Sign Up for our Newsletter!
1-866-UGO-WILD (846-9453)

Archive for September, 2013

A wolf-full morning at Nanuk!

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Wolf on runway at Nanuk Polar bear Lodge

Breakfast will have to wait, or…

Not getting through dinner on a regular basis here at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge has been the norm this season with the black bears and polar bears at the fence, but not getting through breakfast?

A lone wolf turned up on the runway while all the guests were out back with three wolves at the fence. And the rest of the pack has been in the willows howling at us for the last hour.

Nanuk, our regular polar bear visitor, is not so impressed with playing second fiddle to a bunch of yelping and howling mongrels, so he is following guests around trying to get in the shot.

Just another day in…

Polar bear and black bear caught together in rare photo at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Polar bear and black bear together at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar bear and black bear together at Nanuk! Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Professional photographer Robert Postma was at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in early September to lead photographers on our Mothers and Cubs Adventure and a Polar Bear Photo Safari.

He got me something I’ll treasure forever.

I am always after my professional and amateur photographers for something out of the ordinary, and while visiting Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge one of my requests has always been a picture of my favorite North American land carnivore the polar bear, and everybody’s cute and fuzzy black bear – together, in the same photograph. This time it really did feel like my request might finally become a reality.

Black bears were wandering around the compound regularly, cleaning up the last of the berries that this wonderful land produces, and polar bears were circling the Lodge enjoying the smells from our culinary expert Riley Friesen. I’m not sure whether it was the moose hamburger soup, the caribou bacon wraps, or the smell of freshly baked bread and Jayne’s delicious chocolate chip cookies that kept attracting the bears.

Whatever it was, it was working!

On numerous occasions our guests commented that today Nolan may just get his picture. Well, after three years of wonderful shots of these magnificent creatures on separate slides, my request was finally filled when Robert approached me and suggested he may have gotten a picture of both bears, but the light was not great.

As you can imagine, I was quite excited. Only once had I missed this opportunity myself. Polar bears and black bears do not like to spend time around each other, let alone posing together for photo!

Polar bears are generally solitary animals, but they will spend time with other polar bears. Black bears, on the other hand, will tolerate other black bears more freely, but there have been countless occasions at the Lodge in which we have seen black bears running into the tree line at the slightest whiff of an approaching polar bear.

Robert presented me with the photo of the black bear and the polar bear outside the Lodge at Nanuk on an early September evening. You can just see the black bear peeking out of the bushes in the top right hand corner of the photo. It is one of my most coveted photographs and I am proud to share it with all of you.

Thank you Robert!

Happy days from up here at The Next Great Arctic Safari!

Greenhouse on the edge of the Arctic

by Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild

Fresh tomatoes grown at Seal River!

Guests on our Arctic Safari will enjoy fresh tomatoes grown at Seal River!

Churchill Wild, in its quest to be as ecologically responsible as possible, has long been a proponent of country foods and the 100 mile diet. Our kitchens harvest and prepare a variety of wild berries, game dishes and wild caught fish much to the delight of discerning palates from around the globe.

El “Presidente”, better known as Jeanne Webber-Reimer, has inherited all the looks and intelligence of her mother Helen and the stick-to-it-ness of her father Doug. For years Doug has been successfully growing a variety herbs and vegetables at North Knife Lake Fishing Lodge.

Jeanne has always been convinced we could grow vegetables at Seal River, enabling us to serve fresh picked produce on site, which not only tastes a hundred times better than anything picked green in Mexico and shipped thousands of kilometers to our doorstep, but that is also much more environmentally friendly.

Guide Terry Elliot provided the building prowess while Mike collected and mixed local soils, seaweed and compost. As a result, Seal River Heritage Lodge is now blessed with the most northern green house (ok green hutch for now!) in Manitoba on the shores of the Hudson Bay.

Guests this week at our Arctic Safari will be the first to enjoy fresh tomatoes grown on the Arctic shores of Hudson Bay!

New Dining/Viewing Lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge now complete. First looks!

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

New dining room and viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

The new lunch time at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge!

The new dining room and viewing lounge at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is now complete to rave reviews!

We had only a few minor things to complete when the first guests of the Nanuk season arrived on August 29 for the Polar Bear Photo Safari, and all thoroughly enjoyed dining, relaxing and viewing picture-window wildlife from the new lounge.

The first group of guests were treated to daily visits from black bears just outside the lounge and polar bears were found every day out on Hudson Bay flats. The first group was able to get up close and personal with polar bears, and the second group of guests. All from Australia, had both polar bears and wolves at the compound fence! These were also easily viewable from the new lounge windows, as well as on our daily treks to the flats. And the northern lights cooperated!

Professional photographer Robert Postma led the first groups of guests, got along famously with everyone and went out of his way to be helpful. He also provided us with some great photos of wildlife, landscapes, people and the new lounge (see below).

Eighteen loads of lumber, timber frame, plumbing, electrical supplies, solar panels, inverters, a 45 kW generator and some energetic builders and helpers were required to complete the new lounge. All materials were flown 110 km from Gillam via a customized DC3 Bassler BT67 from Cargo North. It was a real team effort that we detailed in our last Nanuk construction update.

A sincere thank you to friends, family, construction crews, lodge staff, Robert, our wonderful guests (and the wildlife!) for helping us to make the new Nanuk dining lounge and viewing area a huge success.

You are all greatly appreciated!

Furry boulders and not-so-feathery seabirds at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Guest Post and Photos by Katlin Miller

Author Katlin Miller

Author Katlin Miller outside Seal River Heritage Lodge

When most people think about polar bears, they probably picture massive white bears roaming a never-ending blanket of snow and ice hunting for ringed seals. Similarly, the word beluga likely triggers reminiscences of the song ‘Baby Beluga’ or the white whales featured in some of SeaWorld’s most popular exhibits. For three Colorado residents however, the lasting memories of polar bears and belugas will, forever more, be much, much different.

Johnnie, Tasha, and Katlin Miller, of Granby, recently joined 15 other adventurers from around the world to embark on a week-long vacation of a lifetime. Flying from Denver to Winnipeg to Churchill and finally to the Seal River Heritage Lodge, the three weren’t exactly sure what they were in for when they signed up for Churchill Wild’s Birds, Bears and Belugas trip.

Most wildlife enthusiasts know that if you want to see polar bears, Churchill, Canada, is the place to go. After all, it is commonly identified as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and even has its own polar bear jail just outside the town limits.

Tundra buggies are the most common mode of travel for polar bear seekers wishing to see the top carnivore of the Arctic. However, tundra buggies are not the only option for polar bear viewing. If you want the real, on-the-ground, polar bear experience, you’ve got to go with Churchill Wild.

Foggy morning polar bear at Seal River

Foggy morning polar bear at Seal River

Located on Hudson Bay near the Seal River Estuary, Seal River Heritage Lodge is one of several Churchill Wild lodges located in the wilds of Canada. Known for being a secluded getaway, you won’t see another soul in sight, or even another plane, train, or automobile.

The little single-engine “Beaver” that drops you off at the Lodge is the only connection you will have to the outside world until it returns to pick you up five days later. Hopefully you learn to like the members of the group, and the lodge staff, because you are literally stuck with these folks for the duration of your trip.

Admittedly, the lodge staff, made up entirely of immediate and extended family members, with the exception of the two guides/bodyguards, were absolutely stellar and heart-warming. The food was also five-star cuisine!

Our fellow adventurers were also great people with many diverse experiences and backgrounds. In addition to the three of us (ranchers), we were accompanied by a principal, swimming pool builder, retired real estate agent, chemist, accountant, family of four, hilarious doctor from the Bronx, psychiatrist, librarian, and even a famous travel writer.

While tundra buggies provide a safe, high-perched, behind-the glass, kind of experience; it would be deemed BORING when compared to Churchill Wild’s EXHILIRATING walking trips. Furthermore, tundra buggies only provide polar bear viewing opportunities in the fall, whereas Churchill Wild offers summer trips too.

Photographing polar bears at ground level

Photographing polar bears at ground level

These summer trips provide tourists with a different scene for polar bear viewing. You won’t see any snow, ice, or ringed seals this time of year. In fact, the typical white background of most polar bear photos is replaced with the vibrant pinks and greens of lush fireweed, grass, and willows. Ringed seals are also replaced with sik siks (arctic prairie dogs).

Likewise, the ferocious, terrifying, killing beasts of the winter turn into a mellow, sleepy bums in the summer. They often lie around on the rocks during low tide and appear as “polar boulders”. Sometimes it takes a second, third, or even a fourth look to see if that boulder over there seems to have a furry texture or if it’s moving. If the true identity of that boulder is too difficult to discern from the “compound”, than why not just take a hike and see for yourself?

Don’t get me wrong, safety is still of the utmost concern and one is constantly guarded by guys with guns when outside the compound, but the nerves of walking alongside the largest land carnivore on earth seem less than frightening. Even up-close-and-personal encounters provided exciting, yet comfortable, viewing experiences.

Churchill Wild is the ONLY tourist company in the world that allows you to step outside the safe confines of a vehicle, fence, or structure and actually walk with polar bears. You walk out in the open and approach bears to within 50 yards both on land and in the zodiac boats.

When in the compound (the fenced yard surrounding the lodge, made 12’ high with 6” wire mesh), guests can literally get within a few feet of the bears. The guide did mention at one point that the fence would not keep a desperate bear out, but rather just act as a deterrent or small obstacle.

Nevertheless, we all flocked to the fence when the opportunity arose to stare into the eyes of passing polar bear. The bear in the photo album below was totally calm and seemed to care less that there were a bunch of ecstatic tourists just on the other side of this seemingly wimpy fence. He stuck around for an hour or more, posed several times for the camera, fiddled with a bird feather on the edge of the deck, swatted some nagging mosquitos, and even took a snooze before our eyes!

Another time, we got very close to three different polar bears swimming in the water. We were in our zodiacs, but still…they were so close and are excellent swimmers.

Though polar bears often steal the show in Churchill, an equally impressive distant relative, the beluga whale, deserves just as much credit. Thousands of belugas migrate into the Hudson Bay during the summer to raise their young, shred dead skin, and enjoy the summer season. Their spirited chirps, whistles, and chatter, ring underwater and righteously honor their reputation as “Sea Canaries” (aka not-so-feathery seabirds).

Beluga whale couple at Seal River

Beluga whale couple at Seal River

Seeing beluga whales from above the water is majestic in itself, but the real action comes when you take the plunge into the water with them. Even though they are carnivores in the sense that they eat fish and other sea creatures, belugas are very gentle and friendly when it comes to people. Just hook up your snorkel and face mask and start humming your favorite song.

The belugas don’t care if you’re a rock star or a beginner singing nursery rhymes; to them, it’s all new and different. Before long, their curiosity becomes irresistible and belugas start showing up everywhere. Swimming within inches of you, the whales sometimes even give little nudges, nibbles, or even a kiss. It is truly a life-changing experience to be touched by a beluga!

All in all, Churchill Wild’s catalog of world-class trips is a MUST-DO for any avid traveler or wildlife aficionado. From furry boulders to feathery and not-so-feathery seabirds, you’ll see it all at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Trips are suited for all sorts of people. Kids, parents, grandparents, singles, families, and couples are all welcome, and everyone will thoroughly enjoy it. In addition to the Birds, Bears, and Belugas trip that the Millers took, Churchill Wild also offers several other polar bear and wildlife-viewing trips.

Churchill Wild does not disappoint!

Note: A selection of Katlin’s photos from Seal River Heritage Lodge are included below. You can view her full photo album from the Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure here.