Come Eye to Eye with Amiable Belugas on Our Northern Canada Summer Adventure
Frequently Asked Questions
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The best time of year to see belugas is during July and August, when whales are migrating from their spring breeding grounds to the Churchill River in search of food and a safe place to birth their young. They also are attracted to the stone bottom of the Churchill River, which acts like pumice to clean their skin and help slough off old layers. More than 3,000 whales congregate here in the summer, and our motorized rafts and kayaks enable us to travel directly into their feeding habitat (without disturbing them) for an unforgettable wildlife experience.
Summer temperatures in Churchill vary greatly and may range from 30°F to 90°F. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 60s, dropping to the mid-40s during the night, with frequent strong winds. There is a possibility of ice remaining in the bay and the river in the early beluga season, so whale watching could be chilly.
The weather in Churchill is highly unpredictable and may change at any moment, so dress in layers. It is colder on the water than on land, so prepare for whale-watching excursions to ensure warmth. Lightweight waterproof/Gore-Tex rain gear (jacket and pants) is essential, along with sturdy waterproof hiking boots. Pack a warm fleece, thermal underlayers, warm hat, lightweight pants, and short- and long-sleeved shirts.
We include some short nature walks on trails that border the northern boreal forest and southern tundra, offering guests a close-up experience of the diverse flora and fauna in the region. Longer hikes are generally not included, as the presence of polar bears could pose a danger. Please refer to this page for the explicit physical requirements of this Churchill adventure.
The physical activity rating is moderate because the trip includes a few nature walks that are about 1 to 2 miles. Travelers must be able to walk one mile unassisted. The rest of the movement tends to be by motorized vehicles—boats, Polar Rovers and buses. For anyone who desires, longer walks may be an option. Travelers must also be able to climb into and out of the Zodiac rafts and also need to be physically able if they choose to kayak or snorkel in the Churchill River with the belugas (weather permitting). Please refer to this page for the explicit physical requirements of this Churchill adventure.
Churchill is located at the confluence of three major biomes of the world—the boreal forest, northern tundra, and the marine ecosystem of the Hudson Bay. In addition, the Churchill and Seal rivers offer wildlife corridors and a source of freshwater in an otherwise dry environment. With such a diverse combination of habitats, there is a most unusual and prolific host of animals. Most prominent in the summer are the thousands of beluga whales that come to the rivers to give birth, feed, and molt on the gravel riverbeds. But we may also see large male, as well as mother and cub polar bears, arctic and red fox, snowy owls, caribou, moose and other creatures.
Long days of sunlight are one of the reasons the northland is such a special place to visit in the summertime. At the beginning of the summer season, we may see the sun rise at 5 am and set around 10 pm, though darkness seems more like a twilight. Toward the end of the season, in mid-August, the sun rises a little later (5:30 am) and sets a little earlier (9:15 pm), and the relative darkness gives us a better chance for fleeting northern lights sightings.
Yes, northern lights can be seen in Churchill during the summertime, though sightings are not nearly as likely as they are in the wintertime. In the summer, we generally have a better chance of viewing them toward the end of the season, when the sun sets a little bit earlier and the nighttime gets a bit darker. For the best chance to view northern lights, check out our Northern Lights Adventures here.
The tundra outside of Churchill is known as one of the world’s great wildflower spots, with the end of June and early July being the peak of the season.
You’ll come extremely close to belugas on our motorized rafts and optional kayaking excursions. This trip provides one of the world’s truly great whale encounters!
There is a possibility you may see polar bears in Churchill during the summer, as mothers and cubs, in particular, stay in the area during this time. If we do see polar bears, we’ll most likely view them from Polar Rovers in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area or from the optional scenic helicopter ride. For the greatest chance to see polar bears, view our collection of Polar Bear Adventures here.
We will be able to meet with some of the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples of Churchill on one of our days in town. We’ll have the privilege to hear the elders’ stories and learn about their history and culture.
We use motorized Zodiacs to view the beluga whales in the Churchill River, keeping our groups to no more than seven guests per boat in order to maximize our nature travel experience. Kayaks will also be available for guests to use to view whales for a more intimate experience on the water. We’ll also take a larger vessel across the Churchill River to visit the Prince of Wales Fort, where the Hudson Bay Company’s original fur-trading post stands. To view wildlife on land we’ll travel by small private bus around the Churchill area, and for our tundra journey we’ll travel by private Polar Rovers—large tundra vehicles designed to bring guests as close as possible to nature. Nat Hab is one of only two tour operators with exclusive permits to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, which is where we may have the chance to encounter polar bears, arctic fox and caribou.
The main difference between this trip and our other Churchill trips is that it’s the only Churchill adventure that takes place during the summer. This trip emphasizes beluga whales, as well as a host of other arctic animals, while our fall trips focus on polar bears, and our winter trips focus on northern lights.
Internet access is available at our Winnipeg accommodation for a fee, and though limited in Churchill, guests may use Wi-Fi at the public library and at some of the hotels. There is little to no cell phone service in the town or on the tundra, so do not expect to rely on your phone for communication.
Yes! We reserve some dates for private groups of families and friends so please call our office at 800-543-8917 to get details on group size and pricing.
U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Canada, but to get the best value for your dollar it is recommended you exchange your money to Canadian currency. It is best to exchange at your home bank so you have cash available upon arrival. Click here to check the current exchange rate. The majority of services in Manitoba take credit cards, but they are not accepted everywhere. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards.
For this expedition, travelers are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to Winnipeg. Please plan to arrive in Winnipeg by 5 pm at the latest on Day 1 of the itinerary, as there is an orientation dinner at 7 pm. On Day 2 of the trip, the group will travel from Winnipeg to Churchill via charter plane, which is booked by Nat Hab. You will return to Winnipeg in the early evening of the second-to-last day of your tour.
Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, offers a wide variety of fun activities and restaurants that are available during the summer months. The Forks is a lively riverside community center with shopping and dining options, Assiniboine Park is a large park that features a zoo and a conservatory, and Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park built in 1822 offers a tour of the fort gate and nightly light shows. Some noteworthy museums are the historic Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Manitoba Museum.