Manitoba From Polar Bears to Beluga Whales

Manitoba is in Central Canada, the most eastern of the three prairie provinces. It shares the US border with Minnesota and North Dakota in the south and stretches north to the Port of Churchill on the Hudson Bay and beyond. It has wheat fields, oil and gas wells, commercial fresh water fishing, mining and a forest industry.

It also has a lot to offers tourists.Here are ten suggestions that a visitor might want to consider in Manitoba, some in the colder months and some in the warmer parts of the year.You might consider making Winnipeg the hub of your stay in Manitoba. The provincial capital, it's a multicultural city proudly reflected in its festivals and offers art, music and food.

Restaurants serve everything from Ukrainian perogies to a blending of regional and Californian cuisine. Performing arts offer an array of productions throughout the year in theatre, music, opera and dance. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. And of course shopping malls, casinos, museums and historic sites beckon. Families will love The Forks, the Children's Museum, Fort Whyte Centre and the Assiniboine Park Zoo, where wild animals delight the children, along with a statue of a very famous bear named after Winnipeg -- Winnie-the-Pooh.A two-and-a-half hour flight north of Winnipeg, Churchill Manitoba is known around the world as polar bear central.

For a safe adventure, head out over the tundra in specially designed vehicles for safely viewing the bears. Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts so inclined can even eat, sleep and rise right out on the capes, in the midst of the glorious bears, as hundreds of them roam the coastline every October and November awaiting the freeze of the Hudson Bay.In summer, polar bear central turns into the beluga belt, as thousands of the 900-pound whales come to feed in the waters near Churchill on the Hudson Bay. You can actually paddle or snorkel among these majestic creatures and watch them watching you! You can also enjoy watching and listening to these highly vocal whales from a 32-passenger boat.

Riding Mountain National Park is edged by a high, rugged escarpment and is an island of wilderness over the agricultural landscape. Wildlife thrives in the vast mix of forests, meadows and broad valleys, crisscrossed with more than 300 kilometres (180 miles) of trails, maintained superbly year-round. This is the time and place to keep a camera ready for sightings of moose, elk, beaver, black bear, fox and if you're very lucky, lynx or wolf.Manitoba's plentiful waters yield more than 10,000 trophy-sized fish very year. The north is peppered with fly-in lodges and many more are road-accessible. Arctic grayling, brook trout, lake trout, northern pike and walleye thrive here.

Some of the best giant channel cat fishing in the world can be found in Winnipeg's Red River. The fly fishing is best in Manitoba's western reaches and you might need a guide to find the best spots.Seeing the northern lights in Manitoba has been called one of the top 25 adventures of a lifetime.

January to March in Churchill have some of the best shows when nature sends her lasers to make shifting curtains of spectacular northern lights. A facility with see-through domes built into the roof makes light viewing a warm and comfortable experience for visitors unaccustomed to Churchill winters.Manitoba is diverse, so are the parks.

Sand dunes roll at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, ancient granite graces much of the Whiteshell and waterfalls amaze near Paint Lake Provincial Park. Baldy Mountain, Manitoba's highest point, is at Duck Mountain Provincial Park, where glaciers receded some 10,000 years ago. Hikers and bikers are attracted to the extensive trail networks through the broad valleys and lush Canadian Shield forests. Bike along one of the biggest lakes in the world - Lake Winnipeg - at Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park or paddle for days in Grass River Provincial Park.

If you want to experience total relaxation, consider camping or renting a cottage on some of the biggest and best lakes in the world. Soak up the summer heat on the water's edge and dive in when you can't stand it any more. Eat well, then later, float soundlessly in a streak of moonlight and gaze at an endless canopy of stars.Manitoba attracts two-thirds of Canada's more than 500 species of birds and is considered a birder's paradise. In spring, the birds fly north in amazing flocks in the hundreds of thousands over the lakes, marshes and forests.

A North American birding hotspot, Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, won the coveted 2002 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow award for Best Environmental Experience. Delta Marsh also offers great viewing, as does Riding Mountain National Park, home to more than 260 bird species, including great grey owl and Connecticut warbler. Birders fly to Churchill for stellar sub-arctic birding.And finally, stay at a bed-and-breakfast or on a country vacation farm during one of the hundreds of small-town fall suppers.

This is a great opportunity to meet with the local Manitobans who will be sure to make you welcome.This has been just a sampling that is representative of what Manitoba has to offer its visitors. Whether in the winter or in the summer, Manitoba will provide you with an unforgettable holiday.


Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Canada Vacation.

By: Michael Russell

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