Experience the chill of the Arctic in an incredible one-day excursion that highlights aerial views of the far frozen north, insight into modern arctic coastal village life and mesmerizing views of wild polar bears waiting for the ice pack to come in.
This exclusive trip is offered during a very brief window at the end of summer, and can accommodate a maximum of just 114 guests for the entire season.
Northern Alaska Tour Company (NATC) has designed a Polar Bear Expedition that combines the best of arctic tourism. It’s one that has most guests saying, “This is unbelievable” from start to finish.
The day begins with a 7 a.m. check-in and orientation in Fairbanks. Your 9-passenger twin engine Piper Chieftain lifts off around 8, taking you to some of the most remote places in Alaska: through the Brooks Range, into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and then to Deadhorse, on the Beaufort Sea. After a gas-up, you’ll head for Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of about 200 located on Barter Island.
From the air, you’ll see a world that few experience: craggy ice-covered peaks, steep valleys full of snow. You may see caribou herds, and will likely be able to spot polar bears from on high as you land in Kaktovik.
This area has around 20 to 60 Ursus maritimus (“sea bears”) that arrive each year to take advantage of “left-overs” from Alaska Native subsistence whale harvest until their regular hunting platform – the pack ice – is fully ready.
After a buffet lunch at the Marsh Creek Inn, guests will find their way to the harbor, where rustic planks lead down to open-air boats that hold a maximum of six passengers each. U.S. Coast Guard certified captains will motor groups out to the barrier islands, where polar bears like to hang out during the day.
Boats will stay out for viewing between one and four hours, so be sure to dress for the weather (the Arctic is cold even in summer!) and have plenty of room on your camera for these rare views of polar bears in the wild.
Sometimes you can get a view of bears that have come into town, too, especially at the “bone pile,” where the bears find old whale bones to chew.
Warm up on the flight back to Fairbanks, where you’ll arrive around 8 p.m. with your photos – and an Arctic Circle certificate – to show for your adventures. You won’t need those to help you remember your day, though. The experience is quite unforgettable in and of itself.