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Award-winning National Geographic photographer Jad Davenport to lead first Polar Bear Photo Safari

Polar bears sparring near Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Polar bears sparring near Seal River Heritage Lodge. Bill Lyne photo.

Jad Davenport

Jad Davenport

Churchill Wild is proud to announce that Jad Davenport, an award-winning author, photographer and filmmaker represented by National Geographic Creative, will lead our first Polar Bear Photo Safari of the season at Seal River Heritage Lodge from October 21-27.

Jad specializes in wilderness photography and is one of the pioneers in the field of digital photography. He shot the first digital cover and inside story for National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2004 and his stories, photos, video shorts and blog posts have appeared in leading publications that include Smithsonian, Popular Photography, Sierra, Audubon, Outside, Men’s Journal, Sunset, ISLANDSCoastal Living and The New York Times among others.

A multiple winner of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award and Canada’s Northern Lights Award for travel writing and photography, Jad is a former documentary photographer and filmmaker who covered a dozen wars from Bosnia to Iraq. He is a member of The Explorers Club, and has worked in over 150 countries and on all continents.

Jad has photographed extensively in polar regions, with assignments that have included Greenland, Svalbard, Nunavut, Alaska, Siberia, the Russian Far East, Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia. This makes him a perfect fit for the Polar Bear Photo Safari, which takes place in the HEART of polar bear country during prime polar bear season from October 21 to November 20, when the polar bears congregate in large numbers along the coast of Hudson Bay waiting for the Bay to freeze so they can begin their annual seal hunt.

The Polar Bear Photo Safari provides discerning photographers with ground level photo opportunities for Arctic wildlife including polar bears, caribou and Arctic fox, on a backdrop of stunning sea and landscapes. The pristine and remote wilderness location of Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay shoreline is ideal for photographing polar bears on ice and snow. Additionally, there are an exceptional number of clear nights for northern lights photography.

Photographs that truly reflect the beauty of the wildlife and their surroundings…

are taken here.

Polar bear paws while Arctic foxes scamper.

Polar bear paws while Arctic foxes scamper. Lydia Attinger photo.

 

For more information about Jad Davenport please visit: www.JadDavenport.com

Arctic Safari begins at Seal River

Blueberry Bears! Mandy Wallmann photo.

Blueberry Bears! Mandy Wallmann photo.

by Mandy Wallmann

The Arctic Safari has begun at Seal River!!

Autumn is definitely in the air. Clouds of Snow Geese seem to magically disappear and reappear suddenly, flashing white in the sun with each turn on the north winds. And with each new frost, the tundra is slowly changing into its stunning variety of fall colours.

Rebecca and Kayla and Cranberries!

Rebecca, Kayla and Cranberries! Marie Woolsey photo.

The polar bears have been plentiful and curious about the happenings at the Lodge. Mork has returned after having clearly spent the last few weeks rolling in blueberry patches. Finally today, another bear — a new bear — joined him, and they lazed away their day tumbling across the tundra together.

We’ve also been seeing more and more foxes around the Lodge. In the last two days we’ve seen one Arctic fox and two Reds!

Our first group of Arctic Safari guests have settled into Churchill Wild’s Caribou camp at Schmok Lake for a couple of nights and the weather was just perfect for them today!

The staff have taken the opportunity to work on projects around the camp, like cranberry picking. If you haven’t already heard, 2014 has been a banner year for berry yields. Today five of us picked 82 cups of cranberries in one hour! That’s a lot of Helen and Marie’s famous Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce, folks.

And that’s a good thing!

Wild Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce. Yes, it's Yummy!

Wild Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce. Yes, it’s Yummy!

Arctic Discovery Safari! Our newest adventure!

Churchill Wild is proud to announce our newest adventure, the Arctic Discovery Safari!

Nanuk Polar Bear Approach

Are you ready for this?

The Arctic Discovery Safari will profoundly re-establish your place in nature by immersing you through time in one of the planet’s untameable wilderness areas:  the Canadian Arctic.  You will be exposed to the history of the area, encounters with the beautiful beluga whales and polar bears, and your journey will conclude with five days deep in the heart of the coastal home and denning area of the majestic polar bear.

Wow what a place – amazing!” — Jules G. on TripAdvisor

From kayaking with beluga whales to walking with polar bears, your immersive experience begins in Churchill, the gateway to the historical fur trade. It is from Churchill that you will first encounter one of the many uniquely adapted mammals of the arctic ecosystem, the beluga whale.

Your Churchill visit will be completed with a gourmet dinner hosted by local resident Helen Webber in her home. Helen has a multi-generational connection with this northern community going back to the fur trade, and you will enjoy her culinary talent first hand while also taking home your meal in the form of a cookbook from her bestselling series Blueberries and Polar Bears.

From Churchill you will be transported to the remoteness of our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, the home of our Mothers & Cubs Adventure deep in the wilds of the Hudson Bay coast where you will be humbled by face to face encounters with the undisputed lords of this area:  the mighty polar bear.

From short jaunts to get up close and personal with a pair of polar bears sparring within view of our lodge, to day trips further afield in our custom designed tundra vehicles, complete with a packed lunch and traditional arctic tea boil, there is no better way to experience the sheer vastness of the Arctic ecosystem and the habitat of the polar bears and black bears in their summer home.

Polar bears are curious creatures and it is not uncommon for them to visit our guests and saunter up to the perimeters of our secure arctic home and save you the trekking! These close encounters provide interactions with the bears that make for a rare and unforgettably unique experience.

The convergence of the boreal forest with the tidal flats of Hudson Bay surrounding Nanuk plays host to an incredible richness of wildlife and encounters with black bears and the elusive wolves are not uncommon, along with a surprising diversity of birds who seek nesting refuges in the vast areas of the Arctic.

You can also enjoy the greatest light show on earth from the comfort of the lounge or dining room, or even your bedroom! The northern skies are a perfect ballroom for the Aurora Borealis!

The Churchill Wild culinary experience provides the metaphorical icing on the cake for your life defining experiences during your stay! Your taste buds will delight, whether you are indulging in some of our appetizer specialties such as succulent bacon wrapped caribou or dining on one of our many exquisite entrees accompanied by our hand selected Canadian wines.

Should you decide that curling up by the fireplace with a good book or enjoying a hot drink and sharing stories with your fellow adventurers is what you need, our comfortable lounge area provides you with the perfect setting.

But don’t be surprised if you’re interrupted by a bear during dinner, or while you’re relaxing.

It happens.

Polar bear approaches at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Hold your lens steady…

For more information on the Arctic Discovery Safari:

Toll-Free: 1.866.UGO.WILD (846.9453)
Telephone: 1.204.878.5090
Email: info@churchillwild.com

Construction begins on new bedrooms at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

The Bedroom Crew - Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

The Bedroom Crew – Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

We are already into the new season here at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and as always it starts with the thought that we should build something. This year we are taking on the task of building eight new bedrooms, each of which will feature an incredible view of Hudson Bay.

We opened up the Lodge at the earliest date known by anyone up here and Pat flew us in on May 28 to find six feet of snow on the runway and almost as much in the compound and surrounding areas.

This was good news for the black bear that broke into one of the old cabins because that meant he could come and go as he pleased for the next week while we did everything we could to get rid of all the snow. (Pumping all the remaining water from low spots and spreading ash from our fires on the tallest banks.)

We also spent a significant amount of time with a quad and a blade clearing the runway to be ready for the big Yellow Bird to haul in another 175,000 pounds of lumber and material for the upcoming build.

Two researchers arrived with Albert to guide them and they spent nine days chasing the endangered Knot. They had tagged 100 birds near New Jersey, USA, and they arrived here with trackers in hand along with sample jars and other detection tools.

They managed to get four confirmed hits, which was quite exciting. They also found flocks of the birds as they migrated along the coast. We have kept their tower up and are continuing to help with the ongoing research.

Other than one weathered-in day all the hauling went as planned. We pulled in 18 loads from Gillam in rain and snow and the sun finally came out for the last load. We got off to an early start the next morning, waved goodbye to the pilot and crew, and started hauling gravel to fill the concrete forms Rob had placed in the yard to the east.

Stuart and I are preparing to move some of the other cabins tomorrow to make room for the wing on the west end, matching the wing we are currently prepping for on the east. The eight new rooms, each with massive six foot windows, will be a sight for sure!

We have added a Kubota tractor to the mix this year and we’ve also added a second machine dubbed the Rhino. As of now it’s The Rhino II, or Super Sloth II according to some of our guests.

New Kubota tractor exits the big Yellow Bird.

New Kubota tractor exits the big Yellow Bird.

The ice to the north on Hudson Bay is split into two sections right now. At high tide we can see broken and scattered icebergs all over the shore and a magnificent white and blue shimmering shelf beyond a kilometer of bright blue water.

We have three black bears frequenting the Lodge on a daily basis and we have also seen moose off to the west in the creek each evening. The geese have come and gone and now the Sandhill cranes are making all kinds of racket while hanging around on their nests.

Black Bear at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

The black bears are here. Polar bears are coming!

The flocks of shorebirds are crazy at this time of near and with the scope or the binoculars you don’t have to look very hard to catch a glimpse of a nest or some bird activity.

The bunnies are rampant in and around the yard, the weasels are cleaning up on spring mice and birds, and we even watched a wolverine foraging down the coast.

Ursus maritimus has not arrived yet. I suspect the abundant sea ice has kept them out hunting for one last meal, just out of our view, but we’re expecting their appearance any day now. The bugs have just started to hatch, so I am sure the DEET will also be required about the same time as the polar bears show up.

Right now, the sun is high in a clear blue sky, the wind sock is flickering in the breeze, and there couldn’t be a better place in the world.

See you soon!

Professional travel writer, author, says nothing compares to walking with Manitoba polar bears at Seal River

Bob the writer meets Bob the polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Bob the writer meets Bob the polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge

Professional travel writer and author Bob Jenkins thought he wouldn’t get close enough to polar bears at Seal River to get any decent photos. He’s glad he was wrong.

Bob flew 2,300 miles last fall as a guest of Travel Manitoba, to experience the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge. He was having second thoughts when he first stepped off the plane at the Lodge, as detailed below in an excerpt from an article entitled Manitoba lodge redefines up-close polar bear encounters, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

… we’d been lured here by claims of a more personal experience during the initial talk I was having my doubts. But that was before Bones ambled, pigeon-toed, toward us along the shoreline. It was also before Greenspot moseyed around the outside of the lodge – and well before Bob opened his jaws to poke them through a large hole in the lodge’s backyard fence.”

“I’ve been a travel writer for over 25 years,” said Bob. “I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. The pyramids in Egypt, the old Soviet Union, Antarctica, Rio de Janeiro… But there’s just nothing I can compare this to, getting that close to polar bears.”

That’s quite a statement coming from someone who has spent much of his life traveling to all parts of the world and writing about his experiences.

Polar bear at Seal River - Bob Jenkins photo

Polar bear announces his presence at Seal River – Bob Jenkins photo

A native of Washington, D.C., Bob earned his B.A. in journalism at Michigan State University and carved out a 39-year career at the St. Petersburg Times, where he served as editor of national news, state news, feature stories and, for 19 years, travel editor.

Since taking a buyout, Bob has been writing and selling freelance articles to publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Star, Miami Herald, AAA magazines, CruiseCritic.com, USAToday.com and his former employer.

He’s also been traveling.

“It’s a great job,” said Bob. “I take my iPad, camera and notebook everywhere I go. But it is a job.”

Unless of course, you’re walking with polar bears in Northern Manitoba on the desolate icy coast of Hudson Bay with a small group of people.

“I’ve photographed black bears, pythons, alligators, birds, snakes…, but never polar bears. It was mesmerizing to get that close to the world’s largest land carnivore. And our group was special. There was a professional photographer from Ecuador and four people from Montana, including one person who had been diagnosed with cancer and who was there on a “bucket list” trip. I wasn’t prepared for the cold weather and hadn’t come fully prepared. One of our group members lent me a neck warmer that I used to cover my face and it just got better from there. There was an exceptional warmth and camaraderie in our group.”

Bob the polar bear joins us  for a group photo

Bob the polar bear joins us for a group photo

Bob also felt the warmth of the Lodge and the Churchill Wild staff.

“The guides were excellent and the food was superb,” said Bob. “The staff really looked after us and always made sure everyone had enough to eat. They even had their own pastry chef!”

But the real goal of the trip was seeing Manitoba, Canada’s polar bears up close in their own environment and photographing them. The bonus was interacting with the bears.

“…we saw as many as three bears at once, lumbering in a widely spaced follow-the-leader train” wrote Bob in an article entitled Photo Safari in Manitoba, which appeared on the travel for boomers site WatchBoom.com. “We also saw two males lying down together, apparently satisfied that they posed no threat to each other. Other times the nine of us, including our guides, would find a bear on the move, and the guides would have us walk a route to intercept it.”

“Guests usually walk in single file, with a guide in front and back. When we encountered a bear, we would fan out behind both guides, to get sightlines for our photos. But if the bear should be coming toward us, it had to be diverted. The routine: One of the guides would talk to the bear, as if it were a domesticated animal. These first sounds were to get the bear’s attention away from the rest of the group.”

Next on the travel agenda for Bob? Cruises. Four of them.

“I’ve booked a cruise along the coast of Alaska, on a canal barge in France, on a riverboat from Nuremberg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, and on a ship from Stockholm, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ll be writing about the trips for CruiseCritic.com.”

The polar bears of Seal River will be traveling with Bob, at least in spirit and conversation. After all, how can you not tell someone – anyone – you meet, that you’ve felt the warm breath of a polar bear on your face?

In their house.


Author Bob Jenkins

Author Bob Jenkins

More about Bob!

Bob Jenkins is listed in Who’s Who, though he says he’s not sure why. His web site is BobJenkinsWrites.com, and he has published four e-books of his travel articles.

Another version of Bob’s adventure at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Visions in White, also appeared in the April 2014 edition of Bay Magazine from the Tampa Bay Times, pages 112-115.

For more information on Bob’s books, please visit:  www.smashwords.com/author/robertjenkins