Churchill Canada - The magic of the Polar Bear Lodges and walking with bears!
Churchill, Canada Polar Bear lodge
In a remote part of Manitoba close to the frontier town of Churchill, Manitoba; a small family run company has pioneered a type of polar bear tour which is unrivalled in the polar bear viewing industry. Due to the unique location of their polar bear lodges - right in the middle of the migration route of the ‘Ice Bear’ - they have regular sightings of polar bears throughout their short season. This expert guide based on our own personal visits to these Arctic wilderness lodges, will look at three of their most famous properties; how to organise your trip to the polar bear lodge and what to expect to see. There is no doubt that this is the most intimate and exciting polar bear safari in Canada
Nanuk Lodge or Mother and Cubs lodge
We wanted to start with Nanuk Lodge first and for the polar bear lodges located near the western coast of Hudson Bay, this is the most southerly and therefore the polar bear viewing season here starts earlier than the wilderness lodges north of Churchill. This property is often called the mother and cubs lodges due to the relatively large number of female polar bears with cubs which are sighted here. This can be explained by the fact that at this stage of the polar bear migration north to Churchill, the bears are more dispersed and it is easier for female polar bears to keep their young away from the potential danger of large males.
Nanuk Lodge differs from both Seal River lodge and Dymond Lake lodge physically from the first initial view, as here you will see a full length metal perimeter fence around the property. This creates a sense that it is the human visitors who are the ‘attraction’ in this pristine wilderness area and the polar bears can some and gawk at our unusual behaviour as and when they want to.
Although it is incredibly exciting to see these polar bears up close and personal by the mother and cubs lodge, it is often the daily excursions by specialist tundra buggy into the Cape Tatnam Wildlife Management Area which are the highlight of the polar bear safari. Not only do we have the beauty of the autumn fall colours all around us, but we have the chance to see and photograph polar bears, black bears, wolves and moose. These excursions are in the company of expert wildlife guides or wildlife photographers; who will ensure you maximise your wildlife encounters and return to the polar bear lodge with a huge smile on your face and some memories which will last a lifetime.
Dymond Lake Lodge – Great Ice Bear photo safari
Located a spectacular 30km west of Churchill, Canada by bushplane or helicopter flight, there is a chance you will have seen your first polar bear from the air before you even arrive at Dymond Lake Eco-lodge. This polar bear lodge has a beautiful setting right by the lake and although the accommodation area is fenced off for safety reasons, you still have the feeling of being immersed in the kingdom of the ice bear and it is relatively common to see the polar bears approach the huge picture windows which provide stunning open views of the tundra from the main living area.
The polar bear viewing approach here is very much based on expert led walking safaris; so in effect you literally are ‘walking with polar bears’. The polar bear guides and wildlife photographers who accompany you are experts on polar bear behaviour and will always ensure a safe distance is maintained between you and the bears. It is not just polar bears which you will see on these walking safaris, you can also encounter caribou, wolves, artic fox, red foxes and birds, such as snowy owls and ptarmigan.
Although it seems like a strange addition to this very unique and intimate polar bear safari to add in a days tundra buggy excursion from Churchill, in reality it helps to give balance and further photographic opportunities to the tour, as it is much more likely that you will see sparring polar bears on this excursion, due to the large amounts of polar bears in one area waiting for the ice to form on Hudson Bay.
Seal River Lodge – Polar Bear photography tour
Seal River Lodge started life as a hunting and fishing lodge and was mainly used for their summer program called ‘belugas and bears’; which it continued to be used for in the months of July and August. At this time of year there are hundreds of beluga whales in the shallow waters of the Hudson Bear, but most of the polar bear sightings are of lone individuals as they try to struggle through this most difficult of seasons for polar bears.
However in the autumn and early winter period this polar bear lodge changes completely and it was noticed that more and more polar bears were being sighted around the lodge, which led the owner to decide to promote Seal River lodge for their specialist polar bear photography tours. With the lodges huge floor to ceiling windows and observation tower, it is designed to maximise your polar bear encounters and for you to get some stunning photos. Wildlife photographers love to be up here in the cold, wintry weather, when the polar bears are moving along routes towards Churchill which take them right past the lodge. As with Dymond Lake Eco-lodge, polar bear walking safaris are the main activity, although in our experience you can expect distances of 2-3 km along fairly flat terrain. Good quality boots and walking poles will help those unsure of their footing in icy conditions.