What you may not know is that Manitoba, Canada, has its own Big Five mammals to entice travelers to explore. Frontiers North Adventures, best known for polar bear excursions by official Tundra Buggy® in Churchill, Manitoba, has made them accessible with its own “Big Five Safari” that takes wildlife enthusiasts from the dense forests and sweeping valleys of Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) in central Manitoba to the waterways and vast tundra of Churchill in search of Manitoba’s big five megafauna.
So what are the “Big Five” of Manitoba?
An enduring symbol of the Canadian outdoors, moose are plentiful in RMNP. The park’s moose population is estimated at roughly 3,000 individuals. Moose calves are generally born in the spring, so at the peak of the Big Five season these leggy youngsters can be expected to weigh 240 pounds at just three months of age!
Riding Mountain National Park is home to the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, which houses a captive herd of 40 Plains bison. Once near extinction in the area due to overhunting, this herd’s reintroduction into the area is one step in restoring and protecting the prairie ecosystem in which it lives.
Widely considered one of the top black bear destinations in North America, Manitoba is home to dense black bear populations throughout the majority of its regions, including RMNP.
An estimated 3,000 beluga whales spend their summers in the warm waters of the Churchill River, giving birth and feeding on small fish. Beluga whales are one of the most vocal types of whales. Often called the "canaries of the sea," they’re natural mimics and emit squeaks, pops, whistles and chirps in order to communicate with other whales around them. Summer visitors to Churchill have the chance to view them by boat, Zodiac, kayak, paddleboard or the more adventurous can even snorkel alongside the gentle and curious creatures.
Approximately 1,000 polar bears migrate through the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) on their way to Hudson Bay. Here, the bears spend their days lazing on the coast, sparring and playing as they await the formation of their sea ice hunting grounds. Frontiers North’s Tundra Buggy® offers the most access within the CWMA for wildlife viewing and photography, and its interpretive Tundra Buggy drivers are experienced tour leaders and passionate adventurers who are skilled at positioning the Tundra Buggy for optimal photography opportunities and wildlife viewing.
So where does this safari take place?
Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP)
The Frontiers North Big Five Safari showcases the amazing wildlife and beautiful landscapes of central and northern Manitoba. Starting in the gateway city of Winnipeg, the Big Five Safari takes guests on an overland excursion to RMNP where daily safari drives reveal unparalleled landscapes and quintessentially Canadian wildlife.
Riding Mountain National Park sits atop the Manitoba Escarpment and is home to rolling valleys, deep gorges and numerous rivers and lakes. It was designated a national park because it protects three ecosystems that converge in the area: the grasslands, upland boreal and eastern deciduous forests.
Churchill and Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA)
Next, fly north to Churchill along the Hudson Bay coast, where beluga whales play by the thousands and polar bears wander, awaiting the formation of their icy hunting grounds. In Churchill, time is divided between beluga whale watching on the Churchill River estuary by boat and Zodiac, and wildlife viewing by Tundra Buggy in the CWMA.
The CWMA, the province’s largest protected area at 850,000 hectares, is the summer and autumn resting area of annual polar bear visitors, as well as a wide variety of plants, birds and other northern wildlife. Situated along the coast of the Hudson Bay, the CWMA is at the intersection of three distinct ecosystems: arctic marine, subarctic tundra and boreal forest.
About Frontiers North Adventures
Frontiers North Adventures is a family-run business that has been operating in Canada’s North for three decades, delivering unique itineraries and amazing experiences to travelers from around the world. We provide breathtaking journeys to see polar bears, beluga whales, northern lights and more.
Specializing in Canada’s North, our tours are geared to travelers with interests in photography, experiential travel, culture and adventure. Find your true north on an authentic experience with Frontiers North Adventures.