Photo by Jane Orbuch, July 2022.
ACCOMMODATIONS: During our stay in Churchill on the edge of the magnificent Hudson Bay, we will be based at the Polar Boutique Inn & Suites. Owned by a local family of multiple generations, our comfortable hotel provides double occupancy rooms and a hearty continental style breakfast each morning. The “Polar Inn” is also headquarters for our primary outfitter while in Churchill, Sea North Tours. On July 25th, we have book the Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Center, in Winnipeg which will include breakfast on July 26th. This comfortable hotel is conveniently located near both the Winnipeg Airport and Assiniboine Park, home of the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre . These are optional visits on the morning of July 26th which are highly recommended.
Please book your Winnipeg accommodations for July 19th. We have scouted and recommend the Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Center, however the choice is yours. This lovely hotel is also located near the Winnipeg airport and features Chicago Joe’s Restaurant and Sports Bar. Another option is Holiday Inn Express Polo Park although it does not have a restaurant for evening dining but includes a breakfast. Restaurants are near by. If traveling without a companion and you would like to book July 19th with your “hotel mate” while in Churchill, please email Kim Powell at: email@example.com.
OUR CANADIAN BASED OUTFITERS: We are thrilled to be under the primary care of Sea North Tours while in Churchill. Like Blue Water Ventures, Sea North provides an array of outdoor adventures with an educational focus. Committed to the conservation and well being of beluga whales, Sea North is the only Churchill outfitter using prop free engines or those with prop guards eliminating any moving parts below the water. Additionally, we will be under the guidance of North Star Tours . While paddle boarding we are so pleased to be joined by Erin Greene, owner of SUP North. Her love for the beluga whales from the intimate perspective of a paddle board shines through during her tours. We will also meet the canine crew and learn about the history of dog sledding, as we join Waspusk Adventures. On a very special day, we will explore the local terrain aboard the “Polar Rover” with Great White Bear Tours. During our 2018 scouting trip to Churchill we learned a great deal and made some truly great connections. We are so pleased to offer the finest line up of professional outfitters.
A pod of Beluga whales investigating our Zodiac, Photo By Kim Powell
WILDLIFE SURROUNDING CHURCHILL: Virtually twice the size of Texas, the magnificent Hudson Bay and its surrounding terrestrial habitats supports an incredibly diverse array of flora and fauna. The boreal forest, and expansive tundra creates habitat for over 500 species of arctic wild flowers providing an explosion of color during the month of July. Over 200 migratory or nesting birds are found in this region. A variety of arctic mammals may be seen such as arctic fox, moose arctic hare and polar bears. As the Hudson Bay begins to melt, polar bears come ashore and wander along the edges of this expansive bay in what is known as a walking hibernation. During mid July polar bears eat very little, rest along the edges of the bay and sometimes wander into the town of Churchill. Each day, we will remain alert to the possibility of seeing polar bears and other arctic species. However, the peak time of year to view the magnificent white bear is during the fall months with sightings less common during the summer months. By July, over 3000 beluga whales enter into the Churchill Estuary and each day, we will view these magnificent creatures. Though rare, other marine mammals recorded in the Churchill region include orcas, bowhead whales, minke whales, ringed seals and walruses. Harbor seals are the most common pinniped utilizing the biologically rich and expansive estuary. The Churchill region is home to approximately 40 mammals, many of which are classified as marine mammals including the majestic and revered polar bear.
MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: As new information unfolds regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we will update this link as we learn new requirements if any, for travel between Canada and the United States. As new protocol evolves (such as the use of face masks during certain activities), we will update information here. Due to the nature of this trip traveling in vans and boats together, we will require everyone to submit proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of April 1st 2022, fully vaccinated Travelers to Canada are no longer required to have a pre COVID screening for entry into Canada.
Everyone is required to complete the ArriveCAN travel information within 72 hours of your arrival into Canada. You may download the mobile app or register online to create your account. You will be asked to enter proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status and travel information. Upon entry into Canada, the border services officer may notify you that you’ve been randomly selected for a mandatory arrival test. While we consider this unlikely, you may review more information here~ Random Testing
As of November 8th, 2021 the United States requires proof of a negative COVID-19 one day before your flight home. We will help arrange for testing and this service will cost $95-135 payable in cash in Canada. If someone tested positive, we will help you arrange a quarantine and that cost is your responsibility, a cost that Travel insurance should cover. For updates on travel to Canada, please visit the The Center of Disease Control (CDC) Canada which recommends up to date routine vaccinations. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, Hepatitis A and your yearly flu shot. Please review this site for updates on Covid and Travel to Canada. and consult your physician regarding your trip. All medical precautions are the decision of each participant. Be sure to pack all medications in the original prescription package or bottle to avoid problems while clearing customs.
CLIMATE: The average July temperatures in the Churchill area hover in the mid 50’s during the day and mid 40’s at night. Warmer or cooler temperatures are possible with windy and cool conditions quite possible while boating. We may experience sunny, windy, rainy or stormy conditions so layering with warm clothing, a warm hat and proper rain gear is required. For current weather conditions, please visit Weather Now. In July the days are long with an average of 18 hours and 22 minutes of daylight each and every day!
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: While experience in kayaking, hiking or paddle boarding is not required to participate in this program, good general health is recommended. Some level of upper body conditioning is advisable to prepare for a variety of water sports. Please call us if you have any questions regarding the activities planned at 831 459 8548.
ACTIVITIES INCLUDED: During our multi-sport adventure to the sub arctic zone of Churchill, we will kayak, paddle board (sup), view wildlife from zodiacs and larger vessels, dog mush, hike and try the unique sport of beluga boarding. Our hikes are moderately easy over some rugged terrain with very little elevation gain.
BELUGA BOARDING: Get ready for an up close and personal encounter with a pod of beluga whales! This relatively new eco-adventure sport involves floating on a sturdy platform that is pulled behind a Zodiac. Curious by nature, beluga whales may approach the platform allowing you to dip your head into the chilly arctic water for a closer look. You may opt to keep your head and face dry while submerging a waterproof camera. Excellent viewing can be accomplished without using a mask, but you are likely to still get wet from spray or chop. We are extremely excited to offer this truly unique venue for experiencing the curious and chatty white whales.
It’s important to test out your mask and snorkel ahead of time. You want to be ready before mounting a beluga board! If you are buying new gear, you should prep it before our trip. There is a film on new masks that can be removed with nongel, non whitening “cheap” toothpaste. Here’s a link on how to clean your mask. A dive shop where you purchase gear can help you with proper fir and cleaning method. You may also buy a small bottle of drops that helps to clean the masks (bought at your dive shop). As an alternative, You may rent a mask and snorkel for $10 for our two days of beluga boarding.
IMPORTANT UPDATES ON SNORKEL GEAR: We have recently learned about the potential dangers in full face masks. Apparently, in some models CO2 builds up inside the mask leading to blackouts, potentially fatal. Here is an article regarding the dangers of full face masks: With that said, Blue Water Ventures is banning the use of full face masks on all of our snorkeling programs.
WETSUITS PER ACTIVITY: The water surrounding Churchill during the summer is brisk averaging around 46 degrees during the month of July. Wetsuits are required while Beluga Boarding and Paddle Boarding (SUPPING). Sometimes beluga whales get a little frisky investigating the white underside of your paddle board! If you are so lucky, this may lead to a quick dunk off your board. Wetsuits are needed while beluga boarding as there may be cold wind, chop and spray during the activity although submersion is unlikely.
5 Mil Full body wetsuits are provided while paddle boarding but not while beluga boarding. During our 2 beluga boarding sessions you may bring your own 5-7 mil full body suit or rent from our outfitter for $75 per day which includes mask, snorkel, gloves, hood and bootys. Individual items~neoprene gloves, bootys, wetsuit hood and mask/snorkel may also be rented for beluga boarding for $5 per item or bring your own.
When kayaking we would recommend a wetsuit sock worn along with a 3-5 Mil wetsuit booty. Wetsuit bootys work better than keens or tevas when launching our kayaks in the muddy, cold arctic water. You may also rent bootys for $5. Wetsuits are not worn when kayaking but PFDS, spary skirts and a paddle jacket are available for use at no additional charge. Plan on approximately 2 hours of paddling time using stable tandem sea kayaks.
When paddle boarding/supping, 5 mil wetsuits, neoprene hoods, neoprene gloves and bootys are all provided. Plan on approximately 2 hours of paddle boarding. Not sure about your balance or skill level? You may paddle these stable boards from a sitting position, even closer to those curious white whales. Please refer to our Detailed Packing List for more information.
CORAL SAFE SUNSCREEN: We hope you will consider bringing a small amount of Coral Safe Sunscreen. such as Faces for the unlikely chance of submersion. If you have had a chance to look over our website packing list, you will have noticed several brands of Coral Safe Sunscreens. There are many out there, some that claim to be safe but actually are not. A key ingredient to avoid is oxybenzone, harmful to marine life. Two brands that we personally like are: Raw Element and Stream2Sea, although there are other good brands on the market. Review this link for more details: Coral Safe. We truly appreciate your consideration of coral safe sunscreen to help reduce our impact on the fragile marine ecosystem.
SEA SICKNESS PREVENTION: If you are prone to sea sickness, we highly recommend bringing some form of prevention. Medications such as Bonine or Dramamine are usually effective although drowsiness or thirst can be a side effect. Many clients have been very happy with Scopalimine patches that requires a prescription. Your local pharmacist or physician can advise you. Many health food stores will recommend herbal remedies such as Motionease for sea sick prevention and we have found this brand quite effective. In the past, several clients have successfully used “sea bands” which employ a pressure point on the wrists rather than medication. Sea Bands have no side effects and can be purchased at most dive shops or online at Prevention.
CAMERAS: Photographing marine mammals can be exciting as well as distracting! Sometimes its highly recommended to ignore the camera and simply be in the moment! Your Blue Water Ventures guides will photo document your trip and we will send a photo link to you. Over the years, we have preferred the Olympus Tough Underwater Camera with the round lens rather than the square lens. Other clients have been extremely happy with the Cannon or Fiji underwater cameras. You may use a camera stick with these types of cameras as you do with a go pro.
GoPro cameras work extremely well with their wide angle setting as beluga whales approach you or our marine vessel. For photographing from a distance, GoPros are less effective. You may want to bring a camera with a good zoom lens for capturing arctic wildlife on land. Be sure to review your equipment prior to arrival. We will gladly offer any guidance on your equipment that we can.
Hiking the vast tundra with local guide and Polar Bear Guard
INSECT REPELLENT: Mosquitoes and black flies will be encountered in Churchill, some years to a lesser degree than others. A strong repellent is a good defense against mosquitoes and other insects that we may encounter. A layer of clothing is a very effective defense against insects. Light colored clothing and no perfumes seems to help with bug management.. In recent years, clients have been very happy with a Eucalyptus Lemon Natural Repellent as an alternative to products with Deet. We recommend bringing a head net and hopefully if will not be needed.
CLOTHING: Please follow our packing list and arrive with a variety of layers with hopes of some warmth and sunshine. There are no laundromats in Churchill, but you may turn in laundry at the front desk for a fee. Casual attire is acceptable while dining out in Churchill.
LUGGAGE: A medium to large duffel bag is recommended. Luggage with rollers are fine. Be sure to check in with Calm Air and their baggage restrictions for the fare base you selected at Baggage Two small Carry ons are allowed, but may not exceed 20 pounds total for all travelers and can be reviewed here: Carry Ons. We suggest bringing a small dry bag to protect personal items such as cameras, extra clothing and binoculars while kayaking, SUPPING or during boat excursions. Small dry boxes such as those made by Pelican can be handy for waterproofing miscellaneous items such as small cameras, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses.
CELL PHONES and WIFI CONNECTION: Free Wifi connection is available at our hotel in Churchill and Winnipeg. App such as Facetime, Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype should work from both hotels as well. Wifi connections in the remote corners of the world can be slow but the service is complimentary. It is unlikely that you will have cell service while in Churchill. Be sure to put your phone on airplane mode upon arrival.
Exploring the colorful eateries in Churchill!
LOCAL CUISINE: Great ready to try a variety of local cuisine such as Wild Boar Bangers and Mash, Bison Stew, Vegan Borealis Burgers and Muddy Ice Flows! Several vegetarian options are available at restaurants we plan to visit. Please specify any dietary restrictions or allergies on the Waiver form that will be sent to you. To preview some of our local eateries please visit the Tundra Pub and Lazy Bear Cafe Feel like keeping it simple? You may place an order to go at the Tundra Pub just a few steps away from our hotel by calling 204-675-8831 ext 114. You may also bring dry food supplies from the states as the Churchill Grocery store is conveniently located but pricey.
MONEY: To get the best rate, please consider exchanging US Currency into Canadian Currency (CAD) at you bank prior to arrival into Canada. Review the current exchange rate here: Money. Once in Churchill, you will not be able to exchange currency but our hotel, restaurants and stores accepts US currency as well as Visa and Mastercard, but not American Express. Realizing that some people truly enjoy dining out while others do not or may be on a tighter budget, we’ve opted to let participants budget their own meal plan for Dinners. We will now cover all lunches while in Churchill ( 2 at restaurants and 4 picnics) . We will have a full kitchen available for use if anyone would like to prepare simple meals such as pasta, sandwiches, etc. rather than dining out every night with our group. When dining out expect to pay $15-25 per dinner plus drinks or appetizers. During the program, there are 7 dinners that you will need to cover.
Please bring Canadian currency to cover the cost of dining out as multiple credit cards at a table may not always be possible. There are no ATMS in Churchill. Restaurants typically do not offer an exchange rate. With that said, a $20 US bill is worth approximately $26 Canadian. So if your dinner bill is $26 Canadian you are losing about $6 in the exchange rate. Many banks will exchange your Canadian currency upon your return. Check in with your local bank.
If conditions look favorable for viewing the northern lights, the fee for this excursion is $105 which includes gratuity. In the event of an evacuation or visit to a medical center, all costs are the responsibility of participants so please secure Trip Insurance and always travel with a credit card.
Other costs you are responsible for during our program are: Personal liquor, airport baggage fees, wetsuit and snorkel gear rentals, phone calls, activities not described in the itinerary and any airport departure taxes. Optional shuttle then tour of the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre in Winnipeg, Airport transfers while in Winnipeg, Covid-19 testing (approx. $100).
TIPPING: We have factored in a per person gratuity for all of our Canadian Guides so most tips are included in your trip cost. However, as is customary in hotels you may choose to leave a small tip in your room for hotel staff each morning. US dollars are fine, but no US coins. If you feel that your Blue Water Ventures assistant guide has served the group well, then please consider pooling a tip among your fellow participants.
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport for entry into Canada. It usually takes 6 weeks to process a passport. For information on obtaining a passport, please visit: passports where you can also find information on how to obtain a passport quickly. Most post offices provide the service to process US passports.
DELAYS: Blue Water Ventures is not responsible for any costs incurred due to delays that may occur due to transportation (airline), weather, road conditions, government intervention, sickness or other contingencies for which we are unable to control.
HOW TO REACH US IN CANADA IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY BACK HOME: In the event of an emergency only, please call the Polar Boutique Inn & Suites at 1-204 675 8878 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Kim Powell, trip leader’s cell phone for texting is: 831 345 2417.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE: . Products containing CBD oils or THC should not be brought through US or Canadian customs. For more information go to Cannabis in Canada
Photos by Kim Powell