Professional travel writer and author Bob Jenkins thought he wouldn’t get close enough to polar bears at Seal River to get any decent photos. He’s glad he was wrong.
Bob flew 2,300 miles last fall as a guest of Travel Manitoba, to experience the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge. He was having second thoughts when he first stepped off the plane at the Lodge, as detailed below in an excerpt from an article entitled Manitoba lodge redefines up-close polar bear encounters, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“… we’d been lured here by claims of a more personal experience …during the initial talk I was having my doubts. But that was before Bones ambled, pigeon-toed, toward us along the shoreline. It was also before Greenspot moseyed around the outside of the lodge – and well before Bob opened his jaws to poke them through a large hole in the lodge’s backyard fence.”
“I’ve been a travel writer for over 25 years,” said Bob. “I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. The pyramids in Egypt, the old Soviet Union, Antarctica, Rio de Janeiro… But there’s just nothing I can compare this to, getting that close to polar bears.”
That’s quite a statement coming from someone who has spent much of his life traveling to all parts of the world and writing about his experiences.
A native of Washington, D.C., Bob earned his B.A. in journalism at Michigan State University and carved out a 39-year career at the St. Petersburg Times, where he served as editor of national news, state news, feature stories and, for 19 years, travel editor.
Since taking a buyout, Bob has been writing and selling freelance articles to publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Star, Miami Herald, AAA magazines, CruiseCritic.com, USAToday.com and his former employer.
He’s also been traveling.
“It’s a great job,” said Bob. “I take my iPad, camera and notebook everywhere I go. But it is a job.”
Unless of course, you’re walking with polar bears in Northern Manitoba on the desolate icy coast of Hudson Bay with a small group of people.
“I’ve photographed black bears, pythons, alligators, birds, snakes…, but never polar bears. It was mesmerizing to get that close to the world’s largest land carnivore. And our group was special. There was a professional photographer from Ecuador and four people from Montana, including one person who had been diagnosed with cancer and who was there on a “bucket list” trip. I wasn’t prepared for the cold weather and hadn’t come fully prepared. One of our group members lent me a neck warmer that I used to cover my face and it just got better from there. There was an exceptional warmth and camaraderie in our group.”
Bob also felt the warmth of the Lodge and the Churchill Wild staff.
“The guides were excellent and the food was superb,” said Bob. “The staff really looked after us and always made sure everyone had enough to eat. They even had their own pastry chef!”
But the real goal of the trip was seeing Manitoba, Canada’s polar bears up close in their own environment and photographing them. The bonus was interacting with the bears.
“…we saw as many as three bears at once, lumbering in a widely spaced follow-the-leader train” wrote Bob in an article entitled Photo Safari in Manitoba, which appeared on the travel for boomers site WatchBoom.com. “We also saw two males lying down together, apparently satisfied that they posed no threat to each other. Other times the nine of us, including our guides, would find a bear on the move, and the guides would have us walk a route to intercept it.”
“Guests usually walk in single file, with a guide in front and back. When we encountered a bear, we would fan out behind both guides, to get sightlines for our photos. But if the bear should be coming toward us, it had to be diverted. The routine: One of the guides would talk to the bear, as if it were a domesticated animal. These first sounds were to get the bear’s attention away from the rest of the group.”
Next on the travel agenda for Bob? Cruises. Four of them.
“I’ve booked a cruise along the coast of Alaska, on a canal barge in France, on a riverboat from Nuremberg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, and on a ship from Stockholm, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ll be writing about the trips for CruiseCritic.com.”
The polar bears of Seal River will be traveling with Bob, at least in spirit and conversation. After all, how can you not tell someone – anyone – you meet, that you’ve felt the warm breath of a polar bear on your face?
In their house.
More about Bob!
Bob Jenkins is listed in Who’s Who, though he says he’s not sure why. His web site is BobJenkinsWrites.com, and he has published four e-books of his travel articles.
Another version of Bob’s adventure at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Visions in White, also appeared in the April 2014 edition of Bay Magazine from the Tampa Bay Times, pages 112-115.
For more information on Bob’s books, please visit: www.smashwords.com/author/robertjenkins