CHURCHILL - MANITOBA
Churchill, Manitoba is a small town, located on the shores of the Hudson Bay. So what makes this tiny town of 900 residents such a major tourism draw? Polar bears - Churchill is known as the “Polar Bear capital of the world.” The town is situated right in the middle of a major polar bear migration route, which makes it an optimal spot to see polar bears. After spending months on land, the polar bears congregate around Churchill waiting for the sea ice to begin forming over Hudson's Bay, so they can return to hunting their primary source of food, seals. The western Hudson bay population of polar bears found in Churchill is made up of over 1000 animals, which are relatively easy to see. Instead of viewing from boats or helicopters, tundra and vehicle tours are the primary ways to get up close viewing of the bears, you may even be able to see them from your hotel. While the prime time to see polar bears in during October and November, they are also around in the summer months.
Polar bears are not the only reason to visit Churchill. With over 270 species of birds, it is a popular destination for birders between the months of May to August. Churchill is also situated along the Churchill river, and the Churchill river estuary attracts over 3000 beluga whales in July and August, who flock to the area to give birth, and feed on capelin. A summer visit to Churchill guarantees you the chance to see more whales than you can count, and sometimes you may even spot a bear on the shores during your whale watching tour! The final tourism draw for Churchill is the Northern Lights, Churchill is one of the best places to view the Aurora Borealis. Auroral activity occurs about 300 nights of the year in the Churchill area, however prime time is January till March, as that is when the skies are clear and dark.
There are a few options for choosing a reputable tour company in Churchill. If you are looking to go out in the tundra vehicles, there are only two companies who have the required permits to go out in the Churchill wildlife management area, one of those companies, Great White Bear offers day tours, and multi-day trips through their partner Natural Habitat Adventures, who, along with WWF, offer many Polar bear viewing trips. Through these trips WWF is able to spearhead, and support various conservation initiatives regarding Polar Bear conservation, and sea ice protection. Alternatively, if the tundra vehicle trip isn’t what you’re looking for, there are smaller tour operators around town, such as Nature First, Wapusk Adventures, and Hudson Bay Helicopters. Lastly, the Churchill Northern Study centre offers scientists from around the world a venue to support and assist with their research involving the Hudson Bay Area.They also offer various school programs and learning vacations for visitors of all ages, for those looking for a vacation with a more educational focus. If you are interested in spending more of your time in Churchill, the Study Center also accepts volunteers to help with their research and conservation efforts.
During the summer months, Sea North Tours is your best bet for whale watching tours, offering boat tours, kayaking, snorkelling and there newest activity, along with Sup-North, stand up paddle boarding with beluga whales! All of Sea North tours boats are equipped with a prop guard to protect curious Beluga from any moving parts of the motor as they come up close to you. Churchill, Manitoba has so many options throughout the year, that there is definitely something for everyone! A visit to this sub-arctic town will be an adventurous trip you will never forget!