Belugas, Bears & Summer Wildlife of Churchill
Come eye to eye with friendly Belugas and see polar bears frolic in fireweed on a northern Canada tundra adventure.
Churchill: Drink It In
Few of nature’s marvels match the intense aliveness of an Arctic summer. In a region that's frozen, still and dark for much of the year, the Northland awakens with a burst of energy during these long days when the tundra turns green, wildflowers appear, animals come forth in great flocks and herds, and belugas return for their summer feasting. We may even spot polar bears! With the remote town of Churchill as our base on Hudson Bay, we are surrounded by the flurry of natural wonders a northern summer provides.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Belugas come within arm's reach by Zodiac and kayak. Listen to their songs via hydrophone.
• Look for roving polar bears on a scenic flight over the tundra and taiga forest.
• This operator supports the work the World Wildlife Fund is doing with beluga whales.
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel, built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The French-style chateau is still the grande dame of Winnipeg, offering first-class hospitality in Manitoba's capital. Meet your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner on this first evening of your Arctic summer adventure.
Accommodation: Fort Garry Hotel
Day 2: Winnipeg / Churchill, Manitoba
This morning, fly north by chartered plane to Churchill, the remote outpost community that is the gateway to the Arctic. We'll spend the day exploring this hospitable frontier town that was originally a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post. During our tour of the community and its natural environs, we follow a trail through the boreal forest and visit Churchill's Itsanitaq Museum, showcasing the region's indigenous cultures with artifacts collected from centuries of habitation. We may also have a chance to meet local individuals for insight into their cultural traditions and daily lives. These captivating storytellers share tales from their personal histories, offering a window into the enduring cultures that have flourished in this harsh environment for thousands of years.
Accommodation: Polar Inn & Suites (or similar)
Days 3–5: Exploring Churchill—Beluga Encounters & Wildlife Watching
With Churchill as our base, spend four full days exploring the tundra, river and seacoast of Hudson Bay. Activities include a helicopter ride over the subarctic to search for polar bears that roam this otherwise inaccessible wilderness terrain and to glean an aerial view of beluga pods gathered in the river and sea, two Zodiac excursions to observe belugas congregating in the mouth of the Churchill River, a boat trip to explore the delicate wetlands and brackish water habitat where wildlife thrives along Churchill River estuary, and an opportunity to kayak among inquisitive beluga whales that often nudge close to our paddles or follow in our human-powered wakes. More than 3,000 of these small white cetaceans spend the summer in the area, and our motorized rafts and kayaks put us at eye-level with them. With their unusual ability to turn their heads from side to side, belugas appear to be as curious about us as we are about them. Through the use of a hydrophone on board, we can even listen to their otherworldly songs. Few wildlife encounters offer as intimate a perspective as this one does.
We’ll take a larger vessel across the river to Prince of Wales Fort, established by Danish explorer Jens Monk in 1619, on the site where the Hudson’s Bay Company built one of its original fur-trading posts. Churchill became a stopover point for explorers searching for the fabled Northwest Passage and was instrumental in the opening of the Canadian West. On occasion, we see polar bears roaming just north of here around the rocky promontory that juts into Hudson Bay, and there's a good chance of encountering part of the resident caribou herd that numbers 600+ animals.
Ashore, traverse the tundra on a specialized Polar Rover vehicle in search of northern wildlife as we head to a spot near Hudson Bay for an outdoor cookout. Here at the interface of the boreal forest and tundra, we may spot Arctic fox, ptarmigan and polar bears, too. At this time of year, it is not uncommon to find mothers with cubs. The Churchill area also has plenty of walking trails that weave within the border of the northern boreal forest and southern tundra edge. This nexus of ecosystems is home to a variety of flora and fauna, which we encounter on our short walks. We also have chances to explore farther afield on foot, led safely by our Expedition Leader and local polar bear guards. Late in the season, when the sun finally starts to dip, there's even a possibility of seeing the northern lights if the conditions prove just right. After all, we're directly under the auroral oval, one of the planet's best places to see aurora borealis, and even late summer can create some fortunate magic encounters with northern lights.
Accommodation: Polar Inn & Suites (or similar)
Day 6: Churchill / Winnipeg
Our chartered flight to Winnipeg allows us ample time to explore more of Churchill today. Along the main street, several shops offer locally made handicrafts, from Inuit-designed wall-hangings to caribou fur sculptures. Meet a local dog sled musher and his team, spending time with the lively, affectionate dogs that are an intrinsic part of winter life on the frozen tundra. Then head out to the Northern Studies Center, where scientists are researching the Arctic environment, social issues and sustainable resource development within this extreme yet fragile landscape. Early this evening, we gather for a farewell dinner, reveling in the memories we've made over the past week, before meeting our flight.
Day 7: Winnipeg / Depart
After breakfast, our Arctic summer tour comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home.
Activity Level: The activities on our Churchill wildlife adventure are diverse, requiring general mobility and fitness. This trip involves several walks of approximately 2 miles each in varying climates and environments and can include uneven and slippery terrain. Travelers must be able to walk 2 miles unassisted. Travelers must be able to get into and out of rigid inflatable Zodiac rafts, which can be very unsteady when entering or leaving in rough water. You must also be comfortable changing positions in a moving Zodiac while out on the water.
Travelers may have the opportunity to participate in optional kayaking, weather permitting. Though no prior kayaking experience is required, general fitness and mobility, including the ability to get into and out of a kayak, are essential. Travelers must be able to climb in and out of vehicles with as many as four steps many times throughout each day. While travelers are not required to participate in all activities, should you opt out of the day's scheduled activities, we cannot always guarantee that alternatives will be available.
Meals: Meals in the far north are hearty and delicious, but they also require special planning and preparation far in advance. With ample notice, we can meet dietary requirements that accommodate serious medical conditions or strict personal restrictions; however this restricted meal plan must continue to be adhered to while on the adventure. If you have a highly restricted diet, we recommend you bring along some of your preferred snacks and an appreciation that certain foods are limited in this part of the world.
A note regarding northern lights: In Churchill, you're located directly under the auroral oval at one of the world's best places to see northern lights. Chances of spotting aurora borealis increase later in the summer season if conditions are right, meaning there is no cloud cover while the complete darkness of August's "magnetic midnight" appears. Summer sightings are fleeting, but always magical.
Getting There & Getting Home: In case of flight or weather delays, we recommend that you arrive a day early. Please schedule your flights to arrive by 5 pm in order to attend a 7 pm orientation dinner on Day 1 of your program. You are free to depart at any time on the final day.
Beluga whales and cetaceans in general fascinate me. Take advantage of this veteran Churchill operator's level of experience to see them up close.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: