So much more than snow
Instead of jetting off to exotic foreign destinations in search of that exciting Eco-tourism adventure, why not head north to Churchill, Manitoba’s northern gem on the shore of Hudson Bay? Churchill’s just a two and a half-hour flight — or 36-hour train ride — from Winnipeg. Although inaccessible by road, those travelling by road can make it as far north as Thompson or Gillam, reducing flight time and costs.
Churchill is small, yet incongruously cosmopolitan. The people are friendly, and you’ll be able to treat yourself to some excellent food. (Try the Arctic Char at the Trader’s Table restaurant, one of the town’s best.)
And, contrary to popular belief, the weather isn’t always cold. The summer of ’98, for example, scored some record-breaking temperatures in the low to mid 30’s. Winter, on the other hand, is only for the brave of heart.
Beluga whales, polar bears
In summer, you’ll witness a display of colourful wildflowers spreading across the tundra and be able to spot the Beluga whales. They come to give birth and raise their young in the fresh water of the Churchill River.
Fall is polar bear-watching season, when more tha1,400 bears, the largest on earth, prowl the land, outnumbering the town’s 1,000 residents. Excursions are available enabling travellers to get a close-up view of them.
The region boasts several unique lodges, including the Seal River Heritage Lodge, located 60 kilometres north of Churchill. It’s just one of several remote, fly-in resorts offering guests the opportunity to experience wildlife adventures of the northern kind — every bit as exciting as an African safari.
Birds and borealis
In March and April, Seal River Lodge features a Fire and Ice Adventure complete with igloo building and dog sledding. During the summer, there are opportunities to study caribou and seals, whale watching, birding, plus the chance to try your hand at kayaking or canoeing.
“There’s a dramatic caribou migration of about half a million animals that cross through Manitoba into the tree line for winter protection,” says Mike Reimer, owner of Seal River Heritage Lodge.
“There are also more than 200 species of shorebirds, seabirds and birds of prey in the area, and birders come specifically in search of the rare Ross’ Gull.”
Churchill is the best place to observe the aurora borealis, and is home to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC). Astronomy courses are held and no knowledge of the science is necessary.
“All you need is the interest, and we’ll give you the tools to go out and really see the sky,” says Roger Woloshyn, a CNSC instructor for the past 15 years.