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Guests observing polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Quentt Plett photo.

Guests observing polar bear at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Quent Plett photo.

by Nicole Spinks, Churchill Wild Lodge Manager

Made for the modern-day traveller, these 10 Commandments of Wildlife Viewing will help you get the most out of your Churchill Wild safari.

1. DO: Always listen to your guide.

Our highly trained Polar Bear Guides know how to read bear behaviour and when they ask you to do something it is for your safety and the well-being of the bear. Their direction must always be followed.

2. DO NOT: Stray from the group.

It is extremely important to stay together as a group. If you want to stop because you’ve found the perfect bit of fireweed dancing in the sunlight, let one of the guides know, so that you can enjoy the moment and take a photo. There’s a good chance the other guests will thank you for the great photo op!

3. DO: Inform a staff member when you would like to go into the compound.

For safety reasons you cannot be in the compound alone. It is very important that you let a staff member know if you would like to go into the compound or up onto the viewing tower.

4. DO: Leave at least a three-foot buffer between you and the fence.

This is especially important when there is a bear right at the fence. This distance is to protect you, your camera, and the bear.

5. DO: Walk calmly and deliberately around wildlife.

Not that cartoon style of slowly sneaking up on someone, the way Sylvester tries to sneak up on Tweety. You know, when the music changes, his arms are bent up in front of him, and he walks in a slow march lifting his legs high. You don’t need to do that. We just want you to walk slowly and consciously without stomping your feet. This also applies when observing wildlife from inside the lodge. Many of the floors are built up off the ground to allow for airflow. These hollow floors echo so loudly that heavy footsteps can be heard outside. And never, EVER, run.

6. DO NOT: Feed or entice the wildlife.

We are here to enjoy the animals in their natural state and habitat. This means no whistling or finger snapping to get a bear’s attention. Similarly, never use food bribes to make a bear, or any other animal, alter their behaviour, body language, or disposition just so you can get a better viewing angle.

7. DO: Expect the unexpected.

Animals do not move on timers. They can approach at any time. Bring your camera to meals and don’t be afraid to look out the windows. You are not being rude. If something wanders by the lodge feel free to get up and check it out. Most likely, other guests and even staff will join you. This is also important at night during the season of northern lights. Have your camera set up and ready before bed, so all you have to do is put on warm clothes and head out to watch the sky come alive.

8. DO: Look beyond the wildlife.

The wildlife is not the only attraction up here. Each seasonal landscape has something incredible to offer, from the lush greens and bright wildflowers, to the sparkling frost on the willows, the glistening bay at high tide, and the stunning winter sunrises.

9. DO: Say something if you see something.

Everyone is here to enjoy as much wildlife as possible. Even the smallest critters can be wonderful photography subjects. Don’t be afraid to point out a sik-sik or a flitting snow bunting when on an excursion.

10. DO: Enjoy the moment. It’s easy to get stuck behind the viewfinder trying to snap the perfect photo. Sometimes it’s better to just put your camera down and appreciate what is happening in front of you. Don’t worry, it will be stored in your heart…


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