Come Eye to Eye with Amiable Belugas on Our Northern Canada Summer Adventure
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 / Board Train
Today we explore Winnipeg’s history and natural environs, including FortWhyte Alive, featuring 640 acres of lakes, forest, marsh, meadow, farmland and a 70-acre bison prairie. Take a step back in time and paddle a North West Company voyageur canoe on Muir Lake. We'll also enjoy a birdwatching outing in the park's rich wetlands. Depending on the train schedule, we'll board the northbound VIA Rail passenger train to Thompson around lunchtime.
Day 3: Train to Thompson—Pisew Falls & Paint Lake
Traveling northward, southern prairies give way to dense boreal forest dotted with countless lakes. The train is relaxing and comfortable, with a glass dome car to facilitate 360-degree views of the passing scenery. Each guest cabin has its own toilet, sink
and large windows, offering a broad vista of the changing ecosystems. Reaching the northern town of Thompson, we disembark to explore the surrounding subarctic environs. We'll make a short hike to view Pisew Falls, second highest waterfall in Manitoba, where the Grass River jets powerfully through a rugged gorge. The name "Pisew
" is translated from the local Cree language and means "lynx." A scenic dinner setting is in store at Paint Lake Lodge before returning to nearby Thompson to spend the night.
Days 4–7: Exploring Churchill—Beluga Encounters & Wildlife Watching
Early this morning, we board our chartered flight to arrive in the small northern outpost of Churchill, gateway to the Arctic, with four full days of adventure ahead. Our activities include two Zodiac trips to see the belugas that congregate in the mouth of the Churchill River. More than 3,000 of these small white whales spend the summer in the region, and our motorized rafts put us at eye-level with them. With their unusual ability to turn their heads from side to side, they 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.
We’ll also take a larger vessel across the river to Prince of Wales Fort, established by Danish explorer Jens Monk in 1619, 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. A custom Polar Rover vehicle conveys us over the tundra to a point near Hudson Bay, where we enjoy an outdoor cookout while watching for wildlife. Here at the interface of the boreal forest and tundra, we may see caribou with calves, snowy owls, Arctic fox, ptarmigan, and we may even spot polar bears. At this time of year, it is not uncommon to find mothers with cubs. The Churchill area also has plenty of walking trails that line the border of the northern boreal forest and southern tundra. This nexus of ecosystems is home to a variety of flora and fauna, which we'll encounter on our short walks.
Day 8: Churchill / Winnipeg
The morning is free to wander Churchill's main street, where several shops offer locally made handicrafts from Inuit-designed wall-hangings to caribou fur sculptures. We then transfer to the airport for our return flight to Winnipeg. This evening, gather for a farewell dinner, reveling in the memories we've made over the past week.
Day 9: Winnipeg / Depart
After breakfast, our Arctic summer tour comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home.
Optional Opportunity to Snorkel and Kayak with Belugas:
We have arranged a special opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to snorkel or kayak among dozens of beluga whales. Please note that these excursions are highly dependent on weather and tides and may not be available on every trip. Contact an Adventure Specialist for details.
Note regarding train schedules:
In the spring of 2017 the train track north of Thompson suffered damage due to flooding. The hope is that it will be fixed by the time we embark on our 2018 Beluga Whales season, but we cannot be certain that that will be the case. Should the northern section of the track be impassable, our plan is to take the overnight train only as far as Thompson, then fly into Churchill on Day 4. Other alternate plans may be necessary should train schedules change further.