by Terry Elliot, Churchill Wild Head Guide, with photos by Frosty and Sam Frostman
This year’s Arctic Safari at Schmok Lake and Seal River Heritage Lodge was one of the best in the five years that we have been running it. I love the wide-open tundra and that makes this one of my favourite trips of the year.
We spent two days at Schmok Lake before heading to Seal River, and the weather was blustery on the first day, but we were still able to get up close to a black bear, and the fall colours were at their gorgeous peak. The blueberries were also fat, ripe and plentiful!
We hiked to the south side of the lake and had a spectacular day, with three black bears feasting on berries, and our guests were also able to get to really close to some large groups of caribou. The herd was funneling down through a clearing and we were in a perfect position on the slope of a hill as they moved past on both sides of us, some within 20 metres!
The light in this region at this time of year is always amazing because of the low angle of the sun, and the caribou dressed in their new winter coats provided us with some beautiful images. The velvet was slipping off the antlers of some of the big bulls and these animals were majestic in appearance. They really are a graceful species, and to see them moving over this incredible landscape is an awe-inspiring sight.
The Sandhill Cranes were gathering in large numbers for their flight south and their chattering calls could be heard for miles. We also saw eagles, Peregrine Falcons, sik-siks and my first ever Richardson’s Collared Lemming (a small shy miniature hamster) who came to the mouth of his burrow to watch us strange creatures as we passed. Totally cute!
We returned to Seal River Heritage Lodge for four days, and were able to spend some time with our 1000-pound polar bear friend “Bob” among other wildlife and birds. National Geographic photographer Jad Davenport was our photo leader and guests thoroughly enjoyed his warm and cheery personality and insightful photography tips.
A lifetime of memories were made beneath the northern lights, at the campfire on the shore of Schmok Lake, and in the evenings in the lounge at Seal River Heritage Lodge, after walks with polar bears on the rocky shores of Hudson Bay.
A wonderful group of guests rounded out this trip, making it one I’ll always remember.