Churchill, Manitoba is the Beluga Whale and Polar Bear Capital of the World.
We are a four seasons destination for the outdoors enthusiast with a great variety of sub-arctic flora and fauna. Our history is the fur trade and more recently the Canadian and American military, plus Canada's most northerly seaport.
This links site has been developed to offer you the information you need to find your interests and make your way to Churchill.
One of life’s most exhilarating experiences is being kept a secret from you. The most recent beluga whale survey released by Fisheries and Oceans and Dr. Pierre Richard in 2005 found that there were 57,000 belugas in western Hudson Bay, the largest population in the world. Over 3000 of these beautiful, graceful and intelligent animals populate the Churchill River estuary from around June 20 to September 3, with peak numbers from July 7 to August 20.
Why is Churchill’s Whale Watching season a secret to most? Polar Bears!!! It is generally agreed that Churchill’s world famous polar bears have cast a shadow so large over the other attractions that they are not being seen.
DNA testing has proven that beluga whales come from specific populations. The eastern and western Hudson Bay populations are not the same animals. Churchill and Seal River belugas are the friendliest. Commercial whaling was banned in the early 1970’s and since then local whales have become increasingly curious and playful. It is common to have belugas chase the boats, diving under you for a better look. From our zodiacs we have had passengers lean out with an outstretched hand to have a gray adolescent calf swim up and initiate a touch. Belugas are capable of smashing their way through half an inch of surface ice but they will often greet kayaks with a gentle bump from underneath. (Additional Pictures) Although this kind of interactive whale watching is not for the faint of heart, no one has ever been capsized or harmed in anyway by these gentle creatures in over 25 years of Sea North Tours operations. On rare occasions we have had pods of bulls, 14 to 16 feet long, taking turns scratching their backs on the hull of the Sea North II, which makes it hard to distinguish the beluga squeals over the hydrophones from the passengers’ squeals of delight.
Unlike some areas where whales migrate past, the Churchill River belugas are here 24/7 for almost three months. In 2005 our success rate was 100% as it is most seasons. Inuit whalers can throw a damper on the local whale watching and although there is a gentleman’s agreement between the Town of Churchill and the northern whaling communities, not all whalers are gentlemen. A very small percentage of more northerly residents find the Churchill River belugas tame and easy to kill. When this happens once or twice annually, belugas being intelligent will change their behavior, keeping out of harpoon distance for three or four days. Sea North Tours is lobbying Fisheries and Oceans to make the Churchill River a “no whaling area”, as televised on the National news in July, 2005.
THE WORLD’S 10 BEST WILDLIFE DESTINATIONS (and at least one huge lie)
The nationally televised special “The World’s 10 Best Wildlife Destinations” started with a count down from # 10 to #1. #10 was Churchill, Manitoba, Polar Bear Capital of the World. Maybe some people were a bit disappointed it wasn’t ranked a little higher, but it did rank in the ten best in the world. At this point I knew that the Churchill River belugas were in there somewhere and that they ranked higher than the bears, “The secret is out”. I also knew because the film crew was in Churchill, booked time on the Sea North II plus zodiac charters, and they told me that they were filming for this TV special. Moving up to #7, whale watching in the Saguenay River was proclaimed the best on the planet. And there we were, smiling people standing on the decks of the Sea North II, floating in the Churchill River, repeatedly bombarded by our grinning faced white whales. Beluga whales in the region of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers are on the endangered species list, and now due to relatively low numbers with strict regulations prohibiting contact, the producers shot this segment in the Beluga Whale Capital of the World, Churchill, Manitoba. Who was #1, best in the world? I don’t know; I was too ticked off to remember!!!