Notes from the field, courtesy of Churchill Wild Guides and Staff
The summer polar bear watching season got off to great start at Seal River Lodge with Birds, Bears and Belugas, and personal meetings with polar bears and beluga whales continued well into August. At the same time, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge opened to sightings of polar bears, black bears, wolves, moose, Arctic hare, sik-siks and more.
Guide Terry Elliot reported that they took a group to Hubbard Point for the day early on in Birds, Bears and Belugas and saw numerous polar bears and a wolf on the way up. A guest from Australia took a fabulous photo of an Arctic hare running with all four feet in the air and it looked like it was flying! The group also had a close up encounter with a young female polar bear and finished the day with three bears sparring in the water for over an hour. Everyone came home happy and tired.
One group of guests flew in via helicopter and nicknamed their flight in “helibearing” said Guide Andy MacPherson, no doubt after seeing polar bears from the air on their way to the Lodge. The group also saw a lone wolf on their flight and later observed polar bears in fireweed, had close encounters with a beautiful single female and enjoyed the aforementioned trio of bears tag-team wrestling in Hudson Bay.
Guide Quent Plett assisted Chris Paetkau and Trevor Gill from Build Films in capturing footage of guests, wildlife and scenery early in the season at Seal River Lodge and they were able to get some very interesting beluga whale footage. One especially curious beluga was so interested in the GoPro that he tried to suck it off the end of the stick a few times. They also saw seven polar bears at the mouth of the Seal River including one mother with two cubs that were thoroughly entertaining for the guests.
Over at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, Director of Lodge Operations Nolan Booth was already in full swing getting ready for the Arctic Discovery, Hudson Bay Odyssey and Mothers and Cubs Adventures and reported that both Angry Planet and Build Films arrived on a cloudy and dreary day. Not to worry! After a quick lunch and orientation he had them out with photographer Matt Breiter and guide Albert “Butch” Saunders running the Rhinos. The group went east towards the Mistikokan River and the rainy afternoon ride was well worth it, as they managed to get film and photos of two polar bears and five wolves. When they returned the lounge was abuzz with talk and wonders of the days to come.
A media familiarization trip also took place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge from August 13-16 and the chemistry worked beautifully for the group, which included as Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil of ThePlanetD, Cristina Garcia and Hal Brindley of Travel4Wildlife, as well as travel writers and photojournalists Ian Neubauer from Australia, Lisa Young and Chris Allsop from the UK and Zorianna Kit from the USA.
Lodge Manager Mandy Wallmann reported a fantastic week at Seal River on August 10, during the second last departure of Birds, Bears and Belugas, with polar bears showing up every day. The beluga whales were also cooperative. Canada Geese were heading south already but the cloudberries had yet to come in. August 9 was a phenomenal bear day as the group went out on the boats for the second time and saw a bear swimming around the shore line with its nose up. Then all at once the bear came out of the water, stood upright and shook up a clump of willows, startling a moose out of the bush!
Meanwhile, back at the Lodge, a very healthy Mom and cub walked up One Bear Point, swam around the lodge, played together in the water and then settled in about 100 metres away and nursed! The mom and cub stuck around on the rocky reef, so after dinner the group walked out to see them. On their way back, the cub’s curiosity got the best of him, so he started following the group back to the Lodge. Mom finally gave in and they did a wide circle around the Lodge before heading back to the rocky outcrop for a good night sleep. They were still there when the guests turned in for the evening.
Terry Elliot said that that excellent weather led to numerous bear encounters in the final departure of Birds, Bears and Belugas. A bear came off the point one morning and the group was able to get right up to it when they left in the boats for their beluga swim. They saw a Mom with two cubs of the year (COYs) at the river and after a very successful swim came home to a large male polar bear at the Lodge fence. He wandered around to the front of the Lodge and a mother with two second-year cubs also came up to the fence to put on a show for the group. The trio over-nighted on the rocks south of the Lodge and played in the water for an hour the next morning.