Frequently Asked Questions

COVER: Photo © Alex de Vries-Magnifico

General Questions

WHAT IS CHURCHILL?

Churchill is a small remote community in northern Manitoba, Canada roughly 110 kilometres (68 miles) from the Manitoba and Nunavut border. Churchill is along the Hudson Bay at the mouth of the Churchill River on the 58th parallel North far above most Canadian populated areas. Churchill is far from any other towns or cities, with Thompson, approximately 400 km (250 mi) to the south, being the closest larger settlement. Manitoba’s provincial capital, Winnipeg, is approximately 1000 km (620 mi) south of Churchill. The small community stands at an ecotone, on the Hudson Plains, at the juncture of three ecoregions: the boreal forest to the south, the Arctic tundra to the northwest, and the Hudson Bay to the north. Churchill lies just south of the parallel of Stockholm, Sweden, and just north of that of Inverness, Scotland.
Churchill was named after John Churchill in 1686, the 3rd governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Duke of Marlborough.

HOW DO I GET TO CHURCHILL?

Please find information on our Traveling to Churchill page 

DO I NEED A PASSPORT TO ENTER CANADA?

All international travellers are required to have passports to enter Canada. Well before your departure, visit the Government of Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration website for more information.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen, check with your local authorities for documents required for entry into Canada. Please visit website for information.

All travellers to and from the United States are required to have a passport. For more info visit website for information.

SHOULD I CHANGE MY CURRENCY TO CANADIAN DOLLARS?

Visitors are advised to exchange their funds at any financial institution and/or can use U.S. money as it is readily accepted in Manitoba and in Churchill.

NOTE: You will not be able to exchange any of your currency into Canadian currency once in Churchill unless you have a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) account with the bank. Visa, Master Card & Interact are widely accepted but not AMEX.

IS THERE WIFI?

The WIFI in the subarctic can be slow so patience has to be exercised. The Churchill Public Library has several computers available for use but limited to 30 minutes. Lodgings in Churchill have free WIFI.

CAN I DRINK THE TAP WATER IN CHURCHILL?

YES! Please bring your water bottle from home and fill up with the local tap water.

IS THERE A LAUNDROMAT?

There is no laundromat in Churchill so expect to pay for laundry services in Churchill at your lodgings.

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE DURING JUNE, JULY AND AUGUST IN CHURCHILL?

June 7°C (44.7 Fahrenheit)
July 12.7°C (54.8 Fahrenheit)
August 12.3°C (54.1Fahrenheit)

HOW MUCH DAYLIGHT IS THERE IN JUNE, JULY AND AUGUST?

June average daylight: 18.02 hours
July average daylight: 18.22 hours
August average daylight: 16.45 hours

CAN I SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN THE SUMMER MONTHS?

Yes, you can see the Northern Lights if the night sky is clear.

CAN I SEE POLAR BEARS DURING THE PERIOD OF THE WHALE SEASON?

It is possible to see polar bears but it is not guaranteed.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION ON CHURCHILL?

I AM CONCERNED ABOUT BITING INSECTS. WHEN ARE THEY PRESENT AND WHAT CAN I DO TO BE BETTER PREPARED?

Our subarctic beluga whale tours are 100% outdoor activities and thus will be subject to all the environmental factors. Biting insects are present in Churchill and may or may not be an issue during your visit. A dry summer could mean little or no bugs and windy cool temperatures will discourage biting insects. Generally, mid July to mid August can be a time of bugs. In order to be prepared please bring insect repellent with DEET. It is best to wear long pants, long sleeves and sunglasses and spray your cap with bug spray on the tours. This is also advisable for any trail/walking tours (Prince of Wales fort), hiking tours (Sloop Cove) and when waiting at docking areas for the tours..

WHERE CAN I BUY GROCERIES?

Churchill has only one grocery store “Northern Store”. Some products may not be readily available as in southern stores. Hours are available once you arrive in Churchill.

IS THERE A PHARMACY?

Churchill has a Health Centre with a hospital and pharmacy. Hours are posted within the Churchill community.

WHAT OTHER FACILITIES ARE IN CHURCHILL?

Churchill is blessed with a wonderful Community Center. This center houses all local government district, library, movie theater, gymnasium, school, hockey rink, curling rink, bowling alley, pool, gymnasium, fitness center and much more. This “Complex” is open to the public and hours are posted within the community.

IS THERE A UDRIVE (CAR RENTAL)?

Tamarack rentals has vehicles for rent. Please visit their website at Tamarack Rentals to contact them and for further information.

DO CHURCHILL RESTAURANTS OFFER ANY VEGAN AND OR VEGETARIAN MEALS?

There are several restaurants each with fine menus. Some have vegetarian dishes but it is much more challenging to order a vegan meal. Sample menus can sometimes be obtained at the front desk of your hotel or inquiry once in Churchill for a list of restaurants.

IS THERE A TAXI SERVICE?

There is one taxi company, Churchill Taxi. Please contact them at 1-204-675-2345.

Booking your Tour

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD I BOOK MY SUBARCTIC SAFARI?

We recommend booking as far in advance as possible to ensure availability. This is especially important for travelers booking Chartered Zodiac Tours or large group bookings. We do advise to book all the water tours first and then book land tours around the whale tours because land tours are not subject to tide limitations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND BOOKING IN ADVANCE OR ARE WE ABLE TO WAIT UNTIL WE ARE IN CHURCHILL TO BOOK THESE TOURS?

To avoid any disappointment on any one tour, book as soon as possible. Any services can be limited in numbers when offered in a remote isolated small northern community.

If you are willing to invest into the travel costs to get to Churchill then you should invest in booking the tours in advance so you can enjoy your subarctic beluga whale safaris.

WHAT IF I HAVE TO CHANGE OR CANCEL MY TOUR?

All tours must be paid in full at time of booking. Any tours cancelled by our office due to required tour minimum number participation or extreme weather conditions affecting estuary and Bay conditions or other unforeseen circumstances beyond our control will be refunded at full price and/or rescheduled. Individuals who fail to notify the administration/office about tour cancellation 48 hours prior to tour time will not be refunded. Any changes to tours can be made within 48 hours via phone, email or in person. All tours must be pre-paid and no refund will be issued if conditions that prevent you from participating in your booked tour are simple change of mind or pre existing conditions. If transportation delays impact your ability to attend a tour, please contact us as soon as possible and we will do our best to reschedule you, if that is not possible, no refund will be issued (see highly recommend trip cancellation insurance). No partial refunds or credits will be given for services not used that have been purchased as a “group tour”.

Click to review our Cancellation Policy.

WHAT ADDITIONAL COSTS CAN I EXPECT WHEN TRAVELING TO AND IN CHURCHILL?

Other possible costs while you visit the friendly community of Churchill may include nominal entry fees to certain National Historic Sites and/or presentations, craft workshops (hosted by gift shop), taxi fares/transportation, meals, laundry and all other tours.

WHAT GRATUITIES/TIPS ARE RECOMMENDED?

We often get asked to suggest an amount to tip. So based on our research we can suggest the following. In Canadian dollars (CAD$): Interpretive Guides $15 per day; Tundra Buggy and boat drivers $10 per excursion; Hotel housekeeping staff $2 per day; Restaurant staff 15% per meal bill. Manitoba has 13% tax on meals thus you can match that amount for tipping the server.

WHAT ARE THE TOUR GUIDELINES?

Rules, guidelines and safety considerations must be adhered to and failure to comply may cause Sea North Tours to extricate any client who fails to show due diligence or conform to the substance of the tour.

Subarctic Beluga Whale Safari Questions

HOW MANY WHALES IN THE CHURCHILL ESTUARY?

Last estimate from 2017 is 6000 beluga whales. 3000 to 5000 beluga whales enter the Churchill Estuary with every tide (estimates).

HOW MANY WHALES ARE IN THE WESTERN HUDSON REGION?

An estimated population of 60,000 beluga whales are in the Western Hudson Bay region.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE BELUGA WHALES?

The best time visit is between July 10 and August 24 for the beluga whales.

WHY DO THE SEA NORTH TOURS TOUR TIMES CHANGE DAILY? AND ONLY ONCE A DAY?

All tour times are determined around the tides. There are two high tides in 24 hours (12 hours apart) and two low tides in 24 hours (12 hours apart). Thus, the tours are determined around a high and a low tide within 12 hours. The high tide is roughly 6 hours apart from the low tide.

Roughly the tour times move up an hour because the tide times change daily by about one hour.

CAN YOU CHANGE THE TOUR TIME BECAUSE I CANNOT MAKE THE POSTED TOUR TIME?

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon, the Sun and the rotation of Earth. Therefore, Mother Nature is the BOSS! She tells us when we can put our boats on the water and when to take them off due to the tides. We cannot change the tour times, you have to change your itinerary in order to meet the tides.  We do advise to book all the water tours first and then book land tours around the whale tours because land tours are not subject to tide limitations.

CAN I DO TWO BELUGA WHALE TOURS THE SAME DAY?

Yes, you can do a high tide tour and a low tide tour in the same day. High tide tours are: Beluga & Fort, Sloop Cove Hike, Estuary Boat Tour, Snorkel and Private Zodiac charters. Low Tide Tours are: Kayak and Paddleboarding.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO CHURCHILL FOR MY BELUGA WHALE SAFARI?

  • Binoculars (water-proof case)
  • Polarized sunglasses (cuts water glare)
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Short sleeve shirts
  • Long pants
  • Shorts
  • Sweatshirt
  • Wind-breaker jacket
  • Hat, scarf, gloves (good to have in case it is cold in the boat)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Reusable water bottle or thermos
  • Insect repellent (some black flies and mosquitoes)
  • Sunscreen/UV protection
  • Day pack
  • Swimsuit (if you plan to swim or snorkel)
  • Sleep Mask to use for sleeping as some find it hard to sleep with so much daylight, even in the night

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BELUGA & FORT AND THE ESTUARY TOUR? IS THIS THE SAME TOUR?

No, this is not the same tour. The Beluga & Fort tour is a combination tour with one hour whale watching and one interpreted hour at the Historic 1731 Fort Prince of Wales.

The Churchill Estuary Tour is 2 hours of beluga whale watching and does not go to the Fort Prince of Wales.

HOW DO I GET TO THE SEA NORTH TOURS DOCKING AREA?

Sea North Tours has a shuttle service to our docking area. You must be present at 153 Kelsey Blvd. 30 minutes before your scheduled tour time. We do not pick up at individual accommodation facilities. All guests meet at 153 Kelsey Blvd, Polar Inn & Suites, home of Sea North Tours. There is no charge for the shuttle.
Please click on Plan Your Trip > Churchill and Surrounding Area Map to view the shuttle bus location in reference to your hotel.

ARE ANY BEVERAGES, MEALS OR SNACKS INCLUDED WITH THE TOUR?

“The snorkeling tour” is the only tour which has snacks and liquids provided while on tour. The snorkel tour has hot teas, water and snacks for energy. You can bring something to drink on all of your tours and it is a good idea if you are on the Sloop Cove Hike to bring water and if required an energy bar or fruit.

BATHROOM? WHERE? LATRINE?

The Sea North Tours dock on the East Peninsula is equipped with outhouses. The Prince of Wales Fort kiosk on the West Peninsula is also equipped with outhouses.

FROM A PHOTOGRAPHY PERSPECTIVE DO YOU THINK IT MATTERS WHETHER IT IS MORNING OR AFTERNOON OR EVENING TIDES FOR BELUGA WHALE PHOTOGRAPHY?

To properly answer this question, Sea North Tours reached out to one of our very experienced local photographers, Mr. Mike Macri.
Sunny morning or evening incoming tides are great for surface shots, mid day is excellent for underwater photography from a zodiac, have also had good results in overcast, surface or underwater, try to keep your shutter speed up. Take advice from the Sea North guides on how to get close, they are the best! Mike Macri Website

Kayaking

WHAT DO I WEAR FOR KAYAKING?

Kayaking is a low tide tour so you will get some mud on your shoes. Therefore, do not wear shoes you do not want to get dirty. Water shoes, sneakers or boots are all good. Wear comfortable upper body clothes, not something that will restrict you from paddling. Bring sunglasses (polarized are the best), baseball cap and gloves, if you have. Always have your camera on a lanyard. If you do not protect your camera it may get splashed at your own risk.

ARE WE ABLE TO JUST RENT A KAYAK OR PADDLE BOARD AND GO ON OUR OWN ON THE WATER OR DOES IT NEED TO BE PART OF A TOUR?

Sea North Tours Ltd. does not rent out kayaks or paddle boards. In order to kayak and/or paddle board with our company you must reserve a kayak or paddle tour. We provide guided safety zodiacs for these tours for our guests.

WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO RESERVE, THE SINGLE OR DOUBLE KAYAK? CAN YOU OFFER SOME ADVISE?

You need to ask yourself if you want to paddle solo or tandem (a kayak equipped for two paddling guests). Choosing a tandem kayak can be a good choice if you or the other guest is nervous and the experience would be more confidence boosting with a buddy. Tandem kayaks are great if you are paddling with a child who isn’t ready to kayak alone. If one kayaker’s ability or strength mean they won’t do well paddling alone in a single kayak, then having a stronger or more capable tandem partner is best. Some experienced kayakers also enjoy the companionship and teamwork that a double kayak provides. If one guests wishes to focus primarily on optimising beluga whale photography, then a tandem is best, one takes pictures while one paddles.
The single “solo” kayak offers more independence and freedom, and the paddler is solely responsible for the direction and performance of their kayak.

Snorkeling

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE THE WATER TEMPERATURE IF I WANT TO GO SNORKELLING?

4° to 9°C (39.2 to 48.2 Fahrenheit)

HOW MANY SNORKELERS ON A ZODIAC AT ONE TIME? HOW MANY IN THE WATER AT ONE TIME?

Maximum of six snorkelers in the zodiac and our average trip is 5 snorkelers. There are four snorkelers in the water at one time.

WHAT DO I WEAR FOR A SNORKEL TOUR?

Bring your bathing suit and contact lenses (for snorkel mask if you wear eyeglasses). You will NOT be able to wear anything else underneath the 7mm wetsuit. Change room and towels are available at the dock.

FOR THE SNORKEL TOUR I AM UNCLEAR ON WHETHER THE WET SUIT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OR NOT, AS THERE ARE SEPARATE COST OF WET SUIT HIRE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TOUR DESCRIPTION. DOES THE POSTED TOUR COST INCLUDE ALL EQUIPMENT? WHY IS THERE A SEPARATE COST OF WET SUIT HIRE?

The current snorkel tour rate includes: the entire 7 mm wet suit (john, jacket, mask, snorkel, boots and gloves). It includes the transportation to and from the Town of Churchill to the Sea North Tours docking area and of course your guided tour.

There is a separate cost for 7mm wet suit hire because some visitors wish to charter a zodiac for “their exclusive use only” and thus when chartering a boat for the purpose of snorkelling the 7mm wet suits are not included and the additional costs of rental apply to hire a private charter. In other words the client is not purchasing a “snorkel tour” but purchasing a “boat charter” for their personnel use.