by Terry Elliot, Churchill Wild Guide
We had another beautiful summer at Seal River Heritage Lodge this year highlighted by incredible polar bear encounters, happy beluga whale swimmers, dancing northern lights and my first ever sighting of polar bear triplets!
I couldn’t believe it when I first saw them. I’ve been working as a guide at Seal River for 10 years and have never seen a mother with three cubs. We were taking a new group of Birds, Bears and Belugas guests out for an intro hike when we spotted the family coming up the coast a couple of miles away. Not everyone could see them, or believe that what we were seeing was real, but when we got back to the Lodge the family was quite visible and we watched them approach.
Much to the delight of all, Mom and her three cubs circled the Lodge and came right up to the fence at the front door! It was spectacular!
There were many exceptional days on this year’s Birds, Bears and Belugas safari. While the highlight of the summer had to be the mother and three cubs, seeing polar bears actively hunting beluga whales was also quite a thrill! The latter was also filmed for the Summer Episode of The Wild Canadian Year, presented by David Suzuki and the CBC’s The Nature of Things. And as a self-proclaimed plant geek, finding two species of flowers not in the local plant books was also very cool.
On one particularly active bear day we took a six-wheeler trip up to the Seal River and spotted a total of 12 bears including a Mom nursing two cubs, another Mom with one nursing cub, two curious young males that approached close, and a huge male.
I also learned a new expression this year: For Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). We offered a couple of different excursion options one morning and people had a hard time making a decision for fear of missing out. One choice was to go swimming with the beluga whales and the other was to take a boat trip up the coast to the archaeological site at Hubbard Point. It worked out for everyone. The whales were very cooperative and we saw 11 polar bears at Hubbard Point!
Something I also noticed this year was the lack of bees. There were some around, but in the past when we walked through a patch of marsh cinquefoil you could hear the buzzing of hundreds of bumblebees. This year there were only a few. The winter must have been harsh on their nests.
I have to say thank you to Mike and Jeanne Reimer for giving me another opportunity to explore this amazing place, and also to the rest of the staff for working so hard to create such an amazing guest experience. I would also like to thank all of the wonderful guests that I met this year. You are the ones who keep my passion alive.
The day after Birds, Bears and Belugas ended, I awoke to three polar bears sleeping on the point in front of the Lodge, birds singing joyfully and the sound of waves breaking on the rocks. The explosion of Arctic wildflowers had slowed for autumn and the missing hustle and bustle of a working Lodge had been replaced by Nature’s quiet.
I had 10 days on my own at Seal River to reflect back on a fabulous summer as I prepared for one of my favourite trips of the year, the Arctic Safari. The fall colours, the northern lights and the endless expanse of the Barren Lands were tugging at my heart and soul.
We would soon meet again at Tundra Camp.