Summary : Few of nature’s marvels match the intense liveliness of an Arctic summer. In a region that's frozen, still and dark for much of the year, the Far North awakens with a burst of energy during these long days when the tundra turns green, animals come forth in great flocks and herds, and the sea welcomes thousands of beluga whales back for their summer feasting. With the remote outpost of Churchill as your base on the edge of Hudson Bay, be part of the excitement, surrounded by a flurry of natural wonders that only a northern summer can provide.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel, built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The French-style chateau is still the grande dame of Winnipeg, offering first-class hospitality. Meet your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner on this first evening of your Arctic tour.
Today explore Winnipeg’s history and natural environs, including FortWhyte Alive, featuring 640 acres of lakes, forest, marsh, meadow, farmland, and a 70-acre bison prairie. Here, take a step back in time and paddle a North West Company voyageur canoe on Muir Lake. Enjoy a birdwatching outing among the park's rich wetlands. Depending on the train schedule, board the Hudson Bay passenger train to Churchill around lunchtime.
Traveling northward, southern prairies give way to dense boreal forest. Disembark to explore the surrounding subarctic environs and enjoy lunch by the lake before continuing by rail to the edge of the tundra. The train is relaxing and comfortable, and each cabin has its own toilet, sink and large windows, offering a broad vista of the changing ecosystems.
Early in the morning, arrive in the small northern outpost of Churchill, gateway to the Arctic, with four full days of adventure ahead. Activities include two Zodiac trips to see belugas in the Churchill River. More than 3,000 of these wondrous white whales spend the summer in the region, and motorized rafts put you at eye-level with them. With their unusual ability to turn their heads from side to side, they appear to be as curious about you as you are about them. Through the use of a hydrophone on board, listen to their otherworldly songs. Few wildlife encounters offer as intimate a perspective as this one.
Take a larger vessel across the river to Prince of Wales Fort, established by Danish explorer Jens Monk in 1619, and where the Hudson’s Bay Company built one of its original fur-trading posts. Churchill became a stopover point for explorers searching for the fabled Northwest Passage and was instrumental in the opening of the Canadian West. A unique polar rover conveys you to a point near Hudson Bay to enjoy an outdoor cookout while watching for wildlife here at the interface of the boreal forest and tundra. You may see caribou with calves, snowy owls, Arctic fox and ptarmigan, and you may even spot polar bears. At this time of year, it is not uncommon to find mothers with cubs. The Churchill area also has plenty of walking trails that line the border of the northern boreal forest and southern tundra. This nexus of ecosystems is home to a variety of flora and fauna which you'll encounter on short walks.
Your morning is free to wander Churchill's main street, where several locally owned shops offer Native handicrafts from Inuit wall-hangings to caribou fur sculptures. Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Winnipeg. This evening, gather over a farewell dinner one last time, reveling in the memories made over the past week.
After breakfast, your Arctic summer tour comes to a close. Transfer to the airport for flights home.
Departure dates and itinerary subject to change. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to confirm departure schedule before purchasing air tickets. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Train Schedule: Train timetables are unconfirmed until shortly before each departure. Changes to train schedules may affect the itinerary on Days 2-4.
Seven Day Itinerary: 7/14/2016
On select departures, guests do not take the train to Churchill. Instead, fly to Churchill mid-morning on Day 2. If the flight schedule permits, on this morning visit the acclaimed Manitoba Museum, renowned for its exhibits on the human and natural heritage of the province, including the history of northern Native cultures. The total trip length for these departures is 7 days. The Churchill inclusions and activities are identical to the regular itinerary. Please note that there will not be a visit to FortWhyte Alive on these departures.
Snorkel and Kayak with Belugas:
Optional opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to snorkel or sea kayak among dozens of beluga whales. Please note that these options are highly dependent on weather and tides. Contact ExpeditionTrips for rates and details.
R/T transportation between Winnipeg and Churchill (train and plane, except as noted above); accommodations; all meals; services of Expedition Leaders and assistants; most gratuities; airport transfers; permits and entrance fees; all taxes.
Travel to and from start and end point of trip; some gratuities; optional activities; items of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, phone calls, laundry, etc.); optional travel insurance.
PHOTOS: © Lin Adler (NHA); © Eric Rock (NHA)