Polar Bear Blog

Growing up with polar bears at remote lodges in northern Canada

Video and Interview by Richard Bangs

There was once a little house on the tundra, and here, two sisters were raised, with the wild things in their backyard.

“I remember one time when I was probably about eight-years-old,” said Karli. “I was outside and I yelled, ‘Bear!’ at the top of my lungs, and I got in big trouble. I got a very stern talking to about that because bears have always been a very serious part of our lives, just as far as, you don’t joke around about where the bears are.”

“Like never cry wolf, I guess,” said Allison. “Never cry bear.”

The girl who cried bear?

“Yes,” said Karli. “I remember my Dad being quite, stern that day.”

They were brought up here. And instead of puppies, they had polar bears in the yard. And instead of TV or video games, they swam with the belugas, watched the northern lights, and chased arctic hare and sik-siks.

“A couple of times when I’ve told people that we work with polar bears, or that we do polar bear tours, they say, ‘Oh, so you go out on the boats’ or ‘you view them through binoculars’ and that sort of thing,” said Karli. “And I say, well no, they come up to the windows.”

“Multiple times in my life I have wiped polar bear snot off the windows,” said Allison. “If that kind of lets you know how lodge life goes for me.

“We had a mother and three COYS, cubs of the year, the really small ones. I remember watching one guest come right up to the lodge, and he actually, he was so excited he started hyperventilating and was on his knees in front of the window, gripping the window sill and trying to breathe, because he didn’t want to miss the experience, but he was so, so excited”

“I think probably when we were younger the polar bears were so exciting that we probably didn’t even pay attention to the arctic hares,” said Karli. “We grew up always trying to catch sik-siks. That was a big deal. We used to feed the sik-siks all the time out of our hands.”

While most children learn about other cultures through books and videos, the Reimer girls, just talked to the guests. The world came to them, and every week they had new visitors, from all the meridians of the world, who shared the lingua franka, of adventure, and wildlife.

“I absolutely latched on to people from other countries when I was younger,” said Karli. “I remember, a friend of mine from Holland was here, and she said, after seeing the northern lights one night, she realized there were now two kinds of people. People who have seen northern lights and people who haven’t. And that just seems to be the general, air around here, you know.

“If you have seen the polar bears right up by the window, or if you have come face-to-face with a beluga, or if you watched the northern lights. And the people, to be able to share and say, did you see that, can I see your pictures. It makes a very special experience for them.”

“This is four generations,” said Mike Reimer, cuddling one of his grandchildren in the background. “The next one in line. Hopefully he doesn’t sleep that much when he’s actually in charge of things.”

“No, hopefully not,” said Karli, smiling. “That won’t work out too well for him.”

Visit the Polar Bear Lodges where Karli and Allison grew up: Seal River Lodge, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Dymond Lake EcoLodge 

Explore the Adventures: Polar Bear Tours and Arctic Safaris

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