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“Birds, Bears and Belugas at Seal River Lodge”

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Seal River Heritage Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Birds, Bears and Belugas at Seal River Lodge”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 20, 2012

I have just returned from the most wonderful adventure at the Seal River Lodge. I loved every minute and still can't believe how many bears and beluga whales I saw up close and personal. The staff and guides are extremely warm, knowledgeable, and helpful. The lodge has a rustic beauty, enabling guests to enjoy a very remote location in comfort, luxury, and with the best food I have ever had on any trip. The owners, Mike and Jeanne, are in tune to everyone's needs and special interests....they and their other staff delight in bear sightings as much as the guests do. I also enjoyed the camaraderie of the other guests ...we had a wonderful group of 17 people from the U.S., England and Canada -- all with the same interest in seeing and photograpahing wildlife, swimming with the belugas, and enjoying an extremely unique adventure trip.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank Sandra K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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129 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (28)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Preston, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
63 reviews
26 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 18, 2012

We went with the hope of seeing at least one bear - and came home overflowing with memories and pictures, all excellent. This is certainly (for me) the best holiday ever, starting with the night's stay in Churchill and the exciting plane ride to the Lodge when we saw our first bear and belugas in the bay.

We were blessed with excellent summer weather and the wildlife was abundant. The bears and belugas seems to follow us everywhere. We have seen lots of new-to-us (from UK) birds - I love those Sandhill Cranes! Mike, Jeanne and all the Lodge crew became like family. Our guides were very knowledgeable and helped us learn more about the flora and fauna. I cannot believe how, when all the produce has to be flown in with us, the cuisine (something to eat appeared every time we entered the Lodge!) kept such high standards.

I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Seal Lodge to all my friends and family and expect that some will be coming your way soon!

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Jane_Ellen_H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wrea Green, UK
Level Contributor
25 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 13, 2012

The promise of polar bears drew us to Seal River Lodge this August. Flying in by light aircraft (the only practical way to the lodge: there are no roads, and certainly no public transport!) it was clear to us that this was going to be no ordinary experience!

Our first bear arrived within minutes of walking (with an armed guard) from the plane to the Lodge where we were greeted with wonderful cakes and hot drinks. Within minutes of arrival, we were walking over the tundra to encounter a bear rather unexpectedly only a few paces away from us. Stunning!

Swimming with belugas (actually being towed feet first behind an inflatable dinghy whilst belugas swam within inches of our masks), walking through tundra, ticking off several "lifetime first" birds (not difficult, as we are from the UK!): the whole experience was magical, and our guides Terry and Andy great company, hugely informative, and clam in their dealings with the bears.

The Lodge itself? Wonderfully situated on the shore of Hudson Bay north of Churchill; very comfortable, and the food stunning. The menu revolved around food gathered from the wild - environmentally friendly, sustainable and DELICIOUS! Wild goose, caribou, locally rod caught fish - and of course the wonderful cloudberries.

Mike and Jeanne Reimer are superb hosts, and work enormously hard to keep their guest happy - as do the rest of their marvellous team. I cannot recommend the Lodge too highly. Thank you, guys, for what really was "the holiday of a lifetime"!

You can see some of the photos I took (my Flickr set for the holiday):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrishawkes/sets/72157630915434172/

Room Tip: All the rooms are comfortable!
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Livefats
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Maumee, Ohio
Level Contributor
52 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 25, 2012

I knew this would not be an average resort vacation as the flights north continued on progressively smaller planes, until I found myself in the co-pilot cockpit seat of a Beaver Dehavilland looking down on the tundra and coastline of Hudson Bay. Below us were hundreds of white beluga whales congregating at the mouth of the Seal River. After landing on a gravel strip, we were greeted by Mike Reimer, who along with his wife Jeanne are the proprietors of the Seal River Heritage Lodge, our Arctic home for the next 6 days.


Seal River Lodge is on top of the world, literally, and provides a comfortable retreat after a morning on the water swimming with the belugas or day out on the tundra shooting ( photographically) the polar bears. The lodge is a simple complex of buildings that has been added to over the years, including a beautiful exposed beam dining room completed at the beginning of last season. The dining room is designed after the principals of a yurt and offers an almost 360 degree view of the peninsula, ideal for bear spotting, one of the primary activities at the lodge. The bedrooms are simple, which is understandable when you realize everything in the lodge had to be hauled up by CAT over the frozen ice each winter, a one way trip of 30 grueling hours.


Two excellent, seasoned guides, Andy McPherson and Terry Elliott, are on hand to provide context to the wildlife we were experiencing as well as offer a degree of safety in what can be an unpredictable environment. We were trekking on foot for polar bears and swimming in the water with belugas, activities that necessitated having experienced people on hand to assess the conditions and situations, and communicate clearly with the guests. Andy and Terry are perfectly suited for the Lodge and share their passion for the Arctic in all its form, from the small blooming cloud berries, to the miracles of the frozen permafrost under the peat.

Yes, I came for the bears and belugas but what really surprised me was the gourmet feast the lodge provided throughout our entire stay. Jeanne's mother, Helen Webber, passed along her skills as a cook to her daughter and grand daughters, Karli and Allison, who would handily out iron Iron Chef with grilled game and delicacies including bacon wrapped caribou, french toast with Grand Marnier Sauce, cranberry cake with butter sauce, maple marinated fish fillets, and fresh breads baked every day.

This is a trip for an adventure seeker that at the end of the day of polar bear trekking and swimming with belugas, enjoys a comfortable chair, glass of wine, and good company. Sure fit for me.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled solo
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Helpful?
4 Thank Ed C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Solihull
Level Contributor
66 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 11, 2012

We travelled as a family, including our 6 year old daughter.
From the moment you are picked up for the sea plane journey, the excitement builds. We had seen beluga whales and our first polar bear by the time we had arrived.
The lodge itself is the remotest place we have ever been. It's very comfortable and clean, and because there are so many family members working there, it sometimes feels like a family home, the atmosphere is so welcoming. Mike and Jeannie have created a beautiful haven here.
We saw LOADS of polar bears - our first within 10 minutes of arrival - the enigmatic 'Al' Bear. You can watch quite safely from the compound area or from the tower. These bears come very close and it's magical to see them so well, whilst feeling safe and sound.
The food was just brilliant and we now cook the Disappearing chicken wings at home regularly. Delicious nibbles are served before dinner, the home made bread is dangerously good and each meal was a delight. Fruit is served regularly and basically you carry on eating until you can eat no more! There were no special children's meals... there didn't need to be because our daughter loved the food here. Carly is a very talented young cook and the design of the kitchen means you get to see them in action - working hard from early morning onwards.
Excursions happen every day. The first time you are close to a Polar bear without a fence round you is quite unnerving but you do get (more) used to it as the days pass. You WILL need a bug jacket - the mossies are bountiful!
We did two beluga trips - probably the best experience of our lives. The lodge has dry suits for all ages (yes, even a 7 year old) and on both occasions, our daughter did a tandem snorkel with us. Singing to beluga whales will always hold a special place in my heart. Take your underwater videos... they come close!
The lodge is a kids heaven! Dogs, kittens and lots of teenagers to play with. Our daughter even stayed in for some of the excursions, preferring the families company to ours!
A Northern Lights watch is kept during the night and you can asked to be woken up if they are showing. We had one night of luck and enjoyed 30 minutes or so.
Special mention also to the guides, Andy and Terry, for being patient, kind, helpful, interesting and fun.
We'd love to come again.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank SolihullPetal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 8, 2012

I had been bent on seeing polar bears and wanted something better than tundra buggies. This was the only tour company that i could find that would allow you "up close and personal" with polar bears on foot. I even talked my girlfriend coming along. We did see polar bears, but the birds and belugas was a bust, especially the belugas. We were so excited about swimming with the whales, but it was a huge disappointment since it didn't happen due to weather. I understand that they tour operators can't control the weather, but this was a huge component of the trip costing $1000 more than the other summer trip. the tour company sold me on the idea of swimming w/ the whales. it would've been wiser to save the $1000 in retrospect.

Seeing the polar bears was amazing indeed. but i would not rate this trip as excellent when you look at the cost and what was advertised. in addition to the whales not happening, other things that were advertised as part of the trip didn't happen:

Neither of the guides were wildlife photographers. They were awesome and great guides, but as advertised there was no wildlife photographer. I ended up being the wildlife photographer expert on the trip; helping others with their cameras/issues, letting them use my giant telephoto to take close ups. I didn't mind this, but this is not exactly what i paid for, and this trip was not cheap.

There are a few other minor things as well.

We did get great polar bear photos, but looking at the cost of this trip (nearly $10,000 per person after flights, hotels, etc), this trip really needs a second look as to whether it's worth that kind of money. If you are wealthy, have disposable income and could care less then go for it. If you work hard for your money and want the best value you can get when doing a trip like this, you may want to look elsewhere.

Room Tip: They advertise the bears can poke their noses into your room, this is true, but only a certain numbe...
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  • Stayed August 2011, traveled on business
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Helpful?
11 Thank jasonholzworth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Valkenswaard, The Netherlands
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 31, 2011

First let me get one thing straight, if you are in doubt whether this is worth the money, YES it is!

Me and my boyfriend were looking into seeing the polar bears, and what better place is there then the Churchill area. By doing some research on the internet we were in a dilemma whether to go on a tundra buggy or to spend more money and do the Churchill Wild tour. We decided to do the latter and we’re so glad we did!
We saw 2 bears on their back paws, wresting, we saw polar bears rolling in the snow and even doing a head roll, we saw snow foxes annoying the bears and trying to eat everything they could find. And the best of all, in our bedroom we had a polar bear trying to eat his way in. We opened the window and could feel and hear him breathing. At one point he stood on his 2 back legs and put his front paws on our window!! That alone was worth the whole trip.

Some further information:
- You go hiking twice a day and will get really close to the bears. One bear had been visiting the compound for some weeks so they knew they could ‘trust’ him and let him pass by at only 5 meters or so. At first we weren’t sure whether our 400mm zoomlens would get us close enough, but they got so close we often had to switch to our 200 mm lens!
- The good thing is that you can take photos from a low point of view, so that the bears look as huge as they really are
- The bears are curious and will try to open the door of the lodge, this happened multiple times so we could take photos from the inside of the lodge and also from a distance towards the lodge. One bear also just lay down next to the fence!
- We had Dennis Fast (noted wildlife photographer) accompanying us while hiking. This was fantastic, he would help you out with your camera settings and would give photo-presentations during the evening. Try to go on the trip when he’s there!
- You will get the most delicious lunches and dinners, we loved it so much that we bought one of their cookbooks. Before dinner they serve appetizers and wine, which were just as good. The dining area is great, it has large windows which gives you the opportunity to still check out the wildlife while eating.
- The staff is incredible! Everybody wants to take your experience to the max. It’s one big family and even in the short period you are there, it feels like home.
- Because of the bad weather we had to wait for the airplane to take us to the lodge. Garry, a very friendly and knowledgeable fellow, took us on a tour through Churchill to kill some time and invited us over for some soup and muffins.

Some tips:
- Do not rent gear, but buy it. If you rent you will be on the last plane out to the lodge. If you decide, like us, to also do the dogsledding you will also be on the first plane back to Churchill which will mean you will lose time with the bears
- You can get a polar bear stamp in your passport in Churchill. Ask Garry!
- Ask for a room not facing the compound. You never know if a polar bear wants to pay you a visit
- Book one of the dates latest in the season to maximize snow. This is also important if you want to go dogsledding. If we would have gone earlier we wouldn’t have had enough snow to take the sled and should have gone by cart.
- Temperatures can drop quickly, but even at – 15 C we didn’t need our heatpacks. Make sure you layer your clothes!

So, all in all a fantastic experience that you wouldn’t want to miss!

  • Stayed November 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
11 Thank Marieke_William
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Seal River Heritage Lodge

Property: Seal River Heritage Lodge
Address: P.O. Box 79 | Kleefeld, Seal River, Manitoba R0A 0V0, Canada
Phone Number:
Location: Canada > Manitoba > Seal River
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Seal River
Number of rooms: 8
Also Known As:
Churchill Wild - Seal River Heritage Hotel Churchill

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