Box 1320, Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (QC), J0M 1C0, Canada
Phone: +608-370-5071 / Email
: tundra@thelon.com


-presents-

Customer comments from past expeditions: 2008-2006

The best possible explanation about the land, the animals, the camps and level of service that Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures provides is best described by our valued customers who have undergone their own journeys to the Arctic with us. The following testimonials are for real. If you are seriously considering joining us on our trips, please feel free to contact us, and we will be pleased to put you directly in touch with those who have attended our trips over the past few seasons - and then let THEM tell you about the wonderful experiences that Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures has to offer you...



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2008-2006 Kudos

"My wife and I spent almost 2 weeks in the NWT on holiday this summer, of which the highlight was a week of guided kayaking on White Fish Lake in a trip organised by Great Canadian Wilderness. We had a wonderful time, looking at the photographs again last weekend reminded us how special and beautiful a place it is. The trip Tom set up was well organised. He and the other guides and staff at Whitefish Lake were immensely, experienced, knowledgeable and helpful and very committed to the appropriate management of this wonderful wilderness. They were also obviously very committed to safely operating in the challenging conditions of the NWT, both in terms of the flying operation (and its support) and the guiding of the kayak trip. We felt safe and well supported throughout our trip. I doubt that I would have made the long trip to the NWT territories without the lure of the Great Canadian Wilderness trip to see the true wilderness in all its glory. I am really glad we did, and I hope that this company continues to operate for many years to come bringing similar pleasure and enlightenment to others."

Professor Tim Jickells
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia Norwich, UK

 

 

"The first rock to cover the earth was formed from liquids that cooled to form hard granite, materials which in most regions of the continents were subsequently buried deep under more recent layers created through volcanic activity and erosion. The Canadian Shield is an exception. In a million square mile region of the arctic, repeated glaciations cut off ancient mountains leaving thousands of lakes surrounded by granite polished and scratched by the gargantuan movements of ice. Across this table of bare rock are eskers -- the bottoms of rivers that ran through glaciers remaining as narrow hills of sand and rocks stretching into the horizon after the glacier melted. The deep sands of the eskers are home to spruce trees, berries and hundreds of ponds created by buried blocks of ice that melted later. In contrast, the neighboring expanses of rock are partly carpeted by gardens of likens, moss and low shrubs. Walking is easy on the rocks through the gardens and along sandy paths on the eskers etched by millions of caribou footprints.

Known as the Barren Lands, the landscape was inhabited for thousands of years by caribou hunters of several tribes. The caribou provided food, clothing, tools and homes. European explorers and then fur trappers penetrated this arctic wilderness in the 1700s. Foreign diseases such as smallpox decimated native communities. Eventually, the survivors left their traditional ways in the Barren Lands and gathered in villages. The Barren Lands were left to the caribou, muskoxen, grizzlies, wolves and a plethora of birds and fish. Other humans on the Barren Lands these days are engaged in the exploration for and extraction of diamonds and uranium. In summer limited eco-tourism is available for canoeists, fishermen and other lovers of the wilderness.

In 2004, I led an expedition of ICF members to the heart of the Barren Lands through collaboration with a Yellowknife-based company, Great Canadian Wilderness. This August, after visiting the breeding grounds of Whooping Cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), I returned to the Barren Lands with 12 terrific people. Daily from the base camp beside Whitefish Lake -- one of the sources of the Thelon River that runs east to Hudson's Bay -- we ventured into the wilderness to explore and to drink in its vastness, silence and clear light. Once during the brief arctic night we were treated to a mesmerizing display of the Northern Lights and on the final day we encountered a herd of 55 magnificent muskoxen.

The Barren Lands have a unique beauty and for me a special attraction. There are few places one can visit in the today's world where the presence of modern man is not felt. On the Barren Lands one feels very much like a visitor peeking into a world where nature rules.

I wish to express a special thank you to Tom Faess, the owner and director of Great Canadian Wilderness, and to his staff at what I call Tranquility Base, Earth."

George Archibald/Co-Founder
International Crane Foundation
Baraboo, WI, USA (2004, 2005 & 2006)

 

 

"Well, I didn't know how it could be better than the prior year, but it certainly was. The wildlife never stopped coming, from the first musk ox we encountered on the "get acquainted" tour, to the last caribou that were roaming through camp as we readied ourselves for the trip back to Yellowknife. When you told us that we would become blasé about the caribou coming through camp by the end of the trip, I thought you were just hyping the situation. To my surprise, you were absolutely correct. Our daily visits in the camp by caribou bulls became a part of being there. The daily stalks in the surrounding country, led by the very competent Andrew and Alicia, were exciting throughout. With the cool overcast days giving the wildlife more incentive to be active, we were able to find our prey wherever we ventured. Absolutely no hike was un-rewarded -- we were never shut out. Andrew's calm and smooth "dancing" seemed to mesmerize the caribou, and several ventured to within a few yards of our groups. We were able to see the truly wonderful inquisitiveness of these gorgeous animals. One can only wonder what they must be thinking of all these weird people with cameras venturing into their domain. When the opportunity presented itself, Andrew turned his magic towards the musk ox with the same fantastic results. His caribou dance brought a young bull quite close to investigate what was happening. The complete lack of fear that you find in many of the tundra's animals gives me hope that man and beast can actually find a way to live together, without us doing harm to them. The fall colors were abundant before we left and provided us with excellent photo opportunities, too. Some of our group caught lunch and dinner for a couple of days for everyone, fishing in the pristine waters of Whitefish Lake. If there is a better total package for photographers to visit the wilderness, I have no idea where it could be. This is the epitome of untouched lands, and, without a doubt, I have become addicted!"

Lonnie Brock / The Nature Workshops
Scottsdale, AZ
(2001, 2002, 2004 & 2006)

 


ERICH ALMASY and CYNTHIA J. BLANTON
Oakville , Ontario, Canada

 

The Honourable Brendan Bell
Minister of Industry, Tourism & Investment
Industry, Tourism and Investment
Government of the Northwest Territories
PO Box 1320
Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2L9

 

Dear Sir:

We are writing to you concerning Tom Faess and Great Canadian Wilderness Holdings to tell you of the excellent work he does to preserve the Whitefish Lake/Thelon area, to raise awareness about this extraordinary part of the world, and to promote low-impact tourism.

We met Tom several years ago while attending a convention of The North American Nature Photographers Association. Like most of those in attendance, we had never heard of The Barrenlands and the Thelon, but we were so inspired by Tom's presentation that we decided we would go there someday. We spent a delightful two weeks at Whitefish Lake during August and September of this year, and we were more than satisfied with our experience. We fell in love with the area and would definitely return and stay at Tom's camp again.

Our main concern about going to the tundra was the need to fly on little floatplanes. We have always been wary of small flying operations, and we were concerned about how good the pilots would be, whether the planes would be well maintained, and if safety precautions would be observed. We were much relieved to learn of Tom's extensive experience flying floatplanes in the area, and we were especially happy to learn that he had a full-time, experienced aircraft engineer/mechanic on site taking care of the plane. There was also a second pilot who has 14 years of experience flying in the bush. We flew with both Tom and the second pilot and were very impressed with their attention to safety. They were very careful about how much weight the passengers were putting on the plane, and Tom absolutely refused to fly us one day because he thought the weather was "iffy". Even though the guests pressured him to take us out to another location, he made us wait until he was sure we would be safe.

One of the reasons we enjoyed our stay so much was the quality of the guides Tom provided. During our first week, a young man named Sebastian was our primary guide. He was quite knowledgeable about the tundra and its history and did a great job leading us to new locations each day. Under his guidance, we successfully crept up near a herd of musk oxen and got close enough to take wonderful pictures without disturbing the animals. When we were finished shooting, we moved away and the animals continued grazing. During our second week, Tom was our primary guide and he really made the history of the Thelon area come alive. We sat on the esker listening to him talk about the "caribou eaters" and the early explorers of the area. You could see his love for the place reflected on his face. Another guide, Steve Lybeck, also has a lot of experience in the Thelon area, but we were most impressed by the special help he gave to one of the older guests who simply was not in shape to be hiking. Steve stayed with him and helped him along, trying to make sure he had a good experience while Tom made sure the rest of the group was not held back by the slower individual. They managed to make everyone happy and we even got to see a second herd of musk oxen.

Minister Bell, we have traveled extensively to many ecologically sensitive parts of the world, including the Galapagos Islands, Amazon rain forest, Nepal, African savannah, and the Great Barrier Reef. Tom's operation is not the slickest or the fanciest, but we commend his low-impact, respect-for-nature style. His long-term commitment to the area is clear and his dedication to teaching others about the Thelon is remarkable. Some of the guests grumbled at first when Tom insisted on doing his "readings", but as he read to us from histories of the area each day, we felt we were stepping back in time. His knowledge and enthusiasm left us all feeling we had been in a special place. We also enjoyed our Dene cook who made wonderful sauces from the cranberries and blueberries we gathered and kept us well fed with simple, but good food. We thought the price we paid for the trip was well worth it and we would love to do it again. We believe Tom Faess has been a great ambassador for the Thelon region and we hope he will continue in this role for many years to come.

Sincerely, Erich Almasy & Cynthia Blanton

Executive Director, Executive Education, Ivey Business School
Nature Photographer
Board Member, Canadian Opera Company
Past Board Member, United Way of Toronto
Past Board Member, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation
Past President, Harvard Business School

 

 

"I had the pleasure of vacationing in the North West Territories in August and must say I was very impressed with my stay in the north-country. Although I am now retired, I spent a fair amount of time in the north during the late 60's and early 70's as a pilot with Pacific Western Airlines and was amazed at the changes, from the excellent highways and roads to the beautiful city of Yellowknife. The highlight of my trip was my stay at Whitefish Lake with GREAT CANADIAN ECOVENTURES and Proprietor, (Tundra) Tom Faess. Although I had looked down on this country from 35,000 feet on many occasions, it wasn't until I was able to hike and fly across the land in a bush plane that I was truly able to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Tom did an excellent job of organizing our travel arrangements from Yellowknife to the Lutselk'e airport and then on to Whitefish via his Beaver float plane. The camp was excellent considering the isolated location and I was very pleased to see that the aircraft was based at the camp with two pilots plus an aircraft maintenance engineer. I was also pleased to see that a satellite internet connection as well as telephone was available so we could keep in touch with the outside world. In my judgment, Tom and his employees run a first class operation with the airline service as well as guides, camp maintenance and kitchen staff. My keen interest in photography is what made me aware of Tundra Tom. He has been featured in such magazines as Photo Life and Outdoor Photographer, with articles written by Courtney Milne, George Lepp and Galen Rowell. He truly is a unique character and very much an environmentalist. The north needs men like him to promote and protect this very fragile area of our country. With global warming causing rapid change, we should all be concerned with what is in store for the future. I hope Tom and his operation will be around for many years to help make a positive difference."

Yours Truly, Birt Nord
Surrey, BC

 

 

"Canada has a great treasure in the Barren Lands. This part of Canada is truly a pristine and wonderful land that should be preserved for all time. My opinion is that Tom Faess' tourism business does a wonderful job at educating people as to what is there and does it in a most unobtrusive way, letting you experience it for yourself. I have been there at Whitefish Lake two times, once in 2002 and again this year in 2006. The Barrenlands has left its imprint on me and seems to have become a part of me and I will never forget it. For me it was a most meaningful lifetime experience. Having traveled across my United States quite a number of times I find that the Barrenlands remains as the most memorable and the most worthy of places to visit. Safety of course was my first consideration - being in a strange place with unknown animals. But there are no problems with this at all. I believe the Camp is managed with safety as a top goal. The first year Andrew was my Guide and this past summer it was Sebastian. I can't imagine how Tom found such excellent people to be his Guides. They are very confident, strong and knowledgeable and I know for a fact that safety was their top concern for us. I also knew there was a backup crew at Camp easily accessed by phone, but of course the need never arose. As a person who doesn't like planes at all, you will just have to take my word for the confidence I have in Tom and the other pilot there at camp. I knew of Tom's long experience and ability with his plane. It was also obvious that the other pilot had a great deal of experience. One thing a pilot can't handle in a small plane is the windy weather. And Tom proved to us that he knows when to not fly. Also important to me was the airplane mechanic who was very visibly on hand by the plane daily. A few days we visited other sites by boat. And there were two boats. Often one of the camp crew would ride with us so we were not alone with just the Guide. I started out a little wary of a tourist situation having experienced my travels in the United States, but Tom's tour was a unique and very appealing change. I loved being able to experience the land as it really is. No glitz anywhere - just the land. And it is the most beautiful place. We got to see the land and animals as they are meant to be without interfering in their lives. Overall, I believe Tom's EcoVentures is a wonderful tour. Both times I have been there his camp crew were always very interesting, helpful and friendly. They make you feel like you are at home. I hope that Tom Faess will continue to be able to give many other people a chance to experience what I know to be a wonderful experience in the Barrenlands."

Sincerely, Betty Lindberg
(2002 & 2006) Stow, MA

 

 

"During the period of August 18 - 25, 2006, we had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Northwest Territories. We contracted our trip with Great Canadian[Wildlife Adventures]. Tom Faess, the proprietor, organized and facilitated our trip in a very efficient and cost effective manner. Our adventure started with 2 days in the modern and friendly city of Yellowknife followed by a flight with Ursus Aviation to Lutsel K'e. We were picked up at the airport by a local, native expediter who delivered us to the float plane base where we were met by our host, Tom Faess. He loaded us and our gear into a Beaver aircraft and transported us to his main camp at Whitefish Lake, some 240 miles east-northeast of Yellowknife. Our week-long adventure in the headwaters of the Thelon River included guided hikes on various eskers and Precambrian tundra for history, geology and geography lessons and wonderful photography opportunities. We came home with hundreds of incredible pictures of much of what the barrenlands has to offer: eskers, kettles, Precambrian tundra, inukshuks, muskox and flora, etc. Our host and his staff proved to be very competent and knowledgeable. Tom Faess and his relief pilot, Billy, made us feel very confident and comfortable while flying. It was comforting to have two experienced pilots and a fulltime aircraft engineer on location to run a first class flight operation. The camp was well set up and included hot showers, weatherproof Quonset-type tents, a main lodge complete with cooking/dining (great food!) an extensive library as well as satellite/internet communications. It is fascinating to be sitting north of the tree line while sending and receiving e-mails on a lap-top. The Whitefish Lake/Thelon areas are part of Canada's history, even our very capable Dene cook had roots at this esker location through her grandparents. The Faess family are also part of the area's history and have been committed to it for nearly 4 decades. Tom is particularly knowledgeable and protective of all aspects of the tundra including archeological and anthropological sites. In summary, we emphasize that our trip to the Whitefish/Thelon area is one of our most memorable adventures. We enjoyed the area, the people, the sight-seeing and returned home with a deeper understanding of the north and a more complete picture of Canada. The trip was well planned and expedited at a reasonable expense. In total, we spent 3 nights in Yellowknife, one in a well-equipped guest house at Lutsel K'e and 7 nights at Whitefish camp. Our experiences in the northwest territories have left us with a strong desire to return and we would not hesitate to contract the services of Great Canadian [Wildlife Adventures] again. In this age of high-tech mineral exploration and development and the considerable wealth of natural resources in this part of the world, it is reassuring to know that concerned individuals like Tom Faess are protecting the environment while promoting a deeper understanding of this fragile ecosystem."

Brian & Sonja Boyce, PEng, Councillor,
Town of Edson, Alberta

 

 

"Just a short note to thank you again for three wonderful weeks, out at Whitefish lake and surrounding area - I had a good time again. Talking about a good time, it was mentioned that this was my ninth trip with GCW. It sort of surprised me, maybe six or seven but not nine. They wondered what was the main attraction to bring me back nine times which at the spur of the moment wasn't hard to answer: I simply like the place, but couldn't be specific. Since I've be home now for over a month, my thoughts come back to this nine times, and how come? As you know I have taken 2 to 3 weeks up north including the high arctic, from north Yukon in the west and as far east as Qaanuuk on Greenland, and north as high as Alexander Fiord on Ellesmere Island. I've been doing this for over 20 years. I had to check this out and frankly riot just pass this off with a simple answer. I checked it out and IT IS nine times, from 1992 the first time till 2006 presently! The question remains now, is 'how come? And why? For me it's the land. Geographically it's called "barrens" for me it's not- I just spent three weeks photographing it's color, the beauty of the reds and yellows blending in with the browns and green. The land is romantic, herds of caribou in their annual migration trying to raise their young in a struggle for surviva! The same for bird life, feeding their young on an abundance of insects and tender sprouts, the flight (and sounds) of the long migration. It's a land of history, the numerous stone cairns of direction and location of people in the long past. Old cabins in ruin, long ago abandoned; and gravesites of native people in the not so distant past. The cabins, more recent, abandoned, still with household goods of the 1930's by hunters in the quest of riches in the fur trade, all in an violent environment. It's been home to many people. And, it's the night life--yes--of the borealis, stars and moon displays, after an evening signing off with ever changing and different sunsets. All this spread over a land that shows its own signs in a struggle for survival. The signs of the last ice age are ever present. I'm sure that the many guests are as grateful as I am that your company has made this all possible. Guests, I may add, from all walks of life, means and possession, and corners of the world. Interesting and informative, they are an experience in itself. Your company has provided the infrastructure and means that makes it all possible. Aside from the physical structures, rustic as some might say, . Needless to say your guides were all top notch, top rate. Your staff are well trained, the guides are all well informed and knowledgeable. Everybody is courteous, caring and attentive to our needs. This includes attention to our safety at all times. The amenities are good - and even excellent, especially your library for evenings and days when the weather is uncooperative, unfortunate there are some - and they come with the package. For all this to come together as it has, requires not only leadership it requires commitment, passion and love for this land, and its future. You are well named Tundra Tom. You know the territory, its nooks and crannies beyond belief, its your back door. Your thirty some years of guiding has served your company well: We the guests are the beneficiaries. Tom, as you know there quite a bit of flying involved, and not everyone likes flying especially in small planes. May I say that, of all the many pilots I've flown with, you are one of the very few who can land on an unknown and unnamed lake, and dock on shore and not get your feet wet! This certainly is a testimony to much experience, care, and safety practices. Again you serve us well. Thanks again for a job well done. Keep exploring---bring on the adventure!

PS: Before I get too carried away, I'm going to fax a copy of this rendition to NWT tourism. You are serving you industry well and have over a long period of time. In these day's were everybody is looking for tourism dollars, I would like to covey and share with them, my thanks and appreciation as well, to your commitment: you are a true ambassador for the territories. They too, are beneficiaries."

George Nagel
Leader, Sasktachewan

 

 

"I have been a client of Tom and Great Canadian [Wildlife Adventures] on three trips to the Thelon area in 2001, 2002 and 2006, with the hope of more return trips. I first visited the Thelon area of the Barren Lands and, more specifically, Whitefish Lake after reading several books by Canadian authors. I continue to return because Great Canadian Wilderness, through the efforts of Tom Faess, provides a safe, educational and action-packed means of seeing your great country. It can be downright scary and risky to entrust one's own health, well-being and very life in a such a remote, inaccessible and wild land with a company in another country advertised in a magazine. Yet early discussions with Tom built enough trust that I was willing to sign on for a trip. Within my first few minutes of getting off the plane at Whitefish Lake, on my first trip in 2001, I was convinced that my experience with Tom's outfit would be spectacular, well worth every penny of the trip cost and that I would return home safely. I was not disappointed. In a remote land, where travel and comfort are determined by the weather, there are many dangers and many things can go wrong. Yet in this vast, wild land, one of the things I noticed at the Whitefish Lake camp was the emphasis on safety. Tom and his staff had a great "infrastructure" to ensure the safety of the clients. Two pilots in camp ensured that illness or injury of one pilot would not risk the safety of the clients. As a client visiting a remote area, this was important to me. I flew with Tom Faess and had complete confidence in his ability to fly the plane safely and responsibly. I also flew with the second pilot and, again, had complete confidence in his abilities. I thoroughly enjoyed all flights. A plane mechanic based right at camp ensured the plane would always be in good working order. In fact, the mechanic met the plane each time it landed, was there when the plane took off and diligently worked on the plane daily. I chatted with the mechanic for a few minutes before an early morning flight and he mentioned he was up early and had just changed the oil and had gone over the plane for our flight. The plane was not flown in bad, or even questionably unsafe weather. Clients were advised of the perimeter in which we could travel when unaccompanied by a guide. Each client was reminded daily to fill out a checkout sheet for any solo excursions noting where they expected to go and when they expected to return. The checkout sheet was monitored to ensure clients returned safely to camp. During my trip in 2001, with 24 hours of daylight, the camp manager stayed up until all clients returned to camp for the night. On my most recent trip in August, I noticed upon my return from an evening walk that a staff member was outside awaiting my return. We were instructed on what to do if we became lost and how to behave if we met any wildlife. Guides continually monitor the clients to ensure that the clients are physically able to handle each excursion. A synopsis of each excursion is given and clients, with some input from the guides, determine whether they are able to safely make the excursion. Radios provide immediate contact with groups that split up and with camp. Guided daily excursions were determined, in part, by the weather. Contributing to the safety and value of the trips are the experience and knowledge of Tom and his guides. Tom has over 35 years of tourism experience in the Thelon area and has continued his family's commitment to the wilderness and tourism. Through experience over many years and learned from his family, he has learned the logistics and intricacies required to operate a tourism business in a very remote area and does so with great professionalism. Considerable behind-the-scenes work is required to run a smooth, professional and safe operation especially when the weather turns bad. In addition to the "business side", Tom has tremendous knowledge of the Land, the history and the wildlife. He leads by example in asking his clients to respect historical sites and field ethics. Tom's commitment, knowledge and personality all contribute to his success and make him a great ambassador for the Northwest Territories. Tom has been very fortunate to find some absolutely wonderful guides. Their knowledge, patience, experience and willingness to help are unsurpassed. They show phenomenal respect for the land, the history and the wildlife and ask that the clients do the same. Wildlife stalks are conducted in a such a way that we attempt to get close to the animals, view them and leave, without them knowing we are there. This can only be done with the guides' strong sense of field ethics and their knowledge of animal habits, landscape and weather conditions. Terry Elliot, who has guided for Tom for many years, has such strong field ethics and his ability to find his way along mile after mile of tundra (before GPS came into use) is unsurpassed. With his years of experience, he is able to teach clients about the plants, wildlife and Native and trapper history. Andrew MacPherson was trained by Terry and continued his teachings and respect for the land. Sebastian Matton, my guide in 2006, shared his considerable knowledge of the land and helped us understand what it may have been like to live on the land as the Natives once did. He successfully brought us near a herd of musk-ox without being seen so we did not disturb them in any way. The guides' calm, patience and compassion could not mask their confidence and their ability to handle any situation. All three of my guides were wonderful ambassadors for the Northwest Territories. Through excursions to places of historical interest, interpretive walks and wildlife stalks, they taught us the respect of the land and its history by showing that same respect themselves. My first thought, when descending beneath the clouds on my first flight into the Barren Lands in 2001, was that I completely understood why the land was given the name. It is easy to look at the open, empty land and think it is useless and only good for its minerals, ores, sands and water. Yet the land is not empty and there is a fine balance that holds it all together. The pristine beauty, abundant plant and wild life need to be preserved and not ravaged by business that will destroy the remote nature of the land. I found so much history and seasonal wildlife at Whitefish Lake and the general Thelon area that I believe this is tremendously important as a tourist destination. Our world is becoming increasingly chaotic and it is a real pleasure, and almost a need, to be able to visit such a beautiful and wild place. I have thought of my times in the Thelon area every single day since my first trip in 2001. It is such an incredible area with an amazing sense of history. So often when conducting business, there seem to be hidden costs. In my three trips with Tom, I was quoted a price and paid that price. I felt the cost of the trip was money well spent, as is probably obvious because I've returned several times!"

Theresa M. Lindberg
Northboro, MA
(2001, 2002 & 2006)

 

 

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Phone: +608-370-5071
Email: tundra@thelon.com
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