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Polar bear enjoying some summer sunshine at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Polar bear enjoying some summer sunshine at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

by Maggie Cole

I’m on the second day of my trip to Seal River Heritage Lodge on the first Birds, Bears & Belugas safari of the year, and we’ve already seen a ton of polar bears.

This is my first trip to Seal River, and the experience has far surpassed my expectations. I didn’t realize how many polar bears would be around. Even flying to the lodge from Churchill we saw about 10 bears.

It’s been very interesting watching the interactions between the different sets of bears, males with other males, females with other females, mothers and their cubs. How they circle around and sniff each other before getting close and playing. And learning about how the guides determine gender and age.

Male polar bear approaches mom and cub at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Male polar bear approaches mom and cub at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Not only are there polar bears and beluga whales, but there are shorebirds and sik siks (ground squirrels) everywhere. It’s hilarious watching them wrestle and play with each other as they skirt around rocks and bushes.

The accommodations are amazing. It’s incredible that you can stay in a lodge like this in the middle of nowhere — rustic, warm and cozy.

Young polar bear chewing on a piece of fireweed at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Young polar bear chewing on a piece of fireweed at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

The guests with us for the first Birds, Bears & Belugas safari of the year are an amazing group of people from Germany. It’s been great chatting with them, sharing stories, and getting to know each other.

The guides are very professional, strategic and informative and Terry (Churchill Wild Guide Terry Elliott) has even given me tips on how to use my camera, which has really helped, as I’m a newbie when it comes to this kind of photography.

On the way to see beluga whales at the mouth of the Seal River with our guests from Germany. Maggie Cole (right) photo.

On the way to see beluga whales at the mouth of the Seal River with our guests from Germany. Maggie Cole (right) photo.

I thought our first day at the lodge couldn’t be topped but I was wrong! Today, we went out on the Zodiacs and watched the beluga whales swim in the mouth of the Seal River.

They came right up to our boats and we were lucky enough to see some calves. We put hydrophones in the water and listened to them chatter and communicate with one another. Unexpectedly, we also saw two sets of polar bears out swimming and they even sparred!

Female polar bears playing at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Female polar bears playing at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

We returned back to the lodge with multiple bears hanging around. A mom and cub swam off as one of the males approached them. We had a really close encounter with two young females that walked right around the lodge and the guides found it fascinating that they were playing together, as females usually don’t do that. They are currently napping together as I write this.

Polar bear in front of Seal River Heritage Lodge at low tide. Maggie Cole photo.

Polar bear in front of Seal River Heritage Lodge at low tide. Maggie Cole photo.

The day ended with cocktail hour and appetizers, a delicious meal, and a presentation from Terry, who has been with Churchill Wild for about 15 years! Tomorrow we are off on a full day excursion.

Can it get any better?

Misty morning at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.

Misty morning at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Maggie Cole photo.


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