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Tourism to extremes

Erin Fletcher
Northern News Services

Paulatuk (Mar 29/04) - Step aside polar bears and pingos, because snowmobile adventures may be the next attraction for tourists visiting the Beaufort Delta.

NNSL Photo

Jonah Nakimayak, left, and Vancouver-based journalist Don Worthington left on a five-day snowmobile trip to Paulatuk, March 25. - Erin Fletcher/NNSL photo

At least that's what two Paulatuk entrepreneurs are hoping.

Jonah Nakimayak and Gary Reidford co-own Bekere Lake Lodge, a sport hunting camp outside of Paulatuk.

There they take mostly American tourists to fish and hunt musk ox and caribou. Now they want to "diversify" with their own version of extreme adventure tourism -- a five-day snowmobile trek across open tundra, Arctic ice and Arctic woodlands between Paulatuk and Inuvik.

To make sure the trip was possible, the two struck out on their own adventure late last week.

Neither had snowmobiled that route before, but Nakimayak does have more than 30 years of guiding experience.

They left Paulatuk on March 18 and arrived in Inuvik at about 5 p.m. on March 21.

They weren't disappointed in the adventure.

During the three days they got caught in a blizzard, lost their map and suffered extremely cold temperatures.

"I thought (the trip) was really challenging because I'd never done it before and I wanted to see how easy it was going to be," said Nakimayak.

"It will get easier as we do more trips."

Reidford admits the trip won't be first-class comfort, but he does believe tourists will be interested in doing something out of the ordinary.

Vancouver-based journalist Don Worthington would agree. He documented the return trip with Nakimayak for an article being written for SnoWest Magazine. He believes this kind of extreme tourism is attractive to American tourists.

Besides being a good business idea for themselves, Reidford and Nakimayak see the snowmobile tours as a chance for the community to make some money as well.

Once it got big enough, more guides would be hired and there would be more tourists to buy works from carvers and crafts people.

"We would like to see more tourists in the North and we would want to get a bunch of people from Paulatuk involved, too," said Reidford.

They hope to take the first tourists out on the land by March next year.