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“Fantastic experience”

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Seal River Heritage Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Bath
Level 5 Contributor
69 reviews
42 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 72 helpful votes
“Fantastic experience”
Reviewed 27 July 2013

This lodge is magnificent. Mike and his family make you very welcome and tge service is exemplary throughout. The guides Andy and Terry were great and enabled everyone to get the best out of the trip. Highlights were swimming with Beluga whales and being within 2 feet of a polar bear at the lodge. Thankfully a wire fence between us. A real wilderness experience. Expensive but thoroughly worth it.

  • Stayed July 2013
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Helpful?
Thank Derek S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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131 reviews from our community

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English first
Brisbane QLD
Level 5 Contributor
74 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 56 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 December 2012

I have been on lots of wild life safaris around the world and really love Africa but this experience surpassed my expectations. I did the Churchill Wild 7 day "Polar Bear Photo Tour " in November. Mike and Jeanie were wonderful hosts and all credit to them, their family and employees for creating a truly unique experience. This is an expensive trip but well worth every cent. Immediately after this trip we did the Fronties North "Tundra Buggy" 7 day photographic tour. This was some what disappointing by comparison and has room for a lot of improvement in most areas including accommodation, food and overall experience ( see review)
The lodge is in a very remote area on Hudson Bay and only accessible by a half hour plane flight from Churchill. The whole experience was enjoyable from the initial enquiries when I was promptly and politely answered to the stay at the lodge. The Seal River Lodge is a remote timber lodge built on Hudson Bay. It has a fenced outside compound to keep you safe from the bears when walking to the viewing platforms. It had been snowing before we arrived and snowed while we were there, this added to the magic of the landscape and our experiences with the Polar bears.
The bedrooms were in one wing, our timber panelled room was spacious with comfortable twin beds, an outside window (with bars) and a private toilet and shower. Some other rooms had queen beds while others were set up for families with bunks as well as a queen bed. The lodge was well heated, the lounge room had comfy chairs and plenty of space to relax at night while chatting about the day and downloading all the photos to our computer. This was also where we listened to informative talks and watched presentations in the evenings.
The beautiful timber dining room has large expansive windows looking out over the landscape with ever changing light on the snow and ice. The food at breakfast, lunch and dinner was like dining in a first class restaurant and such a credit to the kitchen staff. Special diet needs were no problem, there was plenty of variety and second helpings offered but mostly not needed. Cocktails were served with nibbles before dinner and bottled wine offered with the meal.
The main reason for coming to Seal river Lodge was to experience the Polar bears and although we did not see many the experiences we had with the polar bears were totally spellbinding. Tara and Andy our experienced guides gave us a safety briefing before we went out walking on the Tundra. We respected the bears space at all times, backing off if they showed any stress allowing the bears to dictate what happened out on the ice. At no time did I have any fear for our safety, mostly the bears seemed disinterested in us and more intent on what they were doing. We went out on hikes both in the morning and afternoon but often the bears were close to the lodge and easily visible from the viewing platforms. We were able to spent plenty of time just observing the behaviour of the polar bears as they were sparring with each other, rolling in the snow, walking to have a cool off by swimming in the bay or just sleeping. All of this created fantastic photo opportunities. We also saw ptarmigans, pine martins, red and black foxes but sadly no Arctic fox.
Our small group plus the two guides were the only people out on the tundra with the Polar bears, it felt like we were one with the bears and nature. We were given the wonderful opportunity to take truly amazing photos from the ground looking up at these magnificent creatures.
Thank you to the Reimer family for having the vision to create such a remarkable experience and share it with others.

  • Stayed November 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank awayagainBrisbaneQLD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Johannesburg, South Africa
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 27 November 2012

I have been doing safaris all over the world for 25 years so being totally blown away by the Seal River Heritage Lodge, Mike & Jeanne and their children plus family and guides experience, was truly refreshing! Walking Safely with wild free roaming POLAR BEARS was unique and awesome a 100% WOW factor! The guides Mike, Terry , Andy and Tera always making sure we were safe around the bears and well informed. The wilderness feeling, the pure air, huge space, magnificent night skies plus the bonus of the Aurora Borealis displaying its magic throughout the night was something one can never ever forget. Luckily one does walk daily as you are continuously spoilt with simply the best food ever prepared by Carly and Riley using the freshest ingredients with the ever present lingon, cloud, blue, black or strawberry flavours......WOW!!!! Hats off to Mike and Jeanne and their phenomenal team! Ian J

  • Stayed November 2012, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
4 Thank Ian J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Far North Queensland
Level 4 Contributor
31 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 September 2012

How can anyone write a more explicit review than SeaG. She says it all and more. I agree with all of what she says. It is the most amazing life experience. Jeanne's daughters and son in law are also to be commended with their wonderful cooking and going out of their way for special diet requirements. Jeanne's Mum has written wonderful cook books and many of the recipes come from these. They are available to purchase. As always, weather and tides are the factor for the whales. The luck of the Gods. It seems expensive but when one realizes the logistics of where one is staying and how to get everything there, i.e. building materials, equipment, food etc. All has to be brought in by air or over snow in the Winter. It is a once in a lifetime experience.

Room Tip: All rooms different according to number of people staying. ie. Couples, family or friends. Differ...
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  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Tousalanda
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Big Island, Hawaii
Level 6 Contributor
76 reviews
55 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 330 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 September 2012

We (me, my s/o, and our 11-year old daughter) flew to Winnipeg and then Churchill where we overnighted as part of Churchill Wild's "Birds, Bears, and Belugas" package. This 7-night package included the overnight in Churchill at Aurora Lodge, followed by 5 nights at Seal River Heritage Lodge (approximately 60 km north of Churchill) and an overnight in Winnipeg at the end. The package promised polar bear viewing, snorkeling with beluga whales, and the opportunities to see other wildlife in an all inclusive package. Boy did they deliver.

Even though August is generally too early to see any polar bears on the tundra buggy tours from Churchill, as Seal River is located further north, they fairly reliably have bears throughout the summer. We had bears at the doors, at the windows, at the fences, and on every walk out that we took, accompanied by our excellent (and gun carrying) guides, Andy and Terry. We saw bears sleeping, wrestling, swimming, playing and cruising.

On two occasions we took zodiacs outfitted with seats out to go snorkeling with beluga whales. This was an extraordinary experience. Outfitted in drysuits, a rope is tied around your feet and you are dragged behind the boat and encouraged to sing while large whales swim up sometimes by the dozen to sing with you and investigate you. It is freezing but such a magical experience that you don't notice...at first. Hoods are discouraged so you can hear the amazing songs, clicks, and whirs of the whales. Pro tip: I tried Bob Marley, Adele, Michael Jackson, and some Rhianna. Adele seemed the whales' favorite. :-)

Not everyone on our boats was as lucky as others, some people, like me, saw dozens of whales, others were shut out underwater, although everyone saw many from the boat on the first trip. On the second trip there were very few whales around, probably because waves had caused the whales to head out to sea with their babies, and I was the only one to go in to kind of do a reconnaisance mission, and saw only a handful of whales for a brief moment before they too disappeared. These are the vagaries of wildlife trips and encounters. It's a good idea to come prepared for disappointment and not blame the lodge or the staff, this isn't Seaworld.

Luckily the boat trip is only about 20 minutes from the lodge so when it was clear the second trip was a bust, we were able to zip back and head out for an ATV tundra tour instead. I do suggest people try to get in first or second for the best chance to see the most whales. They tend to get bored of us rather quickly, is my thinking, and who can blame them. :-) Also going in pairs, as my daughter did with my s/o and another boy did with his father, seemed to result in the whales disappearing, so going solo I think is the way to go.

Days were spent first eating the hearty and very good breakfast of hot, multigrain cereal with all the toppings plus a special breakfast entree of the day and excellent muffins and/or pastries, followed by a tundra walk of 2-3 hours, or the aforementioned whale snorkeling (depending on tides), then lunch and a rest before heading out on the afternoon activity, either walking or boating, or the one day we went out in the ATVs.

In between activites and sometimes during meals we were entertained by bears coming right up to the lodge doors and windows and knocking at the door, peering in the windows or curiously checking us out at the fenced compound, which is built and "bear proofed" to ensure everyone's safety. We always felt safe and secure with our guides watching whenever bears showed up to make sure both people and bear were behaving appropriately!

Three out of our five nights we also had incredible aurora borealis viewing, one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The last night, we were let out of our "cage" and headed down to the beach with wine for a little sunset going away party. After about 30 minutes, a bear crashed the party, so we were quickly ushered back into the compound, but not before we dipped our toes into the Hudson Bay and had some good laughs. A bonfire, singing, and northern lights viewing followed until late into the evening, when even the bears made one last appearance under the aurora borealis.

I cannot say enough about the staff, our extraordinary guides, Andy and Terry, and the wonderful owners, Mike and Jeanne. I loved the presentations each night by Andy or Terry, their huge knowledge and experience base, sharing meals with all of them, and the very good food and special cocktails made every evening. Mike even made a special effort to bring my picky 11-year old rice and bacon at several meals, her favorite dish.

Our fellow travelers were diverse, from older couples to younger families, from all over the world. We enjoyed getting to know all of them in the common lounge area and at meals, where people were encouraged to sit in small intermingled groups that changed at each meal. It's really nice that everyone arrives and departs on the same day so you're able to spend a week together and get to know each other, again, unlike our not-so-great experience at the above-mentioned Knight Inlet Lodge.

The accomodations were very comfortable, especially given the remote location of the lodge. We
had a two room 'suite' with a bunkbed for our daughter in one room and a separate bedroom with a queen bed for us. We could often see bears from our bedroom window. The first flight to the lodge was on a helicopter and lasted about 30 minutes. My daugher was thrilled with the copilot seat, and we saw belugas in Churchill river right away, followed by a polar bear, and the most exciting thing, a very large wolf hunting (probably snow geese) and pouncing and eating. Our helicopter pilot was also very excited and swooped down for a very close up look. The flight back was on a float plane which lands and takes off from a small lake about a half mile from the lodge. On the flight out we saw hundreds of beluga whales.

Temperatures were fairly comfortable, I dressed in layers as when it was cloudy or the wind came off the bay, it was quite chilly, but when the sun came out and the wind died or come from inland, it could get quite warm. I did get attacked by black flies on our last hike, a rather difficult 4+-hour roundtrip slog through spongy tundra and mud to the tree line, even though I hadn't had a problem with bugs up until then and I was wearing repellant. At the advice of our guides I made sure not to scratch them, but nonetheless I developed a terrible reaction to them the next day. My ankles swelled and the bites turned very large and ugly and burned, itched, and welted. I even had some very unpleasant crusty ones on my scalp. Luckily at the Vancouver airport I was able to go to the pharmacy and clinic and get treatment, a particular antihistamine recommended by the pharmacist, and a special lotion, and I was inordinately better within a few hours. (Have I mentioned how much I love Canada?).

While we didn't really have time to explore Churchill on our overnight at the Aurora Inn (a simply but charming motel), on the way back we had several hours there before our plane departed for Winnipeg. It's a cute town with a few decent restaurants and lots of shops. I got an awesome beaver hat and some moccasins. The stay at the Four Points Sheraton in Winnipeg (included in the package) was convenient, it's only about a 2 minute walk to the hotel from baggage claim, the food is surprisingly good in the sports bar, and the rooms clean and comfy.

While there is no doubt this is an expensive adventure, I thought it was worth every penny. The guides alone (in stark contrast to our experience later at Knight Inlet Lodge in B.C) made the experience absolutely worldclass, like having the coolest biology, ecology, gardening, and shop teachers you ever had, all in one. Mike and Jeanne really know how to run a first-class operation, on every level.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
7 Thank SheaG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Wallingford, Pennsylvania
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 September 2012

Churchill Wild, particularly the experience at Seal River Heritage Lodge, is more than a vacation ...it's an exploration that many of us city-folk cannot fathom. Start to finish, bears, belugas, birds & more up close without the feeling that we were being herded (forgive the pun, please), tourist-style. I felt that we were part of nature, dependent and respectful of weather, tides, animal life, rather than as an observer or studier from afar. Amazing inn keeper team and guides, food and fun!

Room Tip: Rooms are small with lodge-feel, helping to create the experience of simplicity.
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  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank BeaGL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
oakland
Level 3 Contributor
9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed 6 September 2012

I agree with all the previous reviews however I would like to point out one more very important issue to keep in mind and that is: THE WEATHER ; if it is bad you might miss out on being with the whales. This for me was the highlight, a very awesome and powerful experience and not to be missed, 20 minutes just was not enough.

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Lumpi78
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:
Region: Canada > Manitoba > Seal River
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Speciality Lodging in Seal River
Number of rooms: 8
Also Known As:
Churchill Wild - Seal River Heritage Hotel Churchill

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