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Posts Tagged ‘polar bear lodge’

New Arctic Safari adventure features Walks with Polar Bears, Caribou Migration Fly-Overs and more…

Arctic Safari

Churchill Wild is proud to announce their most ambitious adventure to date: the Arctic Safari!

Fashioned after a traditional African safari, Churchill Wild owner Mike Reimer saw an opportunity to offer Churchill Wild’s own version of “The Big Five” in the arctic. Set against the visually stunning fall colors of early September, the Arctic Safari promises to be an all encompassing encounter with endless photo opportunities and arctic wildlife experiences.

A small window in early September provides the perfect apex to see the widest variety of wildlife and brilliant displays of Aurora Borealis. The Arctic Safari takes you over 20,000 square kilometers of the wildest regions in the Arctic; providing the potential of seeing wolves, caribou, moose, three species of bears (polar, black and grizzly), beluga whales, arctic and colored fox, wolverine, beaver, pine marten and arctic birds.

The Arctic Safari will explore vast areas of Canada’s last remaining wilderness, from the Arctic “Serengeti” the great tundra plains known as The Barren Lands, through “The Land of Little Sticks” and finally down to the rugged Hudson Bay coastline, home of the Great White Bears.

Walking with polar bears

In the land of the polar bears

The adventure begins in the frontier town of Churchill, Manitoba, Can ada – the Polar Bear Capital of the World – where guests will spend their first night and have time to take in the town sites, shops, historical points of interest, and hopefully snap a few shots.

The next morning guests will board the great Canadian bush plane, the deHaviland Beaver, and wing their way north-west to the finest Arctic Eco-Lodge on the planet, the remote Seal River Heritage Lodge – Churchill Wild’s polar bear viewing Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast.

Upon arrival, guests will meet their hosts, check into their private rooms, prep their camera gear and receive an orientation from the guides before heading out on to the tundra for one of Churchill Wild’s signature polar bear walks!

Caribou on tundra

Caribou surveys his arctic domain

Up close, personal and safe.

During their stay at the remote polar bear lodge, guests will participate in a full-day fly-out to witness the fall caribou migrations on the northern border between Nunavut and Manitoba, from the air and on the ground. The Qamanirjuaq caribou herd (ka-min-YOO-ree-ak) is estimated to be between 300,000 to 400,000 strong, and Churchill Wild has located the perfect spot on the migration route to witness this stunning spectacle.

At Schmock Lake, where the Caribou experience originates, there is excellent hiking terrain consisting of high ground, climbing hills and rock ridges. The ground is untouched and there are only caribou trails.

Arctic Wolf

Big wolf relaxing

“What makes this opportunity possible for Churchill Wild guests is the ‘on the ground’ nature of our adventures”, said Reimer. “We walk with polar bears. Our eye-level experiences with these magnificent creatures have become a Churchill Wild trademark.”

Seal River Heritage Lodge is already home to Churchill Wild’s popular Birds, Bears & Belugas and Polar Bear Photo Safari adventures. The Lodge features a 1400 square foot dining room overlooking Hudson Bay, private bedrooms with ensuite washrooms, Internet connectivity and all the comforts of home.

Churchill Wild offers the only fly-in eco-lodge based polar bear experiences in the world.

polar bear on arctic tundra

Polar bear at sunrise on the tundra

Their season runs from mid-July to mid November with limited space available for adventure packages. In addition to Seal River Heritage Lodge, Churchill Wild also operates Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge on the west coast of Hudson Bay, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which is located approximately 30 kilometers east of York Factory on the southern tip of Wapusk National Park.

For more information on the new Arctic Safari and other adventures please visit ChurchillWild.com, call 1 (204) 377-5090 or e-mail info@churchillwild.com.

Hauling Jeanne’s new gourmet kitchen through polar bear country and across the sea ice to Seal River Lodge

by Mike Reimer

Arctic sunshine on Hudson Bay

Sunshine in polar bear country!

Well folks, once again man pitted his slightly aging wits against the elements of Hudson Bay and survived. Thank goodness we were blessed with exceptionally good weather and sea ice conditions that were perfect for transporting materials to the lodges from Churchill.

Jeanne’s gourmet kitchen equipment and cupboards had been shipped from Winnipeg to Churchill by train a month prior and now all that remained was the “simple” task of getting them over the rugged Hudson Bay ice to the polar bear lodge.

All of our winter hauls involve a high level of adventure including high tide overflow, jumbled pack ice on Hudson Bay, raging blizzards, wind chills down to -50 degrees, marauding polar bears, frozen limbs, broken equipment and workers that actually wanted to eat more than once a day.

I think we could sell this as an “Extreme Adventure” to polar bear land or maybe do one of those reality TV shows! Fortunately other than some long, hard days in the saddle, the “extreme conditions” gave us a break this year and almost everything went off without a hitch.

A welcome fire on the sea ice

A welcome fire on a frigid day!

The Hauling Team consisted of Mike Reimer, Dave Schellenberg, Fraser Issac and Steve Toews, ably supported by Doug Webber as chief cook and bottle washer. Due to the relatively light load (7000 kgs) we elected to transport everything via snowmobile and komatik rather than firing up the old D6 Cat we normally use.

Freighting went well, weather was brilliant and all pieces arrived safe and sound after a two day adventure. Once the hauling was done the real worked commenced, that being the business of collecting our supply of firewood.

Visitors to our polar bear lodges will quickly see that this in itself is quite a feat, as there is hardly a stick in sight! Luckily, travel and exploration inland by snowmobile usually yields some pretty good stands of dead timber for burning, some of it over 300 years old!

Fraser and Steve had a tough time keeping up with the old guys and probably won’t care to see a wood haul for a bit, at least not until next year.

 

Could President Obama and family walk with Churchill polar bears? Yes. They could.

Polar Bear Viewing Observatory Dining Room on Hudson Bay

New polar bear viewing observatory/dining room at Seal River Lodge on the Hudson Bay Coast

When Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer’s daughters Kate and Emily invited U.S. President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia to visit the polar bears in Churchill a few years ago it got us thinking. They probably considered visiting Churchill, but it’s unlikely they knew they could actually walk on the tundra with polar bears, or swim in Hudson Bay with beluga whales.

Churchill Wild eco-lodge owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer say the Obama and Doer families would be more than welcome to do just that at their Seal River Heritage Lodge 40 miles north of Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast.

“It’s the only place in Canada where you can actually go out and walk with the polar bears in their natural environment,” said Mike Reimer, who has been stomping the terra with the polar bears for over 30 years. “We would absolutely love to have the Obama and Doer families visit our polar bear eco-lodges and take part in all the activities we have to offer.”

Polar bear outside new Seal River Lodge dining room Summer 2010

Polar bear intently watching Hudson Bay outside Seal River Lodge

That of course, would include walking with polar bears on the coast of Hudson Bay and snorkeling with beluga whales in Hudson Bay, not to mention eating gourmet meals straight from the award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears, which were co-written by Jeanne Reimer’s mother Helen Webber of Webber’s Lodges.

Helen is married to Webber’s Lodges owner and former Churchill mayor Doug Webber. She is certainly no stranger to hosting dignitaries at the Webber’s home in Churchill and preparing spectacular feasts for them, including Ambassador Doer when he was Premier of Manitoba,

Helen’s dinner parties in Churchill are legendary, the last of which was held for the top international executives of the Canadian Tourism Commission, who later flew out to see the polar bears at Seal River Lodge. The dinner, and the trip to Seal River Lodge, received rave reviews.

Gourmet Dinner at Churchill Wild

Gourmet Goose Dinner at Churchill Wild

First Lady Michelle Obama, who is promoting healthy eating as her platform while in the White House, would likely enjoy herself immensely in Churchill Wild’s family-run tundra kitchen, which prides itself on utilizing the freshest ingredients available from the surrounding landscapes.

Mrs. Obama launched her Let’s Move initiative to battle childhood obesity and improve the quality of food in U.S. schools in February, 2010 and on March 16, 2011 she reached an agreement with Crown Publishing Group to author a cookbook in which she will talk about the garden she established on the South Lawn of the White House. Due out in 2012, Mrs. Obama’s new cookbook will also explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities. You can watch the video about the White House Garden here.

“Last year we built the new dining room,” said Reimer. “Right now we’re hauling in a new gourmet kitchen. It was designed by Len Friesen and it will be the first of its kind in the arctic. We’re planning on having a Celebrity Chef Contest at some point with a combination of original creations and recipes from the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbooks that will feature seal, caribou, moose, goose, arctic char, northern pike, lake trout, local plant garnishes, wild blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. In between cooking sessions we’ll be out on the tundra with the polar bears or swimming with whales. We would love for Mrs. Obama to participate!”

But seriously, fabulous food and cooking contests aside, what about safety and secret service and fighter planes?

Polar bear in fireweed at Seal River Lodge on the Hudson Bay Coast near Churchill

Polar bear in fireweed. Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

“We’ve never had a polar bear problem in the 30 years that we’ve operated our lodges,” said Reimer. “It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience and our guests love being able to get up close and personal with the polar bears. It’s one of the few places on earth where you can actually go out and walk with the bears, and there are numerous safety measures in place. I’m not sure what the bears would think of secret service agents and jet fighters. They probably wouldn’t even notice.”

While he was Premier of Manitoba, Ambassador Doer persuaded numerous high-profile people to visit Churchill, including Janet Napolitano, who is now President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security; David Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada; and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  Last fall, famous visitors to Churchill included George Stroumboulopoulos, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Martha Stewart.

Still, try to imagine the Turbo Beaver taking off from Churchill for Seal River Lodge accompanied by fighter jets. Or the curious looks on the polar bears’ faces when the secret service agents arrive with the Obama family. And what kind of boat would be required if the Obama and Doer families decided to go swimming with the beluga whales? Would the Zodiaks suffice?

“It would something very special for us,” said Reimer. “We would like to extend a heartfelt open invitation to both the Obama and the Doer families to visit Seal River Lodge any time. It would be an incredible honor.”

 

 

Spectacular new polar bear watching observatory/dining room on Hudson Bay Coast offers picture window polar bear viewing

Polar Bear Viewing Observatory Dining Room on Hudson Bay

New polar bear viewing observatory/dining room on Hudson Bay Coast near Seal River and Churchill

Churchill Wild has a spectacular new dining observatory at their Seal River Polar Bear Eco-Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast.

The new dining room has become so popular with guests viewing polar bears from its 12 huge picture windows that the staff has had to shoo them out just so they can have a moment to clean up after dinner! Polar bear watching from this gorgeous timber frame structure – the first of its kind in Arctic Canada – has had the kudos flying and the cameras snapbuzzing.

The dining observatory project was in the planning/discussing/daydreaming stage for a couple of years before material was finally ordered in the spring of 2009. The huge white pine beams were all cut from second-growth sustainable forest in Northern Ontario, the closest source we could find to minimize our transportation impact. The bulk of the materials were purchased from a local supplier in Churchill, continuing Churchill Wild’s commitment to supporting the northern communities in which we live and operate from.

In January 2010 the project materials, tools and supplies were collected and shipped via train to Churchill. In March a team of intrepid explorer types headed into Seal River to get the Cat Train going, which in itself is quite an undertaking in -30 to -40 degrees Celsius!

A Cat Train consists of a Caterpillar Bulldozer, in this case a 1962 D6, pulling one or more sleighs loaded with building materials over the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Books could be written about winter freighting in the Canadian Arctic, and certainly this year’s adventures would have been fodder for another chapter. Stuart and Yvan and crew hauled in nearly 60,000 kilos of lumber, windows, roofing, cement etc. in 2 trips averaging 30 hours of travel per run – one way. Good thing we take the guests in by air, 20 minutes!

Polar bear in grass outside new dining room at Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bear supervising construction of dining room

June was “hit the ground running” time and the construction crew of Len, Yvan, Real, Riley, Ryan, Kyle, and George did so in a big way. Thank goodness Elaine was there working her magic in the kitchen to keep all the hard working guys fed.

Construction started on June 5 and by the end of the first day the boys had half the old dining room torn off the east end of the lodge. Many long days followed and exactly 30 days later the crew had completed the new dining room and kitchen area, put a beautiful new roof over the entire lodge, renovated a bedroom, installed new electrical and plumbing systems and replaced the bear proof fence!!

Owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer are still overwhelmed at what these guys put together in those 30 days.

Thank You Team Seal 2010!

Photographing polar bears at ground level can be a rare and magical experience at remote Eco Lodges on the Hudson Bay coast. Not your normal Churchill fare.

Polar Bears playing at Seal River - Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

Polar Bears playing at Seal River - Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

Professional photographer Dennis Fast has been leading polar bear photo safari tours at Churchill Wild’s remote eco lodges on the Hudson Bay coast for years, yet every season he can’t wait to get back.

“I’m addicted,” smiled Fast.

What used to be a day trip to the wild Seal River to photograph polar bears has now developed into all-inclusive week-long stays at Churchill Wild’s polar bear eco lodges to photograph not only polar bears, but also arctic foxes and wolves, snowy owls, caribou, arctic landscapes and the northern lights.

Professional photographers, amateur photo buffs and world travelers from all over the planet come for the rare photo opportunities that can only be found at ground level in the natural environment of the polar bears.

Polar Bear Mom with Cubs - 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest - Photo Credit: Debbie Winchester

Polar Bear Mom with Cubs - 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest - Photo Credit: Debbie Winchester

“I love it,” said Fast. “The beauty of it is the polar bears have to walk by the point of land that juts out into Hudson Bay where the Lodge is, nine kilometers north of the Seal River. Polar bears are naturally curious. They smell the cooking at the Lodge and they’re also interested in the activity.”

It’s not unusual to have polar bears meander right up to the front door of Seal River Heritage Lodge on a daily basis, and often the bears will spend days lying around the Lodge enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of humans. It’s a unique environment where humans can meet polar bears in their natural home amidst spectacular scenery.

“When the tide is going in and out it creates surreal lunar-type landscapes,” said Fast. “During the summer you have these huge ancient boulders of black and gray and their shadows combined with bright orange sunrises and sunsets. In the winter when the tide envelops the rocks, they get covered in ice and you have this huge hummocky ice field, which is also enhanced dramatically by the sunrises over Hudson Bay. ”

In October and November there is a stunning mix of colors formed by a rare combination of  the sun, warm air off the land, cold air off the bay, two major river systems and huge boulders rising from a glowing ice fog. That being said, the advantage of the remote polar bear eco lodge location is that the fog bank is further out, which allows much more opportunity to see polar bears.  While Churchill can sometimes be totally socked in by fog, the atmosphere at the Lodge is clear.

Northern Lights at Seal River on Hudson Bay

Northern Lights at Seal River - Photo Credit: Dennis Fast

The unique combination of weather at the Lodge often results in phenomenal northern lights viewing. The location at Seal River doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to the northern lights.

“It’s among the premier aurora borealis viewing areas in the world,” said Fast.

But one of the major reasons Seal River Heritage Lodge attracts both professional and amateur photographers, as well as travel companies that offer photo tours, is for the ground-level photo opportunities.

“When you’re on the ground and a polar bear gets close to you the shot is that much more intimate,” said Fast. “You can’t get these types of shots from above, from a vehicle. You have to be there, on the ground. You can get them either by hiking over the tundra or through the specialized fence around the compound at the Lodge.”

Using a super wide angle lenses you can not only get unobstructed shots of the bears up close but also of the landscape in the background. The wide buffalo fence keeps the bears out while still allowing for exceptional photos. Smaller zooms can go right through for really intimate shots.

“Last year we got some great photos of a polar bear 35 feet away chewing on caribou antlers,” said Fast.  “We wouldn’t get that close to a new bear, but with an old bear, a “resident” bear that has been around the Lodge for awhile, a unique relationship often develops between the bear and the photographers. They respect each other’s space. The bear knows he’s going to get yelled at or chased away if he comes too close and the photographers have no desire or need to intrude into the bear’s comfort zone. The bears are generally very quiet, they don’t threaten you.”

Caribou running over tundra

Caribou running over tundra - 2009 Churchill Wild Photo Contest - Photo Credit: Wendy Kaveney

And it’s not just the polar bears.  Two years ago there were over 3000 caribou in the area. The actual number of caribou around the Lodge at any given time depends on the weather patterns. Arctic foxes have been known to come right into the compound and just about take food out of your hands. There are also the arctic hares and in 2009 photographers were lucky enough to catch a White Gyrfalcon.

“Through guiding photo tours and staying at the Lodge I’ve met some fascinating people,” said Fast. “Professional photographers and photojournalists from some of the world’s top publications like National Geographic and the L.A. Times, and I’ve also met some of the world’s wealthiest people. Trading stories in this kind of company is more than enjoyable. I’ve met people from Japan, Mexico, China, Russia, Germany and the USA at the Lodge. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.”

The facilities at the Lodge are excellent and the food is superb, prepared from the family’s award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears. And importantly notes Fast, the trips are all-inclusive.

“Expenses can add up on a trip to Churchill when you take into account airfare, hotels, hot meals, day tours etc.” said Fast. “So the cost of staying at the Lodge is actually quite reasonable when you consider it’s an all-inclusive adventure vacation and you’re actually staying in the wild – experiencing the polar bear’s natural environment. Yet you still have all the comforts of home along with gourmet meals and great company.”

“This is going to get hot,” continued Fast. “Everybody’s starting to get wind of it and major adventure tour companies are starting to organize more and more arctic photo safari tours to the Lodge. They’re beginning to realize that this is a fabulous venue for polar bear photography and it’s only going to get better. I have tons of polar bear shots and I can’t get wait to get back there.”

Polar bears, the feeling of the arctic wilderness, the northern lights, arctic wildlife, great food, superb company and  photo opportunities with soft light and a blend of colors you just can’t find anywhere else in the world.

“Catch a white polar bear in purple fireweed at sunset and add in the fog,” grinned Fast.

“And you’ve got something magical.”

Polar Bear at sunset on Hudson Bay - Photo Credit: Dennis Fast