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

Posts Tagged ‘polar bear viewing’

Churchill Wild polar bear tours featured in The Dallas Morning News

Polar bear outside Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bear outside new dining room at Seal River Lodge

Below is an excerpt from a story which originally appeared in the July 28, 2010 issue of The Dallas Morning News. It was written by Glen Petrie, a freelance writer from Canada.

Guests mingle with polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge in Canada

CHURCHILL, Manitoba – I see my first polar bear from a distance of 300 feet – straight down. Close-up views of polar bears in the wild are common at the Seal River Heritage Lodge in Churchill, Manitoba.

We’re flying so low that every willow branch on the marshy shores of Hudson Bay is clearly visible, and Nelson the pilot is excitedly pointing. “There!”

He rolls the turbo Beaver into a sudden 30-degree bank and the sky is replaced by a blur of passing bush. Strapped into the co-pilot’s seat, I struggle against gravity to follow his jabbing finger. We’re spiraling to earth; I search for the bear but my eyes keep darting back to the altimeter. In the back, I glimpse ashen passengers with their arms braced against the fuselage.

The bear zips past – a ball of white like arctic cotton grass – and is gone. Nelson changes course, and my stomach pulls in the opposite direction, the horizon rolling to a crazy new angle. Nelson is pointing past my nose. “There, there! See him?” The bear looks up.

This kind of impromptu sightseeing goes on for the entire 30-minute flight from Churchill, serving up six polar bears and two moose, until a lonely wooden lodge appears on the rocky shore. There are two buildings, one with solar panels. There is a scar that turns out to be a dirt airstrip.

Seal River Heritage Lodge is a fly-in outpost amid one of the world’s major polar bear populations, run by husband- and-wife team Mike and Jeanne Reimer as part of their tour company, Churchill Wild. Unlike the well-known tundra tours on the outskirts of town that use supersize buses on giant wheels, in which even sticking your arm outside is forbidden, Seal River gives animal lovers the chance to walk among wild polar bears in their native habitat.

But there are rules… Read the full story at The Dallas Morning News

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

Polar Bear Photo Safari on Hudson Bay new for 2010!

Churchill polar bears wrestling

Polar bears wrestling outside Seal River Heritage Lodge

A polar bear photo safari for the discerning photographer!

Churchill Wild has added a new ecotour to it’s offerings, this one specially designed for discerning wildlife photographers. The Polar Bear Photo Safari takes place in October and November, which is prime polar bear season – a time when the polar bears begin to gather in large numbers as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can begin their annual hunt.

Photographers will fly into the heart of polar bear country and stay at Churchill Wild’s remote Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay Coast, where Arctic wildlife including polar bears, caribou, arctic fox and more can be photographed at ground level in a pristine untrammeled wilderness with a backdrop of incredible seascapes and landscapes. And let’s not forget the northern lights, which can often be spectacular at this time of year!

And of course you’ll also be treated to the finest food and wine in the arctic!  If you’re a photographer and you’ve never trekked the tundra with the polar bears, you’re going to love this!

For more information on the Polar Bear Photo Safari please visit the Churchill Wild Web site.

New polar bear viewing adventure at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge a chance to get close to polar bear mothers and cubs

Polar Bear Mother and Cub Photo

Polar Bears in the Grass - Mom and Me

Churchill Wild has a new polar bear wilderness lodge adventure!

Our long time friends Stewart and Barb Webber have spent the last 12 years operating Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge located near Cape Tatnam on Hudson Bay and have decided to let the folks at Churchill Wild carry on their great tradition of wilderness hospitality.

Nanuk is fast becoming known as one of the greatest wilderness polar bear lodges on the planet with an incredible summer polar bear migration right past it’s front door! A high percentage of polar bear mothers and cubs in a very unique coastal setting provide polar bear viewing opportunities second to none for avid photographers and bear lovers alike, all at ground level! Combine that with plenty of wolf and moose action, fantastic birdlife in stunning Hudson Bay vistas and you’ve got all the makings of another spectacular Churchill Wild experience.

And did we mention the spring and fall bird migrations?

The Canadian Wildlife Service count this past spring estimated 7-10 million waterfowl on the ground within an 80 km stretch of coastline at Nanuk – standing room only! For those of you who have joined us at Seal River Lodge in the past, rest assured that Nanuk is “wildly unique” in its setting and wildlife experiences, something along the lines of the great African safari camps. Though not as luxuriously equipped (yet) as our other destinations it boasts the same fabulous food, service and staff.

Nanuk’s rich history will play an integral part in your experience, as its past is “checkered” with over 300 years of the fur trade era, considered by some to be the very birthplace of Canada. Every season brings new discoveries of century old relics of sea battles gone wrong – upon arrival note the ancient cannons parked outside our door.

Polar Bears standing in grass.

Polar bears snagging fly balls? Got it!

And bringing it all together will be your First Nations Cree guides and eco-hosts, who maintain an intimate connection with the wild lands you’ll see. They and their forefathers were making a living from this beautiful land long before we arrived and their knowledge base is sure to add to the richness of your adventure.

For a limited time only we are making a special offering of a 10% discount on direct bookings deposited for Nanuk by March 31, 2010. August through early September is the best time to take in one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth – the largest gathering of polar bears – anywhere.

Book early before the best spots are gone. Please visit www.nanukpolarbearlodge.com for more information, call us at (204) 377-5090 or email us at info@churchillwild.com.

See you on the coast!