Embark on ultimate Arctic summer adventure with Naturalist Journeys to see and photograph some of the Arctic’s most iconic birds and mammals. Observe some of the 60,000 Beluga Whales that fill Hudson Bay to feed on schools of Caplin, Arctic Char, and Brook Trout. Experience the sight of Polar Bear swimming in the open ice and cavorting on the rocky shoreline. Explore and witness the burst of life that occurs with the short Arctic summer, as areas of tundra and boreal wetland become avian nurseries for Red-throated and Pacific Loon, Smith’s and Lapland Longspur, Whimbrel and Hudsonian Godwit, Parasitic Jaeger and Arctic Tern, and so many more! You are sure to be amazed at the wondrous natural world of the subarctic north.
We are sure to make time for cultural experiences as well, with a full day exploring Winnipeg. Known as the “Gateway to the West,” Winnipeg has always played a major role as a central gathering place for transportation and commerce. We stay at a hotel near The Forks, a historic site in downtown Winnipeg which highlights the city’s historical position as a place where people gather–indigenous peoples, European fur traders, Scottish settlers, railway pioneers, and more. We also visit FortWhyte Alive, a large urban park with over 640 acres of prairie, wetland, and forest habitats that was once a clay mine and cement factory.
An exciting exploration at any season, Churchill during summer is easy to navigate, especially based in our unique and eco-friendly accommodations, the Lazy Bear Lodge (the most modern facility in town). Comfortable, hand-built log furnishings, a blend of delicious indigenous foods and more classic fare, and a central location right in town create a cozy and relaxing setting.
- Explore the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s “Journey to Churchill” exhibit and go behind the scenes to their dedicated Polar Bear research and conservation facility
- Tour Winnipeg’s FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and education center sitting right on the Mississippi flyway for migratory birds
- Cruise for a day on a Hudson Bay coastal tour to see Polar Bear on their summer grounds
- Observe Arctic birds in the middle of breeding season, including a wide variety of ducks, loons, and shorebirds such as Common Eider, Hudsonian Godwit, and Pacific Loon
- Enjoy fields of Arctic wildflowers such as Lapland Azalea, Indian-Paintbrush, and Lady’s Slipper
- Venture into the feeding grounds of schools of Beluga Whale, and visit the Prince of Wales Fort
- Experience the culture and heritage of Churchill, including historic Cape Merry and an outside tour of the famous “Polar Bear Jail”
Sat., July 9 : Arrivals
Arrive at Winnipeg International Airport at your leisure today, a travel day with no planned activities. For those who arrive in time, our comfortable accommodations are conveniently located to explore The Forks, Winnipeg’s most popular tourist attraction. Alternatively, you may visit one of the many fine museums, historical sites, parks, and fine restaurants that led Winnipeg to be named the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2010 by Canadian Heritage.
Accommodations at The Inn at the Forks, Winnipeg
Sun., July 10 : Assiniboine Park Zoo | FortWhyte
We officially assemble as a group this morning, meeting up early for a great day of sightseeing and discovery. At the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of the prairie province of Manitoba. This “Gateway to the West” was a trading center for indigenous peoples long before Europeans arrived. Now a multicultural city, Winnipeg has a great historical and cultural cityscape to explore.
Prepare for your week’s activities with a morning visit to the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s “Journey to Churchill” exhibit, the most comprehensive zoological exhibit of its kind detailing the wildlife, geography, and culture of Manitoba’s magnificent north. The exhibit's expansive enclosures, pools, rugged landscapes, and shaded dens provide the zoo’s Polar Bears with a stimulating environment inspired by their natural habitat. Go behind the scenes at the Leatherdate International Polar Bear Conservation, an education, research, and transition facility for polar bears relocated to the zoo. Learn about current work to assist the Canadian Polar Bear population.
After a delicious lunch in Assiniboine Park, we travel to FortWhyte Alive. This urban oasis is one of Manitoba’s star attractions for birding and ecotourism, conveniently located within city limits. Take a step back in time and power a North West Company voyageur canoe around scenic Lake Muir. Let the splash of the water and the feel of the paddle connect you to that pivotal time in Canadian history. For those who are avid birdwatchers, the extensive acreage of natural habitat also provides plenty of opportunities for excellent birding. American White 8Pelican, Franklin’s Gull, Swainson’s Hawk, and Clay-colored Sparrow are just some of the species that nest or summer in the park. Afterwards, we can get a real taste of voyageur life with fire-roasted bannock, a flat quickbread.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to rest or explore The Forks, before we come back together as a group for dinner at one of Winnipeg’s wonderful farm to table restaurants.
Accommodations at The Inn at the Forks, Winnipeg (B,L,D)
Mon., July 11 – Thurs., July 14 : Four Full Days to Explore Churchill
We are up early this morning for a two-hour charter flight to Churchill on the western shore of Hudson Bay. We arrive and take some time to settle into our accommodations for the next four nights. The unique Lazy Bear Lodge offers comfortable, hand-built log furnishings in a cozy setting. Our lodge exudes the rustic charm of the 1800s but is also the newest and most modern facility in Churchill.
We have four days to explore with experienced guides, getting to explore and experience the spectacular nature accessible from this northern outpost. With 60,000 Beluga Whale filling the Hudson Bay and Polar Bear navigating the melting sea ice, summer is an amazing time to visit Churchill. See beautiful wild places that offer the very best opportunities to see Polar Bears, Beluga Whales, Arctic Hare, and Arctic Fox. In addition, over 200 bird species either migrate or nest in the area. Coastal species include Surf and White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Pacific Loon, Arctic Tern and Parasitic Jaeger. Subarctic meadows become vast nurseries for thousands of migratory birds, and we hope to see quite a few shorebirds in bright breeding dress – Stilt and Least Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, American Golden-Plover, and Hudsonian Godwit are some of the tantalizing possibilities. Finally, by exploring patches of wooded and shrubby habitats near Churchill, we can search for a variety of boreal and tundra species such as Gray-cheeked Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Boreal Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak, and Harris’s Sparrow.
On one of the days, we travel in a customized marine vessel certified by Transport Canada on an adventure to experience one of the more remote Polar Bear viewing areas on the west side of Hudson Bay. Experience the opportunity to view Polar Bear in their summer environment, swimming and walking around the rocks and wildflowers. Weather and wildlife permitting, we disembark the boat and walk where Polar Bears roam.
Along the same shoreline, hundreds of Beluga Whale come to feed, mate, and give birth in the relative safety of these shallow waters. A second day’s boat tour focuses on viewing Beluga Whale in their natural habitat in the Churchill River and into the Hudson Bay area as they feed on schools of Caplin, Arctic Char, and Brook Trout. We can also go ashore for a walking tour of the historic Prince of Wales Fort. Right on the water, we look for Red-throated Loon, Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, and more. Weather permitting, kayaking with the whales (safe for beginners and first-time kayakers) is available as an option (for an additional fee).
Next, we may hop on a bonus summer tundra tour in Arctic Crawlers™ to view the beautiful landscape. Later that evening after a delectable supper, depending on weather and cloud coverage, it may be possible to see the Northern Lights.
The final day’s Cultural and Heritage Tour takes us through Churchill and the surrounding area to explore various historic sites. These include Cape Merry, an outside tour of the Polar Bear Jail, the wreckage of the famous plane "Miss Piggy," and many other historic sites that make Churchill the town it is today. Cape Merry also serves as an excellent site to watch birds, so make sure to keep those binoculars handy! The elevated outcrops here offer a great viewpoint for observing gulls, jaegers, loons, and waterfowl. The ancient lichen encrusted rocks at the Cape also provide nesting habitat for American Pipit, while Arctic Hare and the dark “cross fox” phase of the Red Fox also occur here.
Our first and last night’s suppers are hosted at the Lazy Bear Café in Churchill. Known for its fine cuisine, you have the chance to sample indigenous food such as Braised Peppered Elk, Arctic Char, and Manitoba Bison, along with other made-from-scratch main entrees. Two additional nights provide the opportunity to sample other dining venues in Churchill—the Tundra Inn Dining Room and Pub and the Seaport Reef Restaurant.
Accommodations at Lazy Bear Lodge, Churchill (B,L,D)
Fri., July 15 : Churchill to Winnipeg
On your final day in Churchill, enjoy a free morning before taking a chartered flight to Winnipeg and the Inn at the Forks. Settle in before our special farewell dinner.
Accommodations at Inn at The Forks (B,L,D)
Sat., July 16 : Departures
Make flights at your convenience from Winnipeg International Airport, airport transfers are provided. (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the tour is $TBD DBL / $TBD SGL per person, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Cost of the tour includes: accommodations for 7 nights, all meals as specified in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner), park entrance and other activity fees for activities as described in the itinerary, flight to and from Winnipeg to Churchill, two boat tours, professional guide services, pre-departure materials, and miscellaneous program expenses.
Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services.
Group size: maximum of 10, minimum of six. The cost of the journey is based on 8 participants; with fewer than 8, a small-group surcharge (typically $100 – $300 per participant) may apply.
The airport for this journey is Winnipeg International Airport (YWG). Please plan to arrive in Winnipeg at a time convenient for you on July 9. Airport transfers to and from the Inn at the Forks are arranged for you once we have your flight schedule. Please plan departures at a time convenient to you on July 16.
John first set foot in Antarctica in 1994 as a general laborer at Palmer Station. He has spent the last 25 years figuring out ways to continue to return. This has included stints researching Adelie Penguins at two locations on the Peninsula, conducting biological inventories throughout the peninsula, and as a guide/naturalist on many expeditions to Antarctica as well as South Georgia and the Falklands.When he isn’t traveling south he is a Wildlife Biologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Billings, Montana. His main duties are now centered on Greater Sage-Grouse management.
John was born and raised in northeastern Montana and has had a strong interest in wildlife in general and birds specifically for as long as he can remember. He obtained his BA in Zoology from the University of Montana and MS in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. In addition to his Antarctic work, he has conducted research on a wide variety of animal species from one end of the world to another, including seabird research in the Bering Sea, and northern Baffin Bay.
Other trips with John Carlson
Photo credits: Polar Bears by Jason Ransom, courtesy Lazy Bear Lodge (LBL); Northern Lights, courtesy LBL; Polar Bear by Jason Ransom, courtesy LBL; Beluga Cruise by Sam Hearnel, courtesy LBL; Willow Ptarmigan by Peg Abbott; Lazy Bear Lodge, courtesy LBL; Kayaking with Belugas, courtesy LBL; Common Mergansers by Hugh Simmons Photography; Arctic Terns by Greg Smith; Kayaking with Belugas, courtesy LBL; Polar Bear by Jason Ransom, courtesy LBL; Northern Lights, courtesy LBL; Aqua Gliding, courtesy LBL; Blackpoll Warbler by Peg Abbott; Common Eider by Greg Smith; Red-necked Phalarope by Daniel Bergmann; LBL lounge, courtesy LBL; Long-tailed Duck by Greg Smith; Northern Lights at the lodge, courtesy LBL.