A lot of people know Churchill, Manitoba because of the polar bears, but in summer, another white mammal shares the spotlight. Every July, tens of thousands of beluga whales enter the Hudson Bay and the warm waters of Manitoba’s northern rivers to feed and give birth.
Travellers can head out on the water in a variety of ways to view these curious whales. If you’re not sure which viewing method to choose, ask yourself a few questions: Are you family-oriented or adventurous? Do you prefer to see the full picture, or to dive right in? There really is something for everybody! Take a look:
A zodiac tour to view belugas is ideal for photographers, videographers, and wildlife lovers who prefer not to get in the water. Zodiacs are inflatable, durable boats well-suited for the rocky waters of the Hudson Bay. Seeing belugas from a Zodiac allows travellers to get closer than on a passenger boat.
If you’re travelling in a large group or with small children, consider an excursion on a larger vessel. Pods of belugas will surround the boat as a guide provides background biology on the friendly whales. If you’re curious to hear what goes on under the water, listen to the chirps and squeals — essentially the conversations of belugas — using a hydrophone.
Not for the faint of heart, snorkeling with belugas is for free spirits who want to get up close to the curious canaries of the sea. Once you jump into the subarctic waters (wearing an 7mm thick wet suit, of course), you hang on to a rope attached to the Zodiac and the operator will slowly pull you through the waters, keeping up with the active whales who swim alongside you. Be sure to sing and hum through your snorkel and watch in awe as beluga whales approach you.
Whether you are an experienced or novice kayaker, this once-in-a-lifetime wildlife outing happens on the Churchill River. The excursion is tide-dependant and usually lasts at least two hours, but you needn’t paddle far before curious belugas surround you. You will be amazed by how the whales interact with your kayak and paddle.
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)
Available with: Sea North Tours
You are: a free spirit who likes to engage in new trends
A new addition to beluga viewing in Churchill is stand up paddle boarding. Sea North provides top-of-the-line wet suits, so don’t be afraid to fall in the water if the curious whales bop your board off course. Tours depart during low tide to ensure smooth waters.
Available with: Hudson Bay Helicopters
You are: a strategic thinker needing to see the big picture
Not a fan of the sea? Take to the sky with Hudson Bay Helicopters, who has been operating sightseeing tours out of Churchill for 25 years to see stunning subarctic tundra and wildlife. Aerial views of the coast allow visitors to see beluga whales as they feed their calves in the Churchill River before departing deep into the Hudson Bay in late August.