Churchill Wild – The World’s Next Great Safari
Imagine the polar bear. The mere mention of this majestic creature can conjure up apprehension in some people, and awe in others. The polar bear is the mightiest terrestrial carnivore on Earth, and
the Arctic Ocean’s Hudson’s Bay has the largest concentration of them in the entire world.
Now imagine the ability to walk amongst the great bear and see it in its natural habitat – up close and personal. You can go on any number of Arctic safaris with Churchill Wild, an adventure destination where as a Canadian, you can leave your passport at home. Churchill Wild, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, offers once in a lifetime adventures in the Canadian Wilderness, where you are guaranteed to see polar bears and so much more.
Created by Jeanne and Mike Reimer, Churchill Wild is the only polar bear adventure company in the world that owns and operates remote fly-in polar bear eco-lodges in the Arctic. From Churchill, Manitoba, you fly in a bush plane or helicopter to one of four lodges located in different areas along the shore of Hudson Bay. It is here that the adventure begins as you may spy any number of Arctic inhabitants from the sky.
Guests can view polar bears in both the summer and fall by taking a ground-level walking tour with professional guides. “Our lodges accommodate up to 16 people per safari departure,” says Rick Kemp, Director of Marketing & Communications. The base for several of the tours including Birds, Bears & Belugas; Arctic Safari; and Polar Bear Photo Safari is the Seal River Heritage Lodge, a 60 km flight from Churchill. Here, you will enjoy the comfort of a cozy fireplace, great service, and gourmet full-course meals – local to the area.
In addition to polar bears, thousands of beluga whales congregate in the Seal River Estuary to calve in the protection of the Hudson Bay every summer. Guests of the Birds, Bears, & Belugas tour have the opportunity to put on a dry suit, snorkel, and facemask, and enter the water with the gentle, social leviathans. “The guest hums, sings, etc., and the belugas will come right up to them, often singing back (chirping),” says Kemp. “The chirping has given them the nickname “canaries of the sea”. Guests often see this as the highlight, even ranking it higher than the polar bear experience.”
As trekking is a part of the tours, it is important to know your physical limitations beforehand. “We always ask if there are any mobility issues,” explains Kemp. “Most guests are between the ages of 40-70 and are active adventure travellers. Different safaris can cater to different needs.”
While on your guided walk, in addition to polar bears, you may also see passing caribou, fox dens, and a beautiful array of wild Arctic flowers. So make sure to bring extra batteries for your camera. Birders won’t be disappointed either. The area has a vast array of birds including sandpipers, eagles, godwits and yellowlegs, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, gyr falcons, and several species of shorebirds.
Back at the lodge, after whichever activity your group has chosen, you may have the perfect opportunity to photograph the dancing spectacle of the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis are best
viewed in northern skies in the autumn months.
The Arctic Safari takes you over 20,000 square kilometres of wilderness. You’ll spend the week trekking a region that is home to wolves, moose, polar bears, black bears, grizzly bears, foxes,
beavers, and wolverines; and will end up on a charter aircraft to witness the migration of Canadian Central Barren Ground caribou, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
This safari is Churchill Wild’s most ambitious adventure to date. Guests can expect to explore a far reaching territory including the Arctic “Serengeti,” “The Land of Little Sticks,” and the Hudson Bay coastline – the natural habitat of the polar bears.
For the photographers among you, the Polar Bear Photo Safari provides the opportunity to experience ground level photography with breathtaking landscapes. This safari takes place in October and
November when polar bears, numbering as many as 1200, congregate on the Hudson Bay coast to wait for the Bay to freeze while they await their annual hunt.
To see the much adored polar bear cubs, it is recommended to book the Mothers & Cubs tour. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge will be your home for the week, as you venture out to experience a one in a lifetime adventure.
With such incredible experiences, it’s no wonder that Churchill Wild gets a lot of repeat visitors. “Some people come in the fall then come back in the summer to see the bears against a green backdrop and swim with belugas – and vice versa,” Kemp declares. “We also get a large volume of referrals whereby people send their friends.” Guests are advised to book early. “People should book a minimum of 6-12 months in advance. But we can sometimes accommodate last minute bookings.”
“The Seal River Heritage Lodge experience rates as one of the top three wildlife experiences and adventures that I have done anywhere!” – Ian Johnson, traveller doing safaris around the world for 25 years.
Visit www.churchillwild.com for more information.