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Posts Tagged ‘polar bear viewing’

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!



Churchill polar bear trip, 5-Star hospitality, result in glowing testimonial from Canadian Tourism Commission for Churchill Wild

Churchill Polar Bear cub outside the Lodge

Churchill Polar Bear cub outside Seal River Lodge

Steve Allan, Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), his wife Marjie, and five members of the CTC had a chance to experience the hospitality of  Churchill Wild, Mike and Jeanne Reimer and the Webber Family when the Olympic Torch made its way through Churchill, Manitoba on the weekend of November 6-9, 2009.

Not only were the Commission Members treated to a gourmet meal at the the Webber’s home in Churchill, they also flew to Seal River Heritage Lodge to see the polar bears, one of which happened to greet their party as they departed their plane.

The Webber family and Churchill Wild thoroughly enjoyed having their CTC guests, especially on Olympic Torch Weekend!

And as you can see from the thank-you letter below, the CTC members also had a fabulous time!

Thank You! Please visit again soon!

Canadian-Tourism-Commission-Footer

Dear Jeannie, Mike, Helen and Dave:

On behalf of my wife, Marjie, and the other five members of the Canadian Tourism Commission team, I want to thank all of you for the truly amazing experience we enjoyed in Churchill at Webber’s Bed and Breakfast and at the Seal River Lodge on November 6 through 9, 2009.

Firstly, our stay at Webber’s Bed and Breakfast was wonderful. I am sure we had the most comfortable lodging in all of Churchill and there is no doubt we had the most outstanding meals of anywhere in Churchill. Helen and Dave, the caribou dinner on Saturday night was absolutely spectacular. Marjie has been carefully studying her new cookbooks ever since we arrived home and I am looking forward to sampling more of Helen’s recipes.

Dave, I am so happy you talked us into flying over to Seal River Lodge on Sunday. The flight over was very cool and it is always an experience to be able to fly at 200 feet, to view wildlife, rivers and the environment.

To climb off the airplane and see a curious polar bear coming to investigate about 100 yards away was initially a bit unnerving, but given the knowledge and attention to safety of everyone at Seal River, we all quickly relaxed.

We really appreciated the wonderful lunch and hospitality and were very impressed with the physical facility you have developed at Seal River over the years.

All of us were impressed with the warmth, friendliness and professionalism of all of the staff at the lodge.

Then the fog rolled in.

We’ve all experienced flight delays from fog or other conditions but I can’t imagine a better place to be fogged in than at Seal River.

The welcoming spirit, warmth and hospitality of you and all the staff really came to the fore. You could not have done more for us. When you produced eight toothbrushes and contact lens solution, that was the crowning touch.

To be able to see polar bears eyeball to eyeball at the lodge was an amazing experience I will never forget. You will recall one bear sniffing around the front door on Sunday evening and looking in the window and a second bear making a similar house call on Monday morning.

Seeing those polar bears from that perspective is an experience that very few people can claim to have had.

I was also struck by the beauty of the landscape. The incredible sunrise over Hudson Bay was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed. The different shades of light on the water, ice and snow were spectacular.

It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to meet each one of you and I hope that our paths will cross again in the future. Congratulations for the great job you are doing for Northern tourism. You offer a very special product that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere in the world.

Best regards to all and please keep in touch.

Yours very truly,

Steve Allan

Chairman of the Board

Canadian Tourism Commission


To learn more about Churchill polar bear viewing trips and our new 2010 polar bear photo safari please visit the main Churchill Wild Web site at http://www.ChurchillWild.com