Canada: Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Manitoba

When we arrived at the Lazy Bear Expedition dock, a dozen colorful kayaks lined the water’s edge. I had done this leisurely activity on my travels a couple times before — once while exploring the cenotes in Mexico and another in the Micronesian country of Palau, but this time there was going to be an added element of adventure — just how I like it.

This time I would be kayaking surrounded by dozens of beluga whales.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

» Churchill, Manitoba in Canada

Between mid-June to September one of Canada’s most incredible wildlife display happens — the beluga whales come to town. More than 50,000 of these sociable creatures patrol the Arctic in Northern Manitoba, and the Hudson Bay coastline sees the world’s largest population. Lazy Bear Expeditions was taking me through theses waters on an adventure of a lifetime…

Kayaking amongst these gentle giants.

Annette White Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
photo by Cacinda of Points and Travel

The adventure began in the small city of Churchill, where it was technically summer. Though this is a place where the weather can change drastically during any season, not only by the day, but even by the hour. Our guide even joked that she was going to create t-shirts that say “Churchill — there’s been a change of plans” due to how often excursions have to work around mother nature. That just adds to the excitement of the experience.

We were lucky on this day because the sun was shining and the weather was in the low 60s. The water was a different story. Even though its temperature may have been a few degrees warmer in the summer months versus winter, it was still cold (about 40 degrees). This was the Arctic after all. So, we all suited up in a wet suit, before getting into our kayaks. It was merely a preventative measure in case we accidentally tipped over.

Please don’t let me tip over.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

» Kayaking with Beluga Whales

A small group of us took to the water, heading through the Churchill River at the mouth of the Hudson Bay. We glided on the smooth and pristine water with not a whale in site.

Where were they hiding?

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Our guide told us that the belugas are attracted by singing. I’m not sure if she was pulling our leg, but we all began to quietly belt out our chosen tunes, which was a rather pathetic version of “Amazing Grace” for me. It’s hard to say if this was the reason, but as we headed further away from the dock we saw white humps in the distance. These little curves in the water could have easily been mistaken for the white cap of a wave.

We headed straight for them.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

It wasn’t long before we were completely surrounded by one pod of five, then two and so on.You could see large air bubbles under the water making a ring that floated to the top, a good indication that one was near. Shortly after, the indescribable face of a beluga whale popped out of the water, made a curve with its back and disappeared underneath again. Sometimes a second one, a tiny gray baby next to its side, followed suit mimicking it’s elder.

Annette White Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

The whales weren’t only watched from a distance, they came about as close as they could get to my kayak. Some air bubbles formed within feet from me, large belugas glided underneath my vessel and even a couple curious babies swam up to my GoPro in the water to get a better look.

It was completely surreal.

It turned out to be a great addition to my list of the top things to do before you die.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

When we had found a prime spot, I simply sat still in my kayak for a couple hours waiting for them to come to me.

The belugas didn’t fail me.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

» Snorkeling

For the even braver, there was another option for getting even closer with the belugas, a snorkeling excursion where Lazy Bear Expeditions plops you in the water in the middle of a whale pod.

It was purely a bonus that you get to do it in a very attractive dry suit, that needed a little vaseline to get on.

Annette White in a dry suit before snorkeling with beluga whales in Manitoba

Snorkeling was similar to kayaking, except there wasn’t the safety of a boat between you and the whales. A long rope was thrown off the back of the Zodiac and we held on tight as it navigated its way to the best viewing areas. Looking the snorkel mask they would gracefully swim within feet of your face.

It didn’t matter which adventure you chose, both were equally as bucket list worthy.

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Location:

Churchill is located in the Northeastern portion of the Manitoba province of Canada. Manitoba is in central Canada between Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Getting There:

A majority of the visitors will fly into the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and from there take a domestic flight to Churchill. If you have booked with Lazy Bear Exhibitions they will have a charter flight waiting for you in Churchill.

When to Go:

The beluga whales are best seen from mid-June through mid-September. Though you will most likely see polar bears during this time, their peak season is in the fall.

Packing Tips:

  • As I mentioned, the weather can change on a dime in Churchill during an time of the year, so it is wise to clothes that can layer.
  • Bring a toque, better known as a beanie in America.
  • There can be some pesky mosquitos out there, load up on the bug repellant.

Essential Information:

  • CURRENCY: The Canadian Dollar
  • ELECTRICITY:  Electricity: Plug Type A/B, 120v. Outlets are the same as the American-style, so there is not need for an adapter or convertor.
  • WI-FI: Don’t expect to have too much cellular service in Churchill, but the Lazy Bear Lodge does provide really good internet.
  • ACTIVITY LEVEL: Light — the hardest part of this adventure is dragging your kayak to the water, otherwise it just takes a bit of upper body strength to get to where the belugas are.
My trip to Manitoba was hosted by Travel Manitoba and Lazy Bear Expeditions,  but all opinions are my own.




2017-08-05T15:27:44+00:00 August 18th, 2016|Categories: Canada, North America, TOP PICKS, TRAVEL|Tags: , , , , |

16 Comments

  1. Antonio August 19, 2016 at 7:43 am - Reply

    I think you are eventually becoming Canadian. 😜

    • Annette White August 19, 2016 at 8:01 am - Reply

      Ha, ha! I suppose if there’s one thing I have learned it’s to never say never 🙂

  2. Antonio August 19, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Just learn to say ey! Be polite and practise learning French.🤓

  3. Antonio August 19, 2016 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Add Vanessa.pisani@tcdsb.org use small v

  4. Rodrigo Pittman August 21, 2016 at 1:53 am - Reply

    That looks fun! I’d love to go kayaking with beluga whales too.

    • Annette White August 21, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      It was definitely an experience that I will never forget!

  5. Jaspreet Singh August 26, 2016 at 5:46 am - Reply

    One of the coolest things you guys have ever done. LOVE IT.

  6. Mark @ NWRoadtrips September 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    What an awesome experience. Great photos too. They really helped me feel like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Ronaldo César September 13, 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Amazing Pictures.LOVE IT.

  8. Abe September 14, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I love your photos!. Keep up the good work!

  9. Esther of Local Adventurer September 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    This is amazing!! We swam with whale sharks, but I would love to swim with beluga whales. I feel like I’d rather snorkel / dive than kayak. I always feel like I’m going to flip over.. and if I’m going to get wet, I might as well be really prepared for it. haha

    • Annette White September 29, 2016 at 2:18 am - Reply

      I like you’re theory about getting wet! And it totally makes sense, because that was my huge fear while kayaking. But, when I snorkeled, it didn’t even matter!

  10. […] the cold water. Once myself and other snorkelers came in (my travel partner Annette Slowik-White of Bucket list Journey braved the water too), we kept watching Kim at the end of the rope. She was singing and we noticed […]

  11. Tina Powell July 10, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Love this ! You are the best, Lets have you plan a trip so we can go!

    • Annette White July 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      I was never asked for any sort of proof, though I have heard that a business card, journalist association card or simply the ability to show your blog online should suffice. If you have a copy of your itinerary too, that would be extra added insurance.

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