Xie says hi from the icy waters of Hudson Bay at Hubbard Point!
Remember when you were a kid and you always had to test the depth of the ice water in the spring? And how that always seemed to result freezing cold wet feet?
Fast forward to adulthood and you’re up to your knees in icy ocean water as the tide rises ever higher, trying to get that perfect shot of a polar bear.
The contents of this post were initiated by a Zodiac excursion north to Hubbard Point, one of our favourite polar bear viewing areas. We had spent several hours with the fine folks from Beijing of Birds Eye Media, enjoying endless gigabytes of polar bears in various settings and light conditions.
The photo gods must have been smiling on as we lucked into a mother with two cubs (Coys, cubs-of-the-year) about to settle down on a rocky spit for supper. All things were in our favour. Sunset on its way with perfect light, rising tide, breeze in our faces and no other pesky male bears to disturb the snuggle fest about to happen.
Walking the Zodiacs in closer to the polar bears at Hubbard Point.
Master guides Quent and Mike, (okay maybe Quent) gently poled the boats into shore and walked them into camera range on the rising tide and it wasn’t long before that magic sound of clicking and whirring motor drives filled the air.
Xie Jianguo elected to exit the boat and set up his tripod on the gravel beach for a little more stable support, and once the action started all focus was on the nursing cubs. But as we like to say at Seal River, the “tide waits for no man or woman.”
We shortly realized that those were not gasps of excitement from Xie as the frigid sea water began to seep over the tops of his boots. An hour later, as the chill water crept past his knees, our brave and dedicated photographer finally struggled gamely back into the Zodiac, but frozen feet seemed to be a small price to pay for the award winning photos taken by all.
A gorgeous sunset escorted a very tired and happy crew back to Seal River Lodge, where another gourmet dinner awaited us. There were more true tall tales to tell.
Contentment at Seal River
Tuesday, 23 July, 2013 16:30Written by Polar Bears with Pens
It is said “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” That applies to the wildlife here at the Lodge as well. Just “wait five minutes” and there is something new to see. To say the views, sunsets and wildlife are stunning here, falls short. From polar bears on the ground, to swimming with beluga whales, we have seen it all.
Including this morning’s sighting of a mamma polar bear nursing her two cubs, that I was able to capture on what we call “film” these days.
Direct from Seal River Heritage Lodge,
Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge receives glowing reviews
Friday, 24 May, 2013 16:18Written by Polar Bears with Pens
“Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!” ~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James
Polar bear saunters in for breakfast at Dymond Lake.
The Great Ice Bear Adventure is one of the most diverse and holistic fall wildlife viewing packages offered anywhere in the world. It combines four days at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge, where many of the Arctic’s most famous residents are seen and photographed on foot or from the Lodge, with one day in Churchill on a buggy tour. And this year, with Solar Max, we’re expecting even more spectacular northern lights viewing!
Your adventure takes place in prime polar bear viewing season in October and November at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge. The Lodge is strategically located approximately 30 kilometers by air from Churchill, Manitoba, the Polar Bear Capital of the World, where approximately 1,200 polar bears congregate and socialize while waiting for freeze-up and their annual seal hunt.
Debbie Blunderfield is all smiles as Scarbrow snacks on tundra fare in the background.
Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge is in the heart of the natural habitat of polar bears, caribou, Arctic and red fox, Arctic hare, wolves and moose along with numerous bird species such as snowy owls, ptarmigan and gyrfalcons. And last year last year, Kim Spragg, one of our guests at Dymond Lake Lodge was lucky enough to capture some rare video of a wolverine. Thanks Kim!
So how does a typical day start on the Great Ice Bear Adventure? Well, breakfast is served at 8:00 a.m. and the first walking tour generally leaves at 9:30 a.m. unless there’s a polar bear in camp! In that case the walking tour has to wait, but no one ever seems to mind meeting a polar bear up close. And taking pictures!
“We were treated to the daily antics of “Scarbrow“, a young male polar bear, who frequented our camp and followed us along the hiking trails. Our accomplished guides were full of information and always made the group’s safety the first priority. We were also treated to what the locals referred to as the best northern lights display of the season. In short, it was a spectacular trip and we would go again in a heartbeat!” ~ Mary Giesler
Scarbrow comes in for a closer look.
If no polar bears are in camp, you’ll bundle up and head out into the snow. The walks are comfortably paced, as they are geared towards plenty of viewing and photo opportunities and are guided by our professional and knowledgeable polar bear guides, so you’ll do a lot of learning along the way as well. Obviously we cannot allow the bears to approach too closely, and your guides are expert in keeping bears at a safe distance without sacrificing exciting viewing.
“The guides took good care of us out “in the field” when the bear sometimes got almost too close. It was a really breathtaking experience to step off the small aircraft in one moment and to be about 10 meters away from a big polar bear in the next. The team at the lodge was superb and the food was lovely. The Tundra Buggy Tour completed our stay. We saw a lot of bears on that day.” ~ Renard, Antwerp, Belgium
Polar bears do saunter by the Lodge on a regular basis, so you can often view them from the warmth and comfort of one of our lounges through the massive picture windows. This opportunity is all too welcome when a squall blows in! We have a variety of other activities to take part in as well, should the weather prevent us from exploring the outdoors, though this is rarely the case.
Polar Bear gives us the sneaky eye outside the Lodge.
Lunches are served at the Lodge and we are generally back at the Lodge by 4:00 p.m. for hot or cold drinks and appetizers. Full course delectable dinners are served at 7:00 p.m. after which, the fireplace is almost always central. Your guide team will give informative lectures and beautiful slide presentations, as well as initiate a discussion about the activities for the following day.
“It was amazing! I had really high expectations and the experience lived up to them. All of the staff were very friendly and the logistics were well coordinated – everything went very smoothly. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and really added to our experience. I’m so glad I opted for Churchill Wild rather than the typical polar buggy tour. Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!” ~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James
Polar bear poses for us at Dymond Lake.
Bedtime is at your leisure. The entire Lodge area is patrolled for polar bears all night by one of our night watchmen, so be prepared to have your sleep cut short by a nocturnal visit from one of the Great Ice Bears or a dazzling display of northern lights! You’ll definitely want to get out of bed for either one of these experiences!
“One night they woke us up because the aurora borealis was showing. It was in the middle of the night and all of us would have slept right through it if one of the staff wouldn’t have been “on guard”. That was really the “cherry on the pie”. Even though it was the middle of the night and the guides have probably seen the aurora borealis a million times they accompanied us, gave explanation and helped us take pictures of this magnificent display.” ~ Renard, Antwerp, Belgium
The Great Ice Bear Adventure maximizes viewing potential by giving guests the opportunities to see polar bears from a variety of locations, whether it be on the nature trails, from the lodge’s viewing tower, or right from the lodge windows.
Early “riser” outside the window at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge.
“We had polar bears posing for us in all kinds of situations. We brought a big lens but the bears were so close we could easily have taken many pictures with our mobile phone and they still would have been awesome. The big advantage of the lodge is that the polar bears (and many other animals) come really close and even if you are not very much into hiking you can still see them right from the comfort of the lodge.” ~ Renard, Antwerp, Belgium
A trip to Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge Lodge means guests will see polar bears like no one on a Churchill town-only package can.
“It was an absolutely awesome experience. We chose this tour operator because we liked the hiking aspect of the trip. The trip includes one tundra buggy day where you do see a lot of polar bears from the vehicle. But walking with polar bears brings your arctic safari adventure to a whole new level.” ~ Werner, Zurich, Switzerland
Walking where the white bear prowls
Thursday, 25 April, 2013 19:04Written by Polar Bears with Pens
This story originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Up Here Magazine.
In Churchill, a wildlife-watching company steps into daring territory.
When it comes to ferocious carnivores, Ian Johnson’s seen it all. The veteran safari operator from Johannesburg, South Africa, has walked among lions, leopards and rhinos; he’s had narrow brushes with nasty ways to die. But nothing could prepare him for Churchill Wild’s polar bear walking tours last year, when he got within shouting distance of the largest Arctic predator.
“It was mind-blowing,” says Johnson. “I mean, they’re the biggest, most dangerous carnivore on land.” And yet – though they came as close as 50 metres – Johnson says he felt perfectly safe.
Churchill Wild is the only outfitter in Canada, and perhaps the world, that trots tourists this close to polar bears. How do they get away with it? Andy Macpherson, one of the company’s lead guides, says they’ve got it down to a science.
“It’s all about interpreting behaviour,” he says. Guides read bears’ posture and body language, looking for sign the animals are agitated. And of course, they carry bear bangers and shotguns – but they boast that they rarely use the bangers, and have never shot a bear.
“The guides are so good, you fall into a sense of security,” says Johnson. “You carry on as though there isn’t a large carnivore who hasn’t eaten since June.”
Interested in having your heart beat a little bit faster?
OurGreat Ice Bear Adventure takes place in October and November when the bears are congregating in large numbers on the coast of Hudson Bay waiting for freeze-up and anxious to get back to their hunting grounds. This is prime polar bear season!
One of the most diverse and holistic fall wildlife viewing packages offered anywhere in the world, the Great Ice Bear Adventure combines four days at Dymond Lake EcoLodge, where many of the Arctic’s most famous residents are seen and photographed on foot or from the Lodge, as well as on one day in Churchill on a buggy tour. We’re also expecting some spectacular Northern Lights this year due to the Solar Max!
It was amazing! I had really high expectations and the experience lived up to them. All of the staff were very friendly and the logistics were well coordinated – everything went very smoothly. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and really added to our experience. I’m so glad I opted for Churchill Wild rather than the typical polar buggy tour. Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!
~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James
Churchill Wild: Best Adventure Company 2012
Wednesday, 10 October, 2012 06:20Written by Polar Bears with Pens