Belugas, Bears & Summer Wildlife of Churchill (Wildflower Photo Departure)
7 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
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.
Day 2: Winnipeg / Churchill, Manitoba
This morning, we board our flight north 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.
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 two Zodiac excursions to observe belugas congregating in the mouth of the Churchill River, plus an opportunity to kayak among these inquisitive whales that often nudge close to your paddle or follow in your human-powered wake. 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 also 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. An optional excursion during our time in Churchill is a scenic 90-minute helicopter flight over Hudson Bay and the surrounding tundra, where the likelihood is high that you'll spot polar bears on the prowl.
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. 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 late summer can create some fortunate magic encounters with northern lights.
Day 6: Churchill / Winnipeg
Our return flight to Winnipeg is scheduled to depart in the evening, allowing 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.
All This Included
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, animals come forth in great flocks and herds, and the sea welcomes beluga whales back for their summer feasting. More than 3,000 of these friendly white whales congregate at the mouth of the Churchill River, and our motorized rafts and kayaks put us at eye level with them. On the tundra surrounding the river, look for terrestrial wildlife—we may even spot polar bears! With the remote yet accessible outpost town of Churchill as our base on the edge of Hudson Bay, we are part of the excitement, surrounded by the flurry of natural wonders a northern summer provides.
After a long white winter, summer’s Arctic tundra and the boreal forest burst forth in a vibrant green carpet with seas of purple wildflowers. Lapping at the edge of Hudson Bay and a mighty river, Churchill’s subarctic wilderness is a landscape photographer’s dream. Coupled with long sunny days and brilliant light shed on 3,000 curious beluga whales that swim close to the surface, our Churchill photo trip guides you through these incomparable and unusual photo ops, both on the water and off. Traveling with a small group of just 14 guests, plus the expertise of our professional photography Expedition Leader, you’ll be close to the action—both when you're eye-level with belugas in the Churchill River and farther out on the tundra after traversing it in our specially equipped Polar Rover, where we may see snowy owls, Arctic fox, ptarmigan and maybe even polar bears. Explore with like-minded photographers who tend to have more patience while capturing that perfect shot of a chirping beluga peeking its head above water, and enjoy the advantages of personalized photo instruction in the field.
Winnipeg: Fort Garry Hotel
Churchill: To be determined
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