In Search of Polar Bears
Where do you go when you want to see that large and iconic image of the Arctic, the polar bears? You could try several places but I went to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada. On the map below Churchill is right about where the bottom of the “a” in Canada meets the Hudson Bay and you can see that it is just below the Arctic Circle.
Churchill is a tiny town of just over 700 permanent residents but big on polar bears between mid-October and end of November. This is because Hudson Bay is the bear’s highway out onto the frozen ice and food and it generally starts freezing right around the town. As the weather changes and ice begins to form along the edges of the bay, the bears begin to gather in the area waiting for their first opportunity to go. They haven’t eaten since coming off the ice around June and they anticipate starting their hunt primarily for ring seals.
How to get there:
I went with Natural Habitat Adventures. Flew into Winnipeg and stayed overnight at the Ft. Geary Hotel, a charming, historic hotel originally built for the railroad. The next day we had a 2hr. charter flight into Churchill. At the end of the time in Churchill the steps were reversed.
What you will experience:
Remoteness, boreal forest giving way to tundra, polar bears, and hopefully arctic fox, red fox, snow hares, ptarmigan and snowy owls. Depending on the weather, some snow or a lot of snow and really interesting ice formations. Clear skies and northern lights if you are lucky. A town of resilient people with stories to tell.
An option on this trip is to stay at Natural Habitat’s Tundra Lodge which I was fortunate enough to do. The lodge is like several of the large tundra rovers pulled together and is not a permanent structure. There are 2 sleeping cars, a lounge car and dining car with kitchen. Sleeping arrangements are in tiny cubbyholes but just enough space since you won’t spend any time there except to sleep. The food is quite good, the best meals I had. The advantage to staying out here is that the lodge is placed out on the tundra in an area which is likely for bears passing through. And sure enough I awoke on the first morning to see a polar bear right on the side of the lodge. The other advantage is that your tundra rover is already out there thus eliminating the morning commute. The remainder of the time in Churchill was spent in a hotel in town. This is a moderate accommodation but it works. From here you will have an opportunity to visit around the town, browse the shops, attend talks from locals about the area and its history and hope that you don’t run into a wayward bear (yes, they do occasionally try to come through town and that is why there is a bear patrol). You will also go out for more tundra rover rides.
Why I recommend it:
Polar bears. Seeing polar bears with my own two eyes and in their habitat is amazing. All the other wildlife we saw was an added bonus. I was fortunate enough to see the aurora borealis which is a wonderful experience. I returned having learned a great deal about the Arctic and its inhabitants.
There are so many types of experiences to take on your travels. Whether you are doing a trip to see Polar Bears or an another travel adventure, travel advisor Marsha Dolbow will help you explore all the possibilities available for an amazing experience during your travel adventures. Marsha has been with World Travel for over 25 years and manages the Yorba Linda Travel office.
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