Rising majestically from the water in the heart of Canada's Ungava Bay, with icebergs scattered in the distance, Akpatok Island is home to countless thick-billed murres (Brünnich's Guillemot). This is one of the largest colonies in the world, but we were here in the hope of seeing something a little bit bigger - the mighty polar bear.
Landing on the island in an Air Inuit chartered twin-otter aircraft, we made our way to the waiting catamaran for a cruise along the base of this fortress-like island. Blessed with clear skies and endless sunshine, we were accompanied by the murres flying overhead and landing in the water beside us. The sheer cliffs of Akpatok are littered with their nests clinging precariously to the rockface. However, whilst the birds were out in full force, it seemed that the unexpectedly warm sunshine had sent the polar bears in search of shade and it wasn't until the boat had turned around to make our way back that we were finally rewarded with our first sighting.
Standing on top of an 800ft high cliff, this huge creature gazed imperiously down at us. With the naked eye he was really just a speck, but through the binoculars it was clear this was a mighty powerful animal - and as he started searching for a way down the cliff we almost started to get a little nervous! Happy with our findings we left the bear behind and continued back to our waiting plane. The best was yet to come… As we swooped and soared over the top of Akpatok we were lucky enough to see a further 5 polar bears, including a mother with cub. My camera couldn't do it justice but I will never forget the excitement of seeing these powerful predators roaming below us - no binoculars required this time!
Akpatok Island was just one of many highlights of my recent visit to Nunavik, northern Québec - a place of epic landscapes, abundant wildlife and warm and welcoming Inuits who made our trip truly memorable. One of the easiest ways to explore Canada's vast Arctic is on an expedition cruise - you can visit Akpatok Island and other highlights of the region on our Baffin Island Explorer and Arctic Quest voyages, departing July-September 2014. Please take a look at our website or contact our team of Polar Specialists for more details.