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Watching Beluga Whales

Considered one of the best wildlife encounters, Sea North Tours have been delighting people with their whale watching tours of Hudson Bay. Visitors put on an artic wetsuit to slip into the chilly waters to snorkel with Beluga whales.

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Each summer, 3,000 to 5,000 of these blubbery white mammals congregate at the mouth of the Churchill River in Manitoba where they nosh on schools of tiny capelin and calve their young. For over 20 years, Mike Macri-the owner and operator of Sea North Tours -has been taking clients out in his boat to see the beluga whales in comfort, but more and more are choosing to snorkel with the graceful creatures. Enjoy these photos from a Sea North tour.

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Beluga follow the water jet powered tour boat, the Sea North II that uses no propellers.

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Each summer between 3,000 to 5,000 Beluga come to the Churchill River.

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Belugas are curious creatures and will approach smaller boats such as this zodiac.

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Beluga with snorkeler. “They all say it was the most amazing experience of their entire life,” says Marci.

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Underwater Beluga are actually holding their breath. Because its vertebrae are not fussed together as is the case for many other whales and dolphins, Belugas can turn their head laterally, giving it a playful appearance.

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Enjoying the whales aboard the Sea North II.

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Beluga swimming in front of the 300 year old Prince of Wales Fort.

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Linnea Ingebrigtson, Zodiac driver heading back from a tour. Notice the iceberg in the background.

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The Churchill River break-up varies but usually occurs early to mid June. The icebergs remain throughout the summer months.

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Icebergs generally range from 1 to 75 metres (3-250 ft) above sea level and the largest ones are usually seen in the North Atlantic.

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Like all other whales beluga have lungs instead of gills so must surface to breathe. The shape of a Beluga head will change when it’s blowing air around its blowhole.

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The sociable Beluga spend time together in pods. Groups of males can number in the hundreds with mother and calves making up smaller groups.

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Belugas are beautiful, playful and intelligent. They often swim within a few feet of boats. This one swam directly underneath the kayak.

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Whales are often injured when they collide into ship propellers. These collisions are not always fatal but they can cause severe wounds. For this reason, Mike Macri uses the Sea North II, which has no propellers.

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The Zodiacs used are equipped with clean quiet four stroke outboards and are operated by Churchill’s most experienced river pilots.

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Although summer is not prime Polar Bear watching season, sometimes visitors get lucky and spot a bear swimming ashore or sunning on the rocky coastline.