Course trains guides for park tours
“To just go for a walk isn’t something a lot of local people do”
A backpacking guide course offered by Nunavut Tourism and the Kakivak Association is a first step in helping tourism benefit local communities, the tourism development coordinator for the Baffin region says.
“Nunavut Tourism is trying to develop more products that can be sold to tourists,” Greg Logan explained. “And we need people with the proper skills to deliver them.”
In the summer of 2001, four men recommended by outfitters in Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq embarked on an eight-day backpack guide course with Iqaluit guide Paul Landry.
Logan said it’s relatively easy to find guides who will take people out on snow machines and dog sledding trips, but for the many backpackers who visit Auyuittuq National Park near Pangnirtung each year, the options for guides are slim.
“To just go for a walk isn’t something a lot of local people do,” Logan explained.
Landry, who along with his partner runs Northwinds Arctic Adventures, said there is a lot of potential in the tourism adventure travel industry and it’s great to see young local people show interest in it.
“For me it’s been a great career and I think it can be for other people too,” he said.
The main objective of the course was safety, Landry said, and to show that guides are responsible for ensuring their clients have a safe experience.
“The key focus here in the Arctic is polar bears, river crossings and the Arctic weather,” he said. “Another main area is leadership, making sure people offer professional leadership and look after not just the safety skills of their group, but also the well-being of the clients.”
The course was taught in the park, so the weather dictated when and what he could teach.
“If I wake up and it’s a clear day and there are no bugs, I’ll have breakfast and we’ll sit down for a while and we’ll talk or hike for a couple of hours and get to a river crossing that may be a bit challenging,” he said. The experience becomes a teaching/learning experience.
Landry and the four guides, Jamesie Alivaktuk, Juta Qaqqasiq, Mosesee Duval and Jimmy Akulukjuk, went back into the park this summer for three days to develop a marketable trip package.
Part of the objective was for them to create a brochure they could use to market what Landry calls The Arctic Circle Loop — a three-day trip that takes people to the Arctic Circle and back. Landry also wrote a guide manual that includes route descriptions, where to cross rivers, where to camp, distances and time, suggested menus, equipment and clothing.
The trip brochure will go to Kakivak this week, Landry said, so it can be marketed this winter.
“The hope is that companies like Polynya here in Iqaluit will pick that up and promote it and then turn around and hire these local guides to lead the trip,” Landry said.
Auyuittuq Park was chosen for the course, Logan explained, because it’s the most developed park in the region and attracts the most visitors. He would like to see a similar course for more northern parks, such as those on Ellesmere Island.
“This really is a first step,” Logan said. “Ultimately parks may be able to tell outside groups that they must have local guides. But you can’t do that unless there are a number of trained guides.”