From 0 to 100% polar bears in 36 hours! For months we planned our trip to Churchill to see the polar bears. There are plenty of other things to see here too; the aurora borealis effect, the treeless tundra, the beluga whale migration, and the other white creatures who call the arctic home, but most people who come to Churchill Manitoba Canada...in November, come to see the polar bears. The polar bears migrate this way to the Hudson Bay as they wait out mother nature until the bay freezes over and they begin their feeding frenzy on little seal blubber bombs out on the ice all winter. One of the more "accessible" places to see polar bears, with only a 2 and half hour flight from Winnipeg, none the less, our trip took 36 hours to get from our home to see our first wild polar bears, even though it was only 6 1/2 hours in the air.
We were stuck at 0% polar bears at Logan airport, when our flight was canceled and the $15 meal voucher didn't cover the cost of 1/2 a Legal Test Kitchen lobster roll. Six hours in Toronto, we were at 50% polar bears, waiting for the last flight to Winnepeg which we spent binge watching tv series we save for times just like these. At 1 AM, we checked into the Ft Garry Hotel in Winnepeg, and the helpful Natural Habitat folks, who were running our trip, made sure there wasn't another thing we needed to worry about! We were easily at 75% polar bears...there was even a replica of the polar bear statue from the Musee D'Orsay in the lobby!
A charter flight arranged by Nat Hab got us to Churchill, were we checked into the rustic Seaport Hotel. Although it's said polar bears are often seen on the way into town from the airport, we didn't, but we felt about 95% polar bears. We were certain our evening trip out onto the tundra would turn up some bears. Wildlife is never promised on these kinds of trips, the animals are not on the payroll, but an incredible journey into an other worldly arctic ecosystem and a delicious dinner in the specially designed "polar rovers" was!
Almost immediately, our eagle eyed group began spotting wildlife...a red fox from the bus, a ptarmigan, and a fluffy hare. But no polar bears!
As promised, we had a 4 course dinner in our polar rover, camp style, relaxing across two seats each and enjoying wine and cheese, salad, chicken pot pie and apple crisp while watching a glorious, panoramic sunset. Every thing was perfect...except...still only 95% to polar bears!
Binoculars and cameras stowed, we all settled in to hear from our excellent Nat Hab guide, Katie, all about how polar bears are built to eat seals on the ice. As we asked our questions, a voice crackled over the intercom from the polar rover in front of us saying only..."look out your front window". As we quickly and quietly made our way to the huge front window of the rover, a mama bear and her two cubs passed in front and walked down the left side of our rover so close you could see their eyes looking up at the dimly lit rover and we could see the tiny cubs flowing their mother, all their fur glowing white in the darkening night. Too dark to photograph, we all stood in quiet awe watching what we had come for...100% polar bear!
So we got to see some polar bears, but we still don't have any to share here...but 2 more days out on the tundra, I'm hopeful we will have some in the next few days!