Churchill Wild had the great pleasure of hosting Top 10 Forbes Travel Influencers Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil of The Planet D at Seal River Heritage Lodge for the Polar Bear Photo Safari this fall, and their trip couldn’t have gone any better if it was scripted.
At one point, they were surrounded by polar bears.
The two-time Gold Medal winners of SATW’s (Society of American Travel Writers) Lowell Thomas Awards for Travel Blog of the Year and numerous photography awards were making their third trip to the Churchill Wild ecolodges, having previously been on the the Hudson Bay Odyssey in 2016 at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge in 2018.
The 50-something couple from Paris, Ontario have been tremendous ambassadors for Churchill Wild since their initial visits, helping us to multiple sold out seasons, and we just had to invite them back. Churchill Wild has a 95 percent success rate seeing polar bears at our lodges from July through November, but on more than one occasion this year guests hit the motherlode with numerous bears surrounding the lodge. Dave and Deb’s Polar Bear Photo Safari was one of those occasions.
“For me, there were three main things that really made it special for us,” said Dave. “Number one, obviously the number of polar bears we saw. We saw so many bears. And the experiences with the bears were really great because we got to see a mother and a cub, and we stayed with them for quite a long time. And we got to see a red fox interacting with the bears, which was fantastic.
“The second thing I really enjoyed is the guides and the whole staff up there. The guides were fantastic. Boomer and Jess, both great personalities and very knowledgeable. They really made it a great trip for everybody. Guides are always one of the things that really make a trip, and on all of the safaris we’ve been on with Churchill Wild, the guides have been invaluable.
“The third I’m going to say is the food. I mean, to eat like that up there, to eat like kings. When you’re in such a remote lodge, you sort of expect you’re not going to be eating like that, but man, the food’s awesome. Everybody does such a fantastic job up there.”
“He got most of them,” said Deb. “But I’ll just say the comfort and luxury in the lodge. When you’re out walking in the cold you really look forward to that warm fireplace, the good food, and a glass of wine at night. I think it’s really amazing. That’s why I love it so much.
“For someone my age, it’s this mix of going out and doing an adventure but getting to come back and be pampered, having a wine pairing with my meal, and having beautiful room to relax in and sit in front of the fire. I think that’s the perfect getaway for my age. When you’re younger, you don’t mind staying in a rustic cabin or sitting by the wood stove in a prospector tent, but now you want a little bit more of the finer things when you’ve been out in the cold all day.”
Deb was diagnosed with cancer last year and missed six months of travel, but it didn’t take her long to get right back into it. “I got diagnosed in January and then had surgery in March and then again in May,” said Deb. “And then it was just, wow. Not even 10 days later, we went to Nashville for an important conference with our ad network.”
The couple started travelling and blogging for a living in 2007, and have since travelled to 128 of the 195 countries in the world and won numerous awards for The Planet D travel blog, which they have built up to a million page views a month. “It’s getting pretty awesome,” said Deb, who does the writing and video for website while Dave does the photography. “The website has grown a lot in the past few years.”
And it all began on a cycling trip from Cairo to Cape Town.
“We were working in the film industry at the time,” said Deb. “And we decided at this time next year, we want to change our life. We made a New Year’s resolution in 2007 and then we were on a flight to Cairo, cycling from Cairo to Cape Town. It was a good time to change your life. People were doing things like that at the time.”
The couple have since completed over 150 different destination and brand campaigns, won numerous awards, and been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, BBC, CNN, CBC and other major publications and TV shows including the Today Show.
Married for 28 years and together for 32, we asked them what makes a travel marriage (or any marriage of that length) work.
“Compromise,” said Dave. “It’s actually two things. Compromise and when you argue, forgive. We’ve had lots of arguments over the years about a lot of different things, but it’s always over and done with. Forgive and move on. Never rehash anything like that. Always look forward.”
Truthfully though, these two are very easy to get along with, and they fit beautifully into the International group of people they were with at Seal River, who were from Singapore, China, Switzerland and Colorado.
“It’s just amazing how well everyone gets along on these trips,” said Deb. “It was the same when we were at Nanuk in 2016. “Everybody who was there had a great time. We’re still friends with people from that trip. I think it’s like-minded people, right? Everybody is from different backgrounds, but you all have sort of one thing in common. And we also got to meet the couple from Switzerland who has been up there so many times, Christoph and Fabienne Jansen, from Arctic Wild. They were so nice.
“If you’re going up there to do something as unique as that, I think that there’s something in your DNA or something about you makes you quite an interesting person. And I think everybody that we’ve met on our three trips up there are interesting people. I think that you have to have a story if you want to go up to the north.
“I liken it to people who go to know it’s their seventh continent. Usually the people who go there are quite travelled. I think when you’re doing something very unique and remote like that, like going up to see the polar bears, it’s the exact same thing.”
Group chemistry always seem to be exceptional with the guests at Churchill Wild, and it also happens to be important when you’re out walking with polar bears.
“We never felt scared at any point,” said Dave. “I even said that to (guides) Boomer and Jess, that I just felt like they had it under control, because at one time we were surrounded by polar bears. It was amazing, and we never felt scared.”
“We had a mom and cub in front of us,” said Deb. “And there was an old male that was coming up behind us, and then there was this skittish little guy who was running around, and we were surrounded by four bears at one time. Jess and Boomer kept us in check. And our heads were on a swivel. There were just so many bears all around.”
“And I want to mention Dave, too,” said Dave. “He was the other guide up there who was fantastic. He stayed out there with me when we were shooting the northern lights up on the tower, doing different poses with different foreground objects and things like that. Everybody was super helpful and really did everything they possibly could to make it the best trip.”
“It was really good when we were taking photos of the northern lights,” said Deb “Boomer sat down with everybody and set them up on their iPhones to make sure they could get great photos of the night skies, which was pretty awesome. It’s something that you don’t really think of asking the guides about.
“And when we were taking shots of the bears, Boomer was always asking, ‘Can everybody see?’ So often we’ve been on safari where they just stop and you’re stuck behind a group and you have to ask if you can move. But Boomer was always making sure everyone could see, he was very aware of that, and that was really good.
“And he was asking everybody if they’ got their shot, ‘Okay, move into position, get your shot, ask me where you need to go.’ So many people are sort of afraid to do that, but you could say, ‘Can I go low? Can I move over here? Can I come this way? I need to get a better shot.’ and he helped everyone.”
Before arriving at Seal River Heritage Lodge, Dave and Deb were in northern Greece on a yachting trip.
“We did Greece and Portugal this year,” said Deb. “And we’re heading to Belize next week. We’re doing a 20th anniversary trip. It’s been 20 years since we were there. It’s for the Belize Tourism Board, and we both thought it’d be great idea to retrace some of our steps, go back to some of the places that we originally visited there. It’s good story angle, and we’ll highlight some new adventures that we’ll do there, too. The fun thing is that that when we were in Belize 20 years ago, we stayed at a place called Dave and Deb’s Last Resort, and it’s still there!”
Te couple have been on quite a few wildlife trips to Africa, the Galapagos. Antarctica, Greenland and Asia, but they also do general travel.
“It’s kind of weird, because we love cities as well,” said Deb. “Many people seem to like one or the other. I really just love going and doing all the best things in a city. Even when we go on our own, and not on a tourism board sponsored trip, we go and run around like the Griswolds. We just went to Portugal for a conference and then stayed three weeks after and just traveled around on our own and loved it.”
Their favourite travel places in the world?
“I really do love Tanzania and Kenya,” said Deb. “They’re my favorite places when it comes to wildlife. That’s why I think I love coming up to Churchill too. It’s very similar, because it’s our great Canadian safari.” “I really like the polar regions,” said Dave. “I like Antarctica, Greenland and I love going up to Churchill.”
We asked for some suggestions, a warm place that people should go in the winter. If they’re from Canada and it’s -30. What about Greece?
“Greece is definitely one of our favorite countries in the world,” said Deb. “We haven’t been there during the winter though, so I’m not sure about the warmth at that time of year. We are partial to Southeast Asia. We really love going to Sri Lanka, Thailand, that part of the world, and South America. If you want adventure, it’s great. We were in Chile last year, and it’s wonderful.
“It was our first time ever in Chile, and we just loved it. We met the President too, randomly at a restaurant. People were taking selfies with him, and Dave and I were just sitting there having lunch, and I thought he was a movie star or something, so I asked the person next to us who it was, and he said it actually was the President of Chile. Just to make sure, I asked the manager, and it was true.
“So on the way out, Dave and I stopped, went up to him and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Debra and I’m from Canada, and I hear you’re the president.’ And he took a photo with us. We put it on Instagram and he now follows us on Instagram. That was the coolest thing. I couldn’t believe it.”
The Planet D has over 198,000 followers on Instagram and over 600,000 followers on their social media properties, which include Facebook and YouTube and just about every place else their audience hangs out.
“The photo we took of the face of the bear at Seal River, the straight on shot, has done really well on Instagram,” said Dave, an ambassador for Sony Canada who has also won countless photography awards including back-to-back gold in Best Photo Illustration in Travel at the Bill Muster Awards. “Every day we’re getting more and more shares on that photo. We also tagged Churchill Wild as collaborators, so that helped as well.”
But perhaps The Planet D website best sums up Dave and Deb.
“We have been fortunate enough to partner with more than 100 brands and destinations. We want to show everyone that ordinary people can live extraordinary lives.
“We aren’t special, we aren’t independently wealthy and we aren’t superhuman. We are just two regular people who believe that everyone has the potential to live their dreams. By following us you will get the best in information and inspiration all in one place.”
In a word…
Follow The Planet D on Social Media