As a wildlife photography tour leader, a Polar Bear Photography Workshop was high on my list of trips to offer, so I began researching all the different options offered by the many companies and outfitters in Canada. We have the largest concentration of polar bears in Canada, and let me tell you, there’s no shortage of them.
There are many ways to photograph polar bears: by plane, by buggy, by boat, by helicopter and last but definitely not least — on foot. I wanted to offer my clients a trip that not only delivered fantastic photo opportunities, but also gave them the unique experience of walking among the polar bears in their natural environment. A walking tour offers a quiet and intimate encounter with these majestic white bears and photographing polar bears at eye level was my mission.
My research brought me to Churchill Wild, a company with a long history of providing first class tours, a solid reputation and excellent reviews. Churchill Wild has a series of polar bear viewing lodges and Seal River Heritage Lodge was the one I chose. Seal River Heritage Lodge is nestled on the shores of the Hudson Bay, a short flight from Churchill, Manitoba.
Doreen Booth and Courtney Horwood from Churchill Wild provided excellent client service while I was enquiring about their tours and answered all my questions in a timely fashion. Satisfied, I booked our walking tour with polar bears a year-and-a-half in advance for the dates November 2-8, 2017.
The time finally arrived and myself and eight clients landed in Churchill. From there, a small plane brought us to Seal River Heritage Lodge in less then 30 min. We were greeted by the owners, Mike and Jeanne Reimer, who welcomed us with warm smiles and open arms.
As we entered the lodge, a large stone fireplace heated the spacious living area. Lofty ceilings, leather sofas and a split-level room with marvellous views would be our home for the next five days. We settled into our rooms and were then introduced to the three experienced guides that would keep us safe during our trek with polar bears and more. Bella, Andy and Rob were knowledgeable about the local wildlife, experts on reading polar bear body language (a must to keep us and the bears safe), and they were also very personable and friendly.
After a short briefing on how to act and not act in polar bear country, we set off in search of polar bears. On foot! The landscape was flat, which made walking quite easy, and it wasn’t long before our guides located a sleeping polar bear on the banks of a lake. What a site!
We slowly approached the bear to the point where the guides felt the bear was comfortable with our presence. Camera shutters then sounded like rapid fire! Everyone, including myself, was taking amazing pictures of our first polar bear in the wild. Being on a frozen lake, on foot, watching a polar bear taking a nap in his natural habitat, is exactly what I had envisioned for us. We were awestruck by our first polar bear encounter and it just got better and better as the week progressed.
Every day started out with a gourmet breakfast, often watching polar bears roaming near the lodge. We had a panoramic view in the dining area! With a full belly we would then trek the tundra looking for polar bears and other wildlife. We would often just step out of the back compound, since the polar bears were so close to the lodge. Lunch was served at noon and we were off again until sunset.
Appetizers were served at 6 p.m. followed by a dinner which must have been prepared by top chefs. One thing is for sure at Seal River Heritage Lodge, the experience of walking among polar bears is unique and will surely leave you breathless, but so will the gourmet meals that are served during your stay. I was amazed at the quality of the food being served daily.
We photographed a small caribou herd, loads of willow ptarmigans (including the rare Rock Ptarmigan), Arctic foxes, Arctic hares, wolf, a wide variety of birds (including a Goshawk!) and let’s not forget our main subject, beautiful polar bears.
As the trip came to an end, I could not have been more pleased with the photo opportunities we had, along with memories that would last a lifetime. I had dreamt of a unique polar bear photography trip to offer my clients, and thanks to Churchill Wild and all the staff at Seal River Heritage Lodge, that dream came true.
Marc Latremouille Seal River Heritage Lodge Polar Bear and Arctic Wildlife Photo Gallery