Unforgettable Shark Diving and Big Animal Encounters

This year’s Beluga Whale Tour

Another great adventure in the Canadian subarctic! Each day we were surrounded by hundreds of belugas, some of which were extremely playful and curious. We also saw lots of polar bears, both from the zodiacs while beluga boarding and while we were driving around the tundra. Plus we went on a successful midnight aurora tour, and soaked in the otherworldly vistas of the tundra around Hudson Bay.

Snorkeling with beluga whales from a beluga board in the Churchill River, Canada.
Belugas in the Bay

On our arrival day, we drove out to Cape Merry to watch hundreds of belugas swimming in and out of the Churchill River, before settling into our rooms at the Polar Hotel and setting up cameras for the days ahead.

Beluga Whales porpoising in the Churchill River Estuary.
Polar Bear Mom with Cubs

Day two got off to a great start. High tide was in the afternoon, so in the morning we went for our first tundra drive and came across a momma bear snoozing with her one year old cubs.

Polar bear mom with two cubs on the tundra near Churchill.
Helping out Bear Patrol

When we boarded our zodiac, before we could start beluga boarding we were contacted by Churchill’s Polar Bear Patrol who wanted us to push another mom and cubs across the river mouth from Churchill towards Eskimo Point where they would be safe from human contact (and visa versa). When they reached the far bank, mom and cubs were pretty tired. There was also a solitary bear that needed pushing across the river, and yet another foraging at Eskimo Point, bringing our bear encounters to 8 individuals in a single day. Not bad for a summer trip!

Polar bear mom with two cubs crossing the Churchill River.
Belugas in the Mist

When we finally got onto the board to encounter belugas, the water clarity made it challenging to get good images. This can happen when there has been rain further south in Manitoba. Fortunately, it improved dramatically as the week progressed.

Beluga boarding the Churchill River in Canada.
Tundra Tour

The next morning we went exploring in our trucks. The Canadian tundra has a unique raw beauty, punctuated by human constructs such as the Polar Bear Holding Facility where bears that keep approaching the town are kept isolated until they can flown to remote areas.

Polar Bear Holding Facility, Churchill.
Better viz and great Beluga encounters

Our second session with belugas was awesome. Lots of friendly pods and really close encounters. At this point the trip was already a big success, but it continued to build as the week progressed.

Snorkeling with Belugas in Churchill, Canada.
Bear Warning

The next morning we planned to visit the Ithaca Ship Wreck which is accessible at low tide but there were reports of a bear hanging around the area so we cancelled the hike and drove out to an arctic tern colony instead. When wandering around a tern colony, you have to be very careful not to step on any tern eggs because the eggs look like stones and are laid directly on the beach with no nest around them.

Arctic tern eggs on the beach in Churchill, Canada.
Fantastic Belugas

Our next session in the river with the belugas was fantastic. This year I brought a GoPro with a fisheye port that look like a big eyeball and the belugas could not get enough of it!

Great Beluga Action and Polar Bears on the Shore

Our last day of beluga boarding was fantastic too. The action was intense almost the entire session. So much so, that we barely had time to swing past Eskimo Point where a couple more bears were moving around.

Photographing beluga whales while snorkeling in Churchill.
Northern Lights

That night according to my Aurora App, it looked like the skies were going to put on a show, so we reconvened at midnight and drove out onto the tundra, and pulled up at Miss Piggy; a plane wreck that crashed in the 70’s, amazingly with no loss of life.

Sure enough, around 1am the sky lit up with lurid greens and pinks. I explained how to best capture the scene to everyone that was interested, and we spent the next hour shooting auroras.

Photographing the Northern Lights in Churchill, Canada.
Photographing the Northern Lights over Miss Piggy in Churchill, Canada.
Kayaking with Belugas

On our final day in Churchill we switched to Kayaking. Belugas love to interact with kayaks and often come even closer that do to the beluga board. The only disadvantage is that you can’t put your head underwater. Fortunately, I was able to capture some of the action on my GoPro.

2024 Beluga Boarding Expedition

All around this was another hugely successful adventure with beluga whales. Next year we will return at the same time for more beluga and polar bear action. If you’re looking for a really fun adventure with close up encounters with the friendliest whales in the world, please join us there: Beluga Boarding 2024

Beluga whale mouthing my camera in Churchill, Canada.
Snorkeling with beluga whales from a beluga board in the Churchill River, Canada.