Polar Bear Blog

When is the best time to see polar bears?

White on white. Polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Polar Bear Photo Safari. Dennis Fast photo.
White on white. Polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Polar Bear Photo Safari. Dennis Fast photo.

by George Williams

“When is the best time to see polar bears?”

It’s the most commonly asked question we get at Churchill Wild. Our answer?

It really depends on which of nature’s seasonal backdrops you prefer for your wildlife photography, the type of weather you like, and what other wildlife you would like to see along with the bears. You also have to decide how you want to see the bears, and what type of accommodations you want to stay in.

Do want to see polar bears while riding in a large polar vehicle, a ship, a boat, or a hotel on wheels, or do you want to see polar bears at ground-level and relax after a day of walking with the bears in the comfort of a permanent luxury ecolodge, located deep in the heart of polar bear territory and directly in the path of the polar bears?

Polar bears can actually be seen in the wild throughout the year, but logistics, location and weather make it very difficult to see them in the depths of winter when they are out on the ice feeding on seals. During the spring, summer and fall however, polar bears can be seen regularly on land if you are in the ideal location.

The most accessible population of polar bears in the world makes its home on Canada’s western Hudson Bay coast, and thousands of people flock to the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” Churchill, Manitoba to see the great white bears in October and November, but the bears are actually wandering up and down the Hudson Bay coastline (and right by the Churchill Wild ecolodges) far from civilization, from the time they come off the ice in late May or June until they head back out on to the ice in late November.

Polar bear in the willows. Polar Bear Photo Safari. Fabienne Jansen photo.
Polar bear in the willows. Polar Bear Photo Safari. Fabienne Jansen photo.

While there are other places in the world where you can see polar bears in the wild, there are none that we know of that offer ground-level polar bear walking safaris based out of remote luxury ecolodges. Churchill Wild pioneered polar bear walking safaris 26 years ago at Seal River Heritage Lodge and added Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge to our group of lodges in 2009, but our family has actually been walking with polar bears for five decades, beginning at Dymond Lake Ecolodge.

Both Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge are now members of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World Collection, and all three of our lodges are remotely located on the “polar bear highway” along the Hudson Bay coast. We walk with polar bears from July through November. So, the best time to see polar bears is really a matter of personal choice.

Polar bears are the common thread among all our wildlife walking safaris, along with fabulous food, exceptional customer service and warm, cozy accommodations, but our polar bear lodges are far apart from each other in different ecosystems along the Hudson Bay coast, and each hosts polar bear safaris that are unique to their location.

Arctic terns at Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Birds, Bears & Belugas safari.
Arctic terns at Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Birds, Bears & Belugas safari.

Would you like to see polar bears during the warmer summer months when the tundra is just beginning to spring to life, migratory birds are courting everywhere and beluga whales are frolicking in the Seal River? Do you love fall colours? How about black bears (and sometimes a grizzly bear!) and wolves? And what about mysterious icescapes and boulders shrouded in fog or covered in magical light?

Would you like to see polar bears sparring on the ice or lazing around on a summer carpet of flowers? And what about Arctic fox, red fox, caribou, moose, wolverine, sik-siks and other wildlife, along with bald eagles, Arctic terns, ptarmigan, snowy owls and hundreds of other shore birds? A slightly different mix of these wild creatures and more can be found at each of our ecolodges. And let’s not forget about the spectacular northern lights, which show up at our lodges on many a clear, crisp evening.

Churchill Wild currently offers 11 unique polar bear walking safaris at three different “Arctic” luxury ecolodges, all of which are reached by a short flight from Churchill, Manitoba. The flights to the lodges are often wildlife viewing adventures on their own, but click the safari and lodge links below and you might just discover your trip of a lifetime!

Northern lights over Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Polar Bear Photo Safari. Ian Johnson photo.
Northern lights over Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Polar Bear Photo Safari. Ian Johnson photo.

Churchill Wild Polar Bear Lodges on the Hudson Bay coast

Polar bear playing in the summer. Seal River Heritage Lodge. Jad Davenport photo.
Polar bear playing in the summer. Seal River Heritage Lodge. Jad Davenport photo.

Summer Polar Bear Walking Safaris and Polar Bear Tours

Polar bear in fall colours. Hudson Bay Odyssey. Steve Sinnock photo.
Polar bear in fall colours. Hudson Bay Odyssey. Steve Sinnock photo.

Fall Polar Bear Walking Safaris and Polar Bear Tours

Polar bear greeting guests on the Great Ice Bear Adventure. Teresa McDaniel photo. 1st Place, Polar Bears, 2018 Churchill Wild Guest Photo Contest.
Polar bear greeting guests on the Great Ice Bear Adventure. Teresa McDaniel photo. 1st Place, Polar Bears, 2018 Churchill Wild Guest Photo Contest.

Early Winter Polar Bear Walking Safaris and Polar Bear Tours

Mom and cubs. Den Emergence Quest. Virginia Huang photo.
Mom and cubs. Den Emergence Quest. Virginia Huang photo.

Late Winter/Early Spring Polar Bear Walking Safari and Polar Bear Tour

The World’s Next Great Safari

Photo Gallery Enquire Video Gallery

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