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Churchill: Whales and Wildlife

Churchill wildlife adventure! The excitement of being on the water in open air boats amongst the whales is unparalleled.

Researchers have confirmed what tour boat operators in Churchill have known for years: Manitoba has more belugas than anywhere else on Earth. Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a study in April 2005 that pegged the province's beluga whale population at about 57,000, which confirms Churchill as the beluga capital of the planet. "It's the biggest (population) in the world," said Pierre Richard, a Winnipeg-based research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans' Arctic Research Division.

Photo by Mike MacriEach summer thousands of Beluga whales congregate in the estuary close to Churchill, Manitoba to nurse their young and molt. Our local guides will share their knowledge about the ecology and habitat of Beluga whales.  This area is also known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World" due to the proximity of the town to Wapusk National Park, the world's largest polar bear denning area.

Each July, Polar bears in substantial numbers come ashore after their annual seal hunt. They rest and den during the summer months. Although viewing of the polar bears is optimal later in the year (October/November) our past summer groups have had good sucess at viewing bears by helicopter. The tour will combine whale & wildlife viewing, Arctic natural history and culture. Evening talks and field excursions will be led by local naturalist Paul Ratson. Photo credit: Mike Macri


2017 Departure Dates & Cost (Special groups escorted by Catherine Evans & local naturalist guides)

July 15 - 20, 2017
August 12 to 17, 2017

Tour Cost: $ 3,675 CAD / $ 2,940 USD + 5% tax
Deposit: $800  Balance due 75 days prior.

Includes return air from Winnipeg, Manitoba
Options for travel by VIA RAIL one way to Churchill available on request - 2 night journey!
Single Supplement $ 425 CAD/$ 340 USD
Maximum Group Size: 14

Early Booking Bonus for 2017: $ 150 per person for bookings made by January 31, 2017


Itinerary

Beluga Whales

DAY 1: WINNIPEG/CHURCHILL (B,D)
Early morning flight to Churchill. Upon your arrival in Churchill you will be transferred to your accommodations. Some free time to get settled. We will supply you with a map and a list of places that can be visited on a self-guided basis. Everything in the town is within walking distance of the hotel. 4 nights at the Polar Inn or Tundra Inn. Dinner.

Of the attractions in town we highly recommend a visit to the Parks Canada Interpretation Centre which has exhibits, information and audio-visual presentations on Natural History and Human Settlement in the area. Essential is the "Eskimo Museum" housing the finest collection of Inuit carvings and artifacts. Don't forget a quick visit to the post office where you can get your passport stamped with their special stamp to commemorate your trip to Churchill. There are several small stores and galleries to shop for Inuit crafts and Arctic memorabilia.

DAY 2: BELUGA WHALE VIEWING (B)
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we set out for a morning whale watching orientation talk (timing is based on tides) before setting out in open-air boats to see the Beluga's. The whales are relatively small. They weigh up to 1,000 kgs and measure 3 to 6 metres in length and they come to these warm and somewhat shallow waters to rear their young. The tour will also visit historic Prince of Wales Fort. Return to the hotel. Lunch and dinner on own (a list of restaurants will be provided). There are often evening events and talks at the Parks Canada Interpretation Centre and/or the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

DAY 3: ROADS & TRAILS/ARCTIC EXPLORATION (B,L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Then set out on a guided naturalist tour to the northern edge of the Boreal forest. You will have the opportunity to see the transition of the Boreal forest to the tundra through the taiga. We will also look for Arctic foxes, caribou, lemmings, ptarmigans and white-phase Gyrfalcons and other Arctic wildlife. Field lunch and a walk in the Boreal Forest. This day will include visits to some of the top wildlife spots (areas to be visited will depend on weather and movement of wildlife at the time of your visit).

Polar  BearsRE: Optional Helicopter flights
The helicopters are chartered at this time of the year by researchers. We cannot guarantee that one will be available. You should drop into the Hudsons Bay Helicopter office on arrival and put your name down for a one hour flight. (Cost is $ 525 per person minimum 3 persons). If this does happen it would be after 5:00 pm on one of the evenings. The helicopter journey flies over Wapusk National Park in search of polar bear, caribou, moose, fox and other Arctic wildlife.

DAY 4: BELUGA TOUR/ PM TUNDRA ADVENTURE (B,L,D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning departure to the Churchill River for another trip to view the Belugas. Snorkel options available (exposure suits and gear provided). Lunch.

In the afternoon enjoy a  6 hour afternoon adventure the Tundra aboard one of the specially designed vehicles. They day includes pick up from town and a drive to the buggy launch point approximately 35 minutes away. The buggy follows tracks adjacent to the Hudson's Bay shoreline and near to Wapusk National Park. This is an introduction to the unique Sub-Arctic biome in this region. The chance to observe wildlife is enhanced in this natural landscape. The day will include dinner on the buggy, interpretation with a guide, and the chance to get out of the buggy from time to time for short walks. Birds and wildflowers are at their peak at this time of the year. Chances for spotting polar bear (from a distance) are possible. Fox and caribou are more commonly seen.

DAY 5: SLOOPS COVE HIKE (B)
Join a guided hike with a naturalist and historian from Parks Canada along the shores of Hudson Bay from Sloop Cove to Prince of Wales Fort. Explore historic sites, archaeological remains, lonely beaches and expanses of tundra. Note: If you don't want to hike, we can substitute today for an additional day out on the water.

From Churchill, board a zodiac and headed across the Churchill River. Step back in time more than 250 years when Sloop Cove was a wintering and mooring site for sloops, the Hudson Bay Company's (HBC) small wooden sailboats used for exploration, whaling and trading expeditions. "Sloop" is thought to be a deformation of the French word "chaloupe". Nowadays, Sloop Cove is a dry cove but back in the 1700s there were more than 3m of water at high tide. What makes the site so special is that several HBC men who used to work here left their signatures on the rocks: sailors, gunners, ship carpenters, captains, laborers and even a servant!

Continue for 3.2 km to a view-point overlooking Prince of Wales Fort. The trip does not include a tour of the fort, however that will have been done earlier in your stay. Walking along the beach you might spot Canada geese, other birds, polar bear, fox, wolf, and caribou. The hiking group will have armed guards for safety as polar bear mothers and cubs frequent this area. Dinner on own.

DAY 6: DEPARTURE WINNIPEG (CB)
Morning flight to Winnipeg and onward travel.

PROGRAM MAY CHANGE BASED ON MOVEMENT OF THE WILDLIFE, WEATHER AND OTHER FACTORS.


Additional Information

Beluga WhalesCustomized tours in the summer are available to Churchill for bird watching in June, Wildflowers and Arctic Wildlife in July and August. See our Polar Bear departures for October and November tours during prime bear viewing season.

Tour Includes:

  • 4 nights accommodation in Churchill and 2 nights at the Country Inn in Winnipeg
  • Return airfare Winnipeg/Churchill
  • All meals indicated in the itinerary
  • Excursions as indicated in the itinerary, by tundra buggy and foot to see the whales, wildlife & culture
  • Escorted nature excursions by naturalists
  • Hotel taxes

Tour Does Not Include:

  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Insurance of any kind
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Any excursions not mentioned in the itinerary
  • 5 % tax (GST)

ACCOMMODATIONS
Accommodation in Churchill is in a comfortable three-star hotel with a private bathroom facilities. The tour price is based on twin occupancy. On request, single travelers may be matched with a suitable roommate. A limited number of single rooms are available on request. The single supplement cost is not included in the tour cost.

MEALS
Breakfast and dinners are served at local restaurants in town. Lunches are served both as field style and in restaurants.

SIGHTSEEING
A variety of sightseeing tours are included in the price to enhance your Arctic experience. Local guides will provide insight to the history and wildlife of the area.

PHYSICAL DEMANDS
This program should not present any difficulty to persons in reasonable physical condition. There will be some walking on rocky terrain. Proper outdoor clothing should be carried at all times. The trip is suitable for families although not recommended for children under 8.

WEATHER
The weather conditions are generally stable. As this is typically an arid region a high pressure dome remains over the area in the summer months. This results in endless sunshine, even in the small hours of the morning. Even though the daytime temperature is normally around 18-20'C (65-70'F) there can be days when the temperatures skyrocket to 30'C (85'F) or fall to 3-5'C (35-40'F). You must prepare for a wide range of possible temperatures and weather conditions.


What our clients say...

"Thanks. We had an absolutely wonderful trip. The guide was fantastic, weather was great and the whales are unbelievable. I was thrilled to see a herd of caribou. I have seen so much about them on TV but never seen a herd in the wild." E. Epezalla