land carnivore in the world and can grow as big as 544 kg (1,200 lbs). 

The Canadian Arctic is home to more than 60% of the world’s polar bear population and offers opportunities to see these Arctic icons nearly year-round. 

Few things are more incredible than seeing an enormous male bear hunting along the floe edge or polar bear cubs keeping up with their mother. 


Bowhead Whales

Bowhead whales

It’s hard to think of African safaris without the image of grazing African buffalo roaming the grasslands. In the Arctic, you can see bowhead whales migrating to seasonal waters as they follow the food. 

In spring, bowhead whales start their migration toward summer feeding grounds. This migration is quite a spectacle because, like a herd of buffalo, bowheads are highly social and are known for their group interactions. With our Baffin Island Dive Safari, you can get the opportunity to see these creatures up close. 

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Discovering Untouched Landscape and Indigenous Communities 

Arctic landscape

Many adventurers often seek safari locations untouched by humans. More remote than many places in Africa, the Arctic is one of the last real wildernesses on Earth. 

This vast region of the northernmost parts of the world is filled with diverse beauty, from its majestic glaciers and towering snow-capped mountains to its still and serene tundra plains. 

As well as being home to some incredible wildlife, the Arctic has some of the oldest cultures still in existence today. With its untouched land and remote location, discovering the Arctic can be an incredibly rewarding experience for those who are up for an adventure.

With so much to offer, the Arctic landscapes continually surprise and delight travelers. From dramatic mountain ranges, deep fjords and soaring icebergs, the views alone are worth the journey.  

As the Arctic undergoes one of the greatest seasonal shifts in the world, it offers dramatic changes in its landscape from season to season. Visitors in the fall will find a drastically different Arctic than those in the spring. Few travelers expect the burst of life that emerges as the Arctic warms up under the Midnight Sun, and the vibrancy of an Arctic summer.  

This stunning landscape is also home to over 40 ethnic groups, with indigenous peoples inhabiting the area for thousands of years. The most prominent group in the Canadian Arctic is the Inuvialuit, who manages the region’s resources and engages in traditional activities like drum dancing and sewing.

Arctic Kingdom has developed a long and fruitful partnership with the Inuit communities of the area, working closely with local elders and community groups to ensure their wishes and policies are followed and that we support the areas we visit.


The Best Locations to Embark on An Arctic Safari

Safari guests travel far and wide in hopes of seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. With such an elusive range of species, this isn’t always easy! The trick to a successful Arctic safari is understanding the animals’ behaviors. 

Arctic photographers

With the Arctic undergoing immense changes throughout the seasons, following the migration patterns of wildlife is key to getting chances to see certain animals. Arctic Safaris take you to the right place at the ideal time of year to see the Arctic Big Five.

For example, in May and June, the floe edge becomes a dynamic ecosystem at the northern reaches of Baffin Island. As the Midnight Sun starts to break the ice, algae grows, bringing in zooplankton and other organisms, attracting migrating whales, seals and polar bears looking to hunt. 

This period also offers some of the best and only opportunities to see the mythical narwhal and the beluga. Different times of year provide other opportunities for viewing polar bears, Arctic foxes, bowhead whales and more. 

You can check out the Arctic fox hunting its prey in Iqaluit or experience the 24-hour transition from Arctic winter to spring in the Arctic Bay. The Arctic Circle offers many areas to see incredible views and a vast range of Arctic wildlife, including the Big Five.   



More Than the Animals — Activities on Arctic Safaris

There’s more to a safari than seeing wildlife. Sometimes a guest’s favorite part of their trip is completely unexpected. Activities, natural phenomena or cultural experiences can often become the highlights.  

Arctic kayaking

In the Arctic, we ride in qamutik sleds, a traditional Inuit sled pulled by a snowmobile, which is an incredible way to take in breathtaking landscapes on a unique adventure. 

On Arctic safaris that include a fly-in experience, the thrill of viewing the vast and spectacular Arctic landscapes by air is truly unforgettable.  

Activities like kayaking with narwhal, snorkeling at the floe edge and learning from local guides about traditional Inuit practices also become cherished memories. In addition, natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and Midnight Sun are experiences you can’t match anywhere else.

Arctic safari


Embrace The Chill & Experience An Arctic Safari For Yourself

Does this all sound like your thing? Arctic Kingdom offers the chance to see the elusive wildlife and majestic landscapes with our luxury Arctic safaris. 

Ready for your next adventure? Take a look at our Arctic Safaris and take the first step towards the trip of a lifetime.

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