Manitoba, Canada - Belugas, Polar Bears & Flowering Tundra

When one hears the term “white giants” followed by the name Churchill, the image of a lumbering polar bear is conjured up in the mind’s eye. What is often forgotten is that this diminutive town rests on a spit of land that juts into the Hudson Bay, bordered on its western flank by a fertile estuary. In the summer, white giants of another sort frequent the briny waters in the thousands: beluga whales. After most of the bears have returned south, the lively leviathans congregate here to feast and to calve. These marine mammals are but one example of the myriad of fauna found here, which includes an astonishing array of birdlife and over 500 species of arctic wildflowers and boreal plants. Come experience the sweet surprise that is Manitoba.

Degree of Difficulty - Three Paws

Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.

Weather Reports - When To Go

Since the purpose of taking this tour is to see the beluga whales, the birds and the flowering tundra in the summer, the ideal time to visit is between July 15th and August 15th. There’s a very short window to see the belugas who come in the thousands in the Churchill River estuary.

Day 1

WINNIPEG ARRIVAL

Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to your hotel. Meet your fellow travelers and professional naturalist guide, during a briefing and lecture. Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.  INN AT THE FORKS, WINNIPEG. (D)

 

Day 2

WINNIPEG/EXPLORE MANITOBA

Begin today’s exploration of Winnipeg with a visit to the Manitoba Museum which houses a dynamic collection including a full-sized replica of the Nonsuch whose 1668 voyage lead to the founding of the Hudson Bay Company. Go behind the scenes of the Hudson’s Bay Company collection with the curator to explore Inuit art objects rarely seen by the public, with opportunities to view award-winning dioramas, followed by a classic Manitoba lunch. In the afternoon, the group will enjoy a city tour with the Winnipeg Trolley Company where you will learn about Winnipeg’s different neighborhoods and unique, sometimes humorous, history. Upon return to the hotel, guests will have free time to explore Winnipeg’s favorite meeting place, The Forks National Historic Site. INN AT THE FORKS, WINNIPEG. (B,L,D)

 

Day 3

WINNIPEG/CHURCHILL

After an early breakfast, fly to Churchill in the rugged wilds of northern Manitoba. This small town of some 800 full-time residents occupies a peninsula embraced by the Churchill River and the Hudson Bay. Occupied for centuries by indigenous peoples, the first Europeans took advantage of its location and used it as a fur trading post as well as a whaling community. With the decline of the fur trade and whaling, Churchill has continued to avail itself of its locale owing to its proximity to the traditional migration route of the polar bears and for the yearly gathering of beluga whales. From October through mid-November, approximately 1,000 bears journey from their summer ranges along the bay south of Churchill up to the capes for their annual hunt for seals, and in the summer belugas congregate in the thousands at Hudson Bay to feed on capelin and Lake Cisco fish and give birth to their young. In 1978 the Churchill Wildlife Management Area was established to protect the ecology of the polar bear. Upon arrival, you will participate in a bus tour of Churchill and area, exploring local and historical points of interest surrounding Churchill, including such attractions as Cape Merry, the Inukshuk at Town Beach and Manitoba Conservation’s Polar Bear Holding Facility. After lunch, enjoy a visit to the Itsanitaq Museum, formerly the Eskimo Museum, which is home to one of Canada’s finest collections of Inuit carvings, kayaks and artifacts. As well, you will have a chance to explore the Parks Canada Interpretive Centre where you will learn about the history, culture and wildlife of the area. Your comfortable Inn is located within steps of Churchill’s restaurants, bars, shopping and recreation facilities. It offers quality accommodation with northern hospitality. Each spacious room offers private facilities. TUNDRA INN, or similar. (B,L,D)

 

Day 4

CHURCHILL/WHALE WATCHING, FORT VISIT AND DOG CARTING

Begin your day with a beluga whale watching excursion on the Hudson Bay. During the summer months, pods of these gentle giants congregate in the briny waters of the Churchill River estuary. Here, mother and calf can be seen gliding just below the surface. Large males, which can reach an estimated weight of 3,500 pounds and 18 feet in length, may swim along the side of your boat. Curious and intelligent, you may observe them observing you as they rotate on their side for a better view. Listen as a hydrophone is lowered into the water, and hear the complex vocalizations that have earned the beluga the nickname sea canary. Continue on to the historic Fort Prince of Wales across the river from the town of Churchill. This impressive star pattern, stone fortress was built by the Hudson Bay Company to protect its fur trading interests. Finish the day with a leisurely coastal drive to discover some of the other colorful characters of northern Manitoba. In particular, birders will be driving into a landscape that is ornamented by as much as 225 identified species. You may, as well, encounter caribou, fox and hare. In the afternoon, you will enjoy a dog cart excursion hosted by a local resident and dog sledding expert. Meet a team of friendly dogs, hear stories and enjoy a mile-long dog cart ride through the northern boreal forest. At night, if conditions are perfect, you may be lucky enough to witness the kaleidoscopic undulations of the Aurora Borealis, although it is not prime time for this event. TUNDRA INN, or similar. (B,L,D)

Day 5

CHURCHILL/TUNDRA BUGGY® ADVENTURE

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the Tundra Buggy Launch for a full-day Tundra Buggy Adventure in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Meandering over a system of established trails, you will have opportunities to experience some of the magnificent summer wildlife such as arctic fox hiding amid the explosion of colorful wildflowers, caribou and ptarmigan. You may even spy a lone polar bear slowly making its way back to the summer grounds. The summers are short here but over 400 plant species make the most of it. Keep an eye out for the more elusive residents such as gray wolf, lemming, shrew, and the boreal chorus and wood frog, respectively. TUNDRA INN, or similar. (B,L,D)

 

Day 6

WHALE WATCHING/WINNIPEG

The morning begins with a guided excursion into the beluga whale estuary in a zodiac. The zodiacs quickly move around the estuary and you will have a chance to experience the largest population of beluga whales in the world at the surface level. Watch as they frolic in the bay and while cruising, look out for seals. After lunch, you will have some free time to explore the town and shops of Churchill. Optional helicopter voyages that offer panoramic views of the tundra, boreal forest and Churchill area can also be arranged. You will then be transferred back to the Churchill Airport for an evening flight back to Winnipeg, where you will enjoy a farewell reception at your hotel. GRAND HOTEL WINNIPEG AIRPORT, WINNIPEG. (B,L,D)

 

Day 7

DEPART WINNIPEG

After you take in a parting Canadian breakfast, make your way to the airport, taking with you the memories and experiences of the gentle belugas and the rugged beauty of Churchill, Manitoba. (B)


Prices starting at $8,995. For further booking, date, and pricing info please contact info@classicescapes.

Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.