Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill

Written By: The Planet D

Our guide Tress, from Sea North Tours, was worried we wouldn’t have enough time kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill Manitoba.   Don’t worry about your rudders, just get in the water.”  I’m glad he rushed us because this is an adventure in Manitoba you don’t want to miss!

Kayaking with Beluga Whales

kayaking with Beluga Whales - whale swimming between our kayaks
A beluga swims between us to say hello

Beluga whales migrate by the thousands through the Hudson Bay from June to September each year. And Churchill, Manitoba is right in the middle of it. Each year 60,000 of these cute white whales migrate through the Hudson Bay area, and 3,000 make it to the Churchill River basin where our small group had an exciting paddle.

Beluga whales love to play with kayaks and when they see you in the water, they come looking! Just a few short meters off the dock puts you right in the middle of their migration. Within minutes you’re surrounded by playful pods stopping by to say hello.

The Beluga Whales Kayaking Experience In Churchill

kayaking with beluga whales

The kayaks were waiting for us at the shore, so we grabbed our paddles, chose our vessels and got ready to go in the water. We adjusted our kayak’s footpegs which help to steer the rudder, pulled the splash skirt over our cockpits, and instantly paddled out to see what if we could catch a glimpse of beluga whales swimming in the bay.

We like kayaking with a splash skirt, but you can kayak without one. Other people decided to go without. And that is fine if you don’t feel comfortable.

Sea North Tours

kayaking with Beluga Whales next to Dave's boat
A beluga scratches his nose on Dave’s boat

Sea North Tours offers guided kayaking tours with beluga whales. People can also swim with beluga whales in Churchill. We have it on our list to come back and try that!

Even if you don’t have paddling experience, you can easily kayak with beluga whales. There is a guide with only small groups out on the wanted, plus a lookout on a zodiac standing by at all times to make sure everyone is safe.

Note: This excursion is perfect for inexperienced kayakers as you don’t go far from the shore and there is a zodiac watching your every move should anything happen.

What to Wear When Kayaking with Belugas

kayaking with beluga whales | churchill manitoba

We suited up as quickly as possible wondering how cold we’d be in the boats.

  • Should we wear layers?
  • Is the water cold?
  • We were pretty far north, perhaps we’d get a chill sitting in the cool Arctic waters?

It turned out to be a stellar day and we were toasty warm in our kayaks. But we did dress in a waterproof jacket and had a thermal layer on our legs.

The water in the Hudson Bay and Churchill River is cold. So, we suggest wearing:

  • Gortex outer layers on your legs
  • a warm thermal layer like merino wool underneath.
  • Wear a hat as well.
  • Plus sunglasses.

My hands were even comfortable when I dipped my GoPro into the bay for a closer look at the belugas, and the water was calm and smooth as glass.

Balmy weather, mixed with sunshine and zero mosquitoes made for the perfect afternoon for a kayak adventure.

Wildlife  Encounters Make People Happy

kayaks with a beluga whale

There is something about wildlife encounters that makes people happy. You cannot paddle through pods of belugas without having a huge grin on their faces.

You could hear other paddlers laughing and gasping with delight when a beluga whale surfaced right beside their kayak and we followed suit whenever they were near us too.

We have played with sea lions, snorkelled with dolphins and swam with whale sharks, and each time, the feeling is the same. The word that often comes to mind is glee.

Seeing Beluga Whales in their Natural Habitat

beluga whale kayaking photos
Another friendly hello

Watching beluga whales play in the water, bump our boats to scratch their noses, and bite at our cameras to say hello was something we’ll never forget.

I am lucky, it seems that whenever we swim or paddle in the ocean marine life is attracted to me. Deb says “it’s because I’m a Pisces. I’m half fish!”

I was surrounded by white humps sticking out of the water in every direction. They’d chase me as I paddled backwards and I was surrounded at all times. Deb likes to call me the dolphin whisperer or shark whisperer. Today she was touting me as the Beluga Whale Whisperer.

Sing to the Belugas to Get Their Attention

kayaking with Beluga Whales in Manitoba Canada - Dave filming whales
Dave relaxes as he films the belugas

Really, my secret is to sing to them. I always sing the A-Team Theme and it never fails, when marine life hears my voice, they come calling. I don’t smack my paddle or thump my boat to grab their attention, it’s all about singing.

I think whales and dolphins are attracted to sound. Especially music. I sing at the top of my lungs and the A-Team has never let me down.

Insider tip for Kayaking with Beluga Whales:

  • Another Tip to get the Beluga Whale’s attention is to paddle fast and leave a wake.
  • The whales loved playing in the small waves created by my paddling.
  • The faster I paddled the more they followed.

They’d dip and dive below my boat and sometimes they’d even give a little bump. You never worry about falling in or tipping over.

The beluga whales are not bumping to tip you over, it’s more like they are rubbing their noses on the boat to feel it, to get closer or to simply let you know they are there.

Enjoy our video: Kayaking with Belugas

kayak with beluga whales in churchill manitoba

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Kayaking with Belugas is one of the most interactive paddling experiences we’ve ever had. They were not only curious, they were friendly.

What made it more fascinating is that these aren’t pods of dolphins or sea lions that stay in one place and are used to people coming out to see them, these whales are migrating through the area.

They have most likely never seen a human before in their lives.

That is what made me stop to think about just how intelligent they are. Why would they care to stop and see kayakers? It felt as if they wanted to communicate.

About the Kayaking Tour to See Beluga Whales

beluga whales kayaking tour

The kayaking tour lasts 2-hours and time flies by. At first, you’ll feel a little timid, but as time goes by, you’ll feel more comfortable and start to understand their rhythm. When one pod leaves another one fills their space.

Taking Underwater photos of Beluga Whales

beluga whale underwater

Taking photos is difficult. We had our GoPro on video and found that it was better to take screenshots of the belugas from our video rather than try to time a photo every five seconds.

These guys are fast and they skirted around our cameras a lot. Just when we felt we understood where and when to catch a photo or video of them, our time came to an end. But it’s ok.

Having the privilege of seeing them was a dream. We had an amazing time, and it gives us a reason to go back again.

Details for kayaking with Beluga Whales:

Kayaking with beluga whales in Churchill was courtesy of Sea North Tours. The cost is $130 per person.

Thanks to Travel Manitoba Tourism for setting it up and to Churchill Wild for inviting us to Manitoba to discover the wildlife of their amazing province.

Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill Manitoba with Sea North tours was an amazing experience. They swam right up to our boats as we paddled around.
Kayaking with Beluga Whales

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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8 thoughts on “Kayaking with Beluga Whales in Churchill”


    • That’s amazing! I want to see more belugas now. they are so cute. I hear we can see them in Quebec too. So that has to be our next stop! If they are in the St. Lawrence, I have a feeling the water will be clearer too.

    • Thanks Kristin. I have to agree, this was pretty amazing. It was a last minute addition to our itinerary too. I’m so glad we had the chance to do it. Now I want to snorkel with them.