Walking where the white bear prowls
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.”
To take your own walk on the wild side, visit their website: ChurchillWild.com.
Interested in having your heart beat a little bit faster?
Our Great 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!
We would love to hear from you!
Our Guests Say It Best!
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