How To Catch A Glimpse Of The Majestic Polar Bears In Canada
For many, the allure of Canada lies in its rich and vibrant biodiversity. From badgers and beavers to the caribou, white-tailed deer, lynx, cougars and grey owls, there is enough and more wildlife to marvel at here. But, in Manitoba, resides perhaps the most popular attraction — the polar bear fondly referred to as the Lord of the Arctic. In and around the town of Churchill, nicknamed the Polar Bear Capital of the World, these majestic creatures can be observed in the wild.
Bear viewing in the region began in the early ’80s, soon after Churchill resident Leonard D. Smith invented the Tundra Buggy in 1979. It is essentially an all-terrain vehicle that is used to traverse the landscape to view, study and photograph polar bears in their natural habitats.
While in Churchill, don’t miss a chance to catch the Aurora Borealis, as it is considered one of the top three destinations in the world to observe the phenomenon. If you’re wondering how to catch a glimpse of the bears, you’re in luck. Even though October and November are peak viewing season, there are a host of local tourism companies — concentrated in Churchill — that work round the year to facilitate sighting of the animals, and then some more. Here are some of the best:
Frontiers North Adventures
With three decades of wildlife adventures under its belt, suffice it to say that you’ll be in safe hands. Furthermore, the term Tundra Buggy can only be used for vehicles operated by Frontier North Adventures. Choose an excursion that’s right for you — go deep into the recesses of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, the heart of polar bear country; learn about how climate change is impacting their habitat from Polar Bears International researchers and scientists; or venture to Cape Churchill and take some fantastic photographs at what is considered the best location on earth to photograph the animals.
Their Great Ice Bear Adventure takes place in prime season, when the bears congregate on the coast of Hudson Bay and await the beginning of their annual hunt; the Hudson Bay Odyssey allows you to observe the maternal instincts of polar bear mothers at close range; the Polar Bear Photo Safari — Nanuk, lets you explore the Artic landscape on foot (with professional guides, of course) and take snapshots of the beautiful animals in a pristine, undisturbed environment; and the Polar Bear Den Emergence Quest — undoubtedly the most adventurous of the lot — offers the chance to photograph the females and their newborn cubs in the Cape Tatnam area.
Lazy Bear Expeditions
If you’re eyeing the months from July to August, you wouldn’t want to miss out on their Ultimate Arctic Summer Adventure. The five-day trip not only offers you the chance to encounter exotic wildlife such as beluga whales, siksiks and snow fox, but also allows you to watch polar bears as they leave the melting sea ice. What’s more, the Sam Hearne, a coast guard certified boat, will take you to one of the more remote sighting areas on the west side of Hudson Bay where you’ll get to see them swimming freely and walking lazily around rocks. And if luck is on your side (weather and wildlife conditions permitting), you can disembark the boat and walk alongside them, too.
Great White Bear Tours Inc.
The company spoils you for choice when it comes to bear watching. You are at liberty to pick from package tours like the Classic Polar Bear Photo Adventure, where an expert photographer-naturalist will guide you on a seven-day journey; the Ultimate Churchill Adventure, an immersive experience that which will take you to the animals’ den and let you view them from the Polar Rover tundra vehicle; the Churchill Arctic Family Adventure, where you can spot them from a helicopter; and many more.
No matter which adventure you pick, you can be rest assured that Manitoba will steal your heart and leave you with a lifetime of memories.
Wandering Around Winnipeg
Spanning five ecozones and situated as it is in the heart of the Hudson Bay watershed, Manitoba is rich in both flora and fauna. Before you embark on a walk on the wild side, get your dose of art, culture and history in the province’s capital, Winnipeg.
Pick from the Winnipeg Folk Festival, one of the oldest and largest in the world; Folklorama, which is the world’s longest running multicultural one; or Festival du Voyageur, Western Canada’s largest winter event. Another worth attending takes place on the west side of Lake Winnipeg — this is the Islendingadagurinn or Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, organised by the Gimli community (the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland).
Art aficionados will enjoy the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which houses a comprehensive collection of contemporary Inuit art. Catch a ballet performance at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s oldest dance company, and watch an original production at Rainbow Stage, the country’s longest-running outdoor theatre.
For a taste of history, visit the Manitoba Museum, where you can catch sight of the Isotelus — the world’s largest trilobite found as a complete fossil. Then head to the Exchange District in downtown Winnipeg and marvel at over 100 heritage buildings, indulge in retail therapy, feast on prairie-inspired dishes and partake in the local nightlife.