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Churchill, Canada - How to plan budget early season polar bear tours

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Churchill Canada polar bear tours early season

As long as clients have realistic expectations of what they are likely to see in Churchill during the early part of polar bear viewing season, this can be an extremely interesting time to visit and can save the travellers thousands of pounds. The early polar bear season is approximately the first 2 weeks of October. This marks the period where polar bear are just congregating in town, but not arriving in the large numbers. Because peak season has not yet started, there is an opportunity – although far from easy – to custom a polar bear tour in this period by working direct with the accommodation and activity providers.

Why travel to Churchill Canada in early season?

The tourist season in Churchill breaks down into two distinct periods: a pre-season period from about October 1st to 15th, and the peak period which runs from mid-October to mid to late November. Our speciality is arranging tailor-made unescorted tours for independent travellers with flexible departure dates, durations, and content, and over the past 13 years we have carved out a bit of a niche for ourselves offering these very affordable tours in the pre-season period. However during the peak season (October 16th onwards) two package tour operators block book the vast majority of hotel rooms and tundra buggy vehicles in Churchill for their escorted group tours, ensuring they enjoy something of a monopoly, and that makes it harder (though not impossible) for us to arrange our custom unescorted tours in that period.

Is the first two weeks of October the best time to see polar bears in Churchill?

The simple answer to this is no, as due to the milder winters we have experienced in North America in recent years - especially in the higher latitudes - you cannot expect the colder weather and snowy conditions to arrive in Churchill by early October. We have been organising polar bear tours to Churchill since 2003 and we can say with some authority that although peak season may start in mid-October, the snowy conditions and colder temperatures often only appear by November. However you can still see polar bears in smaller numbers in the first 2 weeks of October and this has allowed us to organise a very special ‘3 bears tour’ for our clients. Where they spend the first week of October in British Colombia bear viewing on Vancouver Island or Bella Coola looking for brown and black bears and then fly onto Manitoba for the polar bear viewing in Churchill.

How to arrange an early season polar bear tour to Churchill, Canada?

The starting point for any polar bear safari is Winnipeg in Manitoba and most people spend at least one night here before either catching a train or plane into Churchill. You cannot say the train journey to Churchill is the most scenic Canadian railway journey and at 3 days long, it is certainly not the quickest way to reach the polar bear capital of the world. However for those railway romantics out there it is worth considering and the cabins are relatively comfortable. We recently had some clients who saw some northern lights from the train as they crossed the frozen tundra.

Once at Churchill you need to choose between some fairly uninspiring but practical motel options, or if you book early enough some better local B&B’s. Either way we suggest at least a 4 night stay to ensure you have time to take at least two tundra buggy polar bear tours. These involve the classic white coloured oversized tundra buses you may have seen on the internet, with their heated interiors, sliding windows for photography and a small outside deck at the back of the tundra buggy, where curious polar bears sometimes comes and smell the human observers – through a thick metal foot grate! As well as polar bear tours by the specialist buggies, we work with other local operators who can take you out focusing on specific arctic species, such as arctic fox, ptarmigan and snowy owls. Again, one of the advantages of visiting when there are less tourists around, is you may be able to take a private wildlife tour with these companies and enjoy a real intimate and educational insight into the local Churchill wildlife.

Why we love early polar bear season in Churchill?

We feel that the pre-season period has a lot to offer in terms of value for money and enjoying a more intimate and personal experience. At this time of year there a relatively few visitors, accommodation and Tundra Buggy tour rates are significantly lower than later in the month, and we can offer full flexibility in terms of departure dates and tour duration. While the density of polar bears in the Churchill area is not as high as it is in late October/early November, multiple sightings per day are still commonplace, and the bears in Churchill are bold and very inquisitive so encounters tend to last hours rather than minutes. What you don’t tend to see in the earlier part of October is the interaction between multiple bears gathered in the same area (e.g. males wrestling) for which the peak season is known. The pre-season period does however have the added advantage of less crowded tundra buggies and less tourist traffic in the town.

How to book an early season polar bear safari?

Ideally we need as much notice as possible to book an early season polar bear tour in Churchill, Canada. This is because we need to bring all the components together to ensure you have the best opportunity to see the resident wildlife and stay in some nice accommodation. Hotel space and in particular the better quality B&B’s are in high demand. If you would like to view polar bears at this time of year then please email us at [email protected] or click on this early season polar bear tour. It is not unusual for us to book such polar bear trips one year in advance

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