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Polar bears playing at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Charles Glatzer photo.

Someone’s watching us. Charles Glatzer photo.

by George Williams

The traditional polar bear viewing season is underway in Churchill, Manitoba, and thousands of tourists from around the world will be arriving in the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” over the next six weeks to see the great white bears as the ice begins to form on Hudson Bay.

Three hundred of these polar bear seekers will continue on to one of Churchill Wild’s three remote ecolodges to walk with polar bears in small groups of less than 16 people, and we’ll be welcoming them with open arms and bear hugs.

As the chill of winter begins to bite, Churchill comes alive in anticipation of the annual polar bear viewing season, and tourists flock to the town, filling hotels, dining at local eateries, exploring historical sites, observing landmarks and visiting museums. The season not only provides a unique opportunity to view polar bears but also boosts the local economy significantly.

As the waters of Hudson Bay begin to freeze in the fall, polar bears, having waited patiently during the warmer months, start their journey from the tundra towards the ice to hunt for seals. This natural migration offers a small window for humans to observe these incredible creatures up close.

During the traditional October-November polar bear viewing season, the most common way to observe polar bears in Churchill is from specialized, rugged vehicles known as tundra buggies. These large vehicles traverse the icy landscapes, offering tourists a safe and elevated platform to watch and photograph the bears. A small percentage of visitors and photographers will also hire local guides in an attempt to see the polar bears at ground level near Churchill.

Churchill Wild offers guests an intimate, ground-level experience with the polar bears. Rather than watching from the relative height and safety of a tundra buggy, guests have a chance to walk with the bears. This ratified adventure requires skilled guides and strict safety measures, and our three-guide system is the best in the world, providing unparalleled, non-intrusive, immersive encounters with polar bears in their natural habitat.

Polar bear at sunset. Seal River Heritage Lodge. Churchill Wild Polar Bear Tours and Safaris.

Guests photographing polar bear at sunset. Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Both Churchill’s traditional polar bear viewing and Churchill Wild’s offerings have their unique charm and appeal. For some, the excitement lies in the vastness of the experience, in the ability to see multiple bears from a safe distance. For others, it’s the chance to get up-close and personal with the bears, the thrill of sharing space with one of nature’s most formidable predators, that makes the trip worthwhile.

Churchill Wild partners with Frontiers North in Churchill to provide guests on the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Ecolodge with a unique Tundra Buggy® experience in addition to their lodge stay!

Visitors who have booked all-inclusive polar bear safaris with Churchill Wild will stay at our new Blueberry Inn in Churchill before continuing to our remote ecolodges, depending on flight schedules.

Churchill WIld's new Blueberry Inn. Churchill, Manitoba. Churchill Wild Polar Bear Tours and Safaris.

Churchill Wild’s NEW Blueberry Inn! Churchill, Manitoba.

Churchill Wild offers five different ground-level polar bear and wolf safaris during October and November based out of Seal River Heritage Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and Dymond Lake Ecolodge, including the Fall Dual Lodge Safari, Polar Bear Photo Safaris at Seal River and Nanuk, the Cloud Wolves of the Kaska Coast safari at Nanuk, and the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Ecolodge.

Seal River Heritage Lodge is located 60 km north of Churchill, Manitoba, on the rocky shore of Hudson Bay near the Seal River, the last truly wild river in Canada. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is located 250 km southeast of Churchill, deep in the heart of polar bear country where the boreal forest blends with Hudson Bay near the historic York Factory. Dymond Lake Ecolodge is located 30 km north of Churchill on a strip of land bordered by Dymond Lake and Hudson Bay, and is one of the first places where polar bears arrive when freeze-up begins.

Amidst the vast, unspoiled wilderness, Churchill Wild’s Arctic-luxury ecolodges emerge as beacons of comfort and warmth. Built with immense respect for the environment, these lodges combine the rustic charm of the wild with the luxuries of modern living. Imagine spacious rooms with panoramic views of the tundra, warm fireplaces to snuggle up by after a day’s adventure, and cozy nooks where tales of the day’s sightings are exchanged. Staying in Churchill Wild lodges is akin to having a front-row seat to nature’s most magnificent theatre.

Imagine stepping into the vast, white expanse of the Arctic tundra. The cold, crisp air fills your lungs as the horizon stretches infinitely before you. And then, emerging from the serene quietude, you spot a majestic polar bear, its powerful stride embodying the wild essence of this remote landscape. This isn’t just any wildlife viewing; this is an intimate dance with nature, a face-to-face encounter with the King of the Arctic. Walking with polar bears is not merely an activity; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that engraves itself on your soul.

Heading for the sea ice. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Christoph Jansen photo.

Heading for the sea ice. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Christoph Jansen photo.

The thrill of walking with polar bears is made possible by a team of world-class polar bear guides. Their expertise isn’t just about tracking and spotting these magnificent creatures; it’s rooted in a deep understanding of the bear’s behaviour and habits. Every step you take on the tundra is guided by their knowledge, ensuring a safe yet intimate encounter.

Safety is paramount. The guides employ a meticulous safety system, which includes thorough briefings for guests, maintaining safe distances, and carrying non-invasive deterrents to ensure both humans and bears remain unharmed. Churchill Wild pioneered polar bear walking safaris in 1993, but our three-guide system was developed over the course of over five decades in the Arctic tourism business, allowing for an awe-inspiring experience without crossing the boundaries of safety.

Beyond the adventure, what truly rounds off the Churchill Wild experience is the incredible food and hospitality. At the end of a thrilling day, you’re greeted with culinary delights, where gourmet dining meets local flavors. Locally sourced fish and meats, homegrown vegetables, handpicked tundra berries, hearty soups, delicious breads and exquisite desserts – every meal is an event in itself.

Breakfast at Churchill Wild!

Breakfast at Churchill Wild!

The hospitality staff at the lodges takes pride in offering personalized service. From ensuring your room is the perfect sanctuary of warmth and comfort to regaling you with tales of the Arctic, their warmth matches the cold of the tundra, making you feel at home in the wild.

Walking with polar bears transcends the confines of traditional wildlife viewing. It’s an immersion, a dialogue with nature. The blend of luxury accommodation, world-class guides, impeccable safety, and delightful gastronomy makes this experience not just about spotting a polar bear, but about understanding, respecting, and coexisting with these magnificent creatures. It’s a journey of discovery, wonder, and awe that you carry in your heart long after your footprints on the tundra have faded away.

Beyond the bears and wildlife, Churchill has a certain magnetism. Its past is intertwined with tales of explorers, traders, and indigenous peoples. Today, with its population hovering around 800, it retains its small-town charm, complemented by modern amenities catering to global tourists.

As the world continues to urbanize, places like Churchill, and the landscapes surrounding the Churchill Wild lodges, with their rich history and unparalleled natural beauty, serve as stark reminders of the wonders our planet still holds. Whether it’s through a traditional Tundra Buggy® ride or an intimate polar bear walking tour with Churchill Wild, a trip here is a journey through time and nature’s finest spectacles.

Only a few spots remain for 2023, time and space are limited, we hope you’ll join us

For the wildlife experience of a lifetime.


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Please note: Our staff will be away from the office for a team building retreat May 23 - May 25, 2024.