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Whale Watching

Polar Bear Adventure in Churchill Canada

Polar Bear paw

Polar bear paw print + rubber boot

GeorgieJet, from the popular travel website “JohnnyJet.com“, came up to the Seal River Heritage Lodge this summer to experience Churchill Wild’s “Birds, Bears & Belugas“, a one-of-a-kind Arctic summer adventure.

BBB, as we like to call it, has the best of the best in an Arctic summer experience for wildlife lovers, it is a step beyond the traditional Churchill polar bear tour - beluga whale swims, incredible scenery, approximately 250 species of birds and Churchill Wild’s trademark polar bear hikes. It’s all on the ground, up close and personal with the world’s largest carnivore and environmental poster child.

Rick Kemp, Churchill Wild’s Director of Marketing & Communications, met with GeorgieJet in New York this past spring and was able to entice her to pay us a visit. With the support of Travel Manitoba Georgie made her way to the “Wildest Place on Earth” and logged her experiences regularly from the lodge.

Here’s part of what she had to say about her life changing experience at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge:

We walked about 500 yards out on the mudflats as it was low tide. The large bear, approx. 1000 pounds, was another 500 yards farther out on a point of rocks. I was astounded at how close we were. He put his nose up in the air and got a whiff of our scent. Their sense of smell is incredible and their eyesight and hearing are keen as well. He sensed that we were not a threat or food, and continued to relax on his spot of sand and rocks, aware of us, but tolerant.

Go past the JohnnyJet website and read the whole thing! Georgie told us she will be writing about her beluga swim and Jeanne’s renowned meals next. We’ll let everyone know when that story becomes available.

Bring your parents to work day in the arctic

by Allison Reimer

Churchill Wild guide Andy MacPherson on the tundra with his parents Al and Sherron.

Churchill Wild guide Andy MacPherson on the tundra with his parents Al and Sherron.

Instead of “bring your kid to work day” we had one of our guides bring his parents in for a week of arctic life experience.

It didn’t matter what Andy (the guide) had told his parents (Al and Sherron) about his work experiences at Churchill Wild. It couldn’t possibly have readied them for what they were about to encounter. Hearing stories and looking at trip photos is nothing like experiencing the wonders of the arctic in real life.

Conversing with Andy’s mom Sherron in the lounge at Seal River Heritage Lodge, just to get her take on the overall Churchill Wild experience, she didn’t have too much to say, but when we parted company an hour later I got the feeling that what we are doing here is a truly wondrous thing.

“Paradise in the Wild,” Sherron dubbed us, adding that she was thrilled to see “a true family-operated business that shares the wonders of the Hudson Bay.”

Exiting the boat on Hudson Bay after swimming with beluga whales.

After the beluga whale swim...

I think what really made Al and Sherron’s stay so terrific though, were the people. Yes, they had an amazing time swimming with beluga whales and viewing polar bears, including one that even tried testing the strength of our fence despite getting yelled at, but there was never a thought towards being unsafe. No, what really made the trip special  was the fact that all the guests became like one big family during their visit.

The way the guests bonded became the cherry on top of their arctic adventure sundae. With such a a wide variety of age and ethnicity, you might have expected something less, but everyone had come for one or two reasons – to see polar bears and swim with beluga whales, or to have a new travel experience unique in its own.

“I immediately felt welcome when I arrived and the time went far too quickly,” said Sherron. “The world doesn’t intrude here. No cars, no trains, and the only planes we saw were the ones that delivered us and the ones that took us home.”

From what Sherron said, and from what I gathered from everyone else in the group, it was a trip full of memories; of hearts speeding up with excitement; and of comfortable relaxation between the day to day adventures.

Churchill Wild guide Andy MacPherson with parents Al and Sherron at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Is that frost on Andy's breath? Hmmm...

The group saw hundreds of whales when they went out on to the water, and the curious creatures just kept coming towards them for the full 45 minutes that Sherron and the other guests were swimming with them.

And nobody seemed to mind that almost every dinner time was interrupted by a polar bear showing up to check out the smells, which also resulted in dessert being constantly postponed. And our new open kitchen at Seal River Heritage Lodge was a huge hit!

It was a fun week that the group promised never to forget. We certainly won’t forget them… and their warm and wonderful personalities!

Mariachi Beluga Whale

YouTube Preview Image

Swim with Beluga whales! An Arctic Safari where you can walk with Polar Bears!

How do you pack for a trip to Seal River Heritage Lodge?  Just floating an idea for any of our Mexican guests…

Beluga Whales in Churchill – 10 Things You Might Not Know

Swimming with Beluga Whales in Hudson Bay near Seal River

Beluga whales are friendly!

by Vanessa Desorcy

Most of the time, polar bears overshadow other arctic wildlife on our Churchill Wild adventures.  Beluga whales are another species prevalent around Churchill in the summer however, and since they’re a popular part of our Birds, Bears & Belugas adventure, we thought it might be nice to share with you a few things that we find interesting about these friendly-faced mammals.

  1. While you likely know that beluga whales are white, it’s unlikely you’re aware that the name ‘beluga’ comes from the Russian word “Belukha” which means white.
  2. Beluga whales are also known as “sea canaries” due to the unique and varied sounds they make.  On our Birds, Bears & Belugas adventure at Seal River Heritage Lodge, we offer guests a chance to snorkel with the belugas, and those who have done so can testify to the fact that humming and chirping attract these friendly creatures!
  3. Ghostly white Beluga Whales in Hudson Bay

    Ghostly White - Beluga Whales in Hudson Bay

    Baby belugas are born gray and turn white as they age.  Due to their darker color, they are thought to be more difficult to spot by predators such as polar bears and killer whales. Most belugas are completely white around the age of 13 when sexual maturity is reached.

  4. Belugas are very sociable and as such, their sense of touch is very important.  It is not unusual for belugas to come close enough to the boats and snorkelers to be touched.
  5. Beluga whales undergo a seasonal molt, unlike other cetaceans which shed continuously.  They rub against rocky river bottoms to shed their skin, which could be why they’re often found in shallow water in the summertime.
  6. Belugas, like other toothed whales, have a life expectancy of 30-40 years, nearly half that of the average life expectancy of most baleen whales.
  7. Beluga Ballet - Photo by Kike Calvo

    Beluga Ballet - Photo Credit: Kike Calvo

    In the summer, belugas are often found in warm-water estuaries and river basins, making our Lodge, located near the Seal River estuary, an ideal place to view them.

  8. The seven vertebrae in a beluga’s neck are not fused, which gives them the ability to turn their heads and even nod!
  9. The lack of a dorsal fin enables beluga whales to swim just below ice sheets to locate breathing holes.  Their lack of a dorsal fin also means less surface area, minimizing heat loss when in Arctic waters.
  10. Spot the difference:  Male belugas can be distinguished from females by the upward curve at the top of their flippers as well as by their size.  Adult males can weigh up to 1500 kg, while mature females weigh in at about 1350 kg.

Oh, and one more thing we’ve learned from guests on our Birds, Bears and Belugas adventures – swimming with Belugas is a fun!

Related Posts:

Churchill Wild Birds, Bears and Belugas trip featured in L.A. Times Travel Section
Swim with beluga whales. Conquer your fears.

Churchill Wild Birds, Bears and Belugas trip featured in L.A. Times Travel Section

Freelance journalist Margo Margo Pfeiff  was at Churchill Wild this past July and experienced our Birds, Bears and Belugas holiday first hand.

Beluga Whales at mouth of Seal River on Hudson Bay

Beluga Whales at mouth of Seal River on Hudson Bay

Not one to sit on the sidelines and simply observe, Margo was the first one in the water to swim and snorkel with the beluga whales. She also showed no fear of the polar bears (or the birds) while hiking over the tundra birdwatching and bear watching. Below follow a few short excerpts from her article:  The Arctic warmth of Hudson Bay’s belugas, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times Travel Section.

“I am beluga bait. Bobbing at the end of a rope tied around my feet, I am being slowly towed in the wake of a Zodiac, a small, inflatable boat, through the icy waters of Hudson Bay. Clad in a partly inflated rubber dry suit, I look like a Michelin Tire Man who has sprouted a snorkel as I peer into the murky brown, tannin-stained cocktail of salt and freshwater. I have come all the way to far northern Manitoba, Canada, to snorkel with beluga whales that, if they do appear out of the gloom, will likely scare the daylights out of me. As my heart races…” Read full article in the Los Angeles Times Travel Section article

Snorkeling with Beluga Whales on Hudson Bay - Dennis Fast photo

Snorkeling with Beluga Whales on Hudson Bay - Dennis Fast photo

“The water teems with whales, and a steady stream of polar bears meanders past. In fall, it’s a bear traffic jam, and with longer nights, it’s a great time to see shimmering sheets of red and green northern lights. Here on the tundra, it’s people who live in an enclosure…” Read full article in the L.A. Times Travel Section article

“The birders on our trip — from Britain and Switzerland — spot eider ducks, a snowy owl and tall sandhill cranes emitting a strange musical rattle as they strut near the stone remains of an ancient Inuit campsite. In this corner of the world, you don’t walk outside without a weapon…” Read full article in the L.A. Times Travel Section article