Although cruises to the Arctic are a popular way to see polar bears, there are more exclusive and personal ways to view the ‘King of the Arctic’. In Canada, there are remote lodges, only accessible by plane, where it is possible to walk with polar bears, or even watch them meandering outside whilst you have dinner!
So what does a ‘walking with polar bear’ trip entail?
Fly into Churchill, the polar bear capital, from Winnipeg. From here, many tourists take tundra buggies into the wilderness for the chance to see polar bears. Instead, take a small propeller plane for roughly an hour to an exclusive lodge near Hudson Bay.
From the lodge there is the chance to walk up to 4km a day in search of wildlife. If you encounter a polar bear, don’t worry, it is safe as the experienced guides are fully trained and have measurements for scaring away any particularly hungry bears. Every outing has three guides to ensure the groups safety. The lodges have been welcoming travellers for 25 years and have never had any safety problems viewing the bears so far.
Sold? Well each lodge offers a unique experience, so you only need to decide which lodge you want to stay at and when!
Seal River Heritage Lodge
Named one of National Geographic’s 'Unique Lodges of the World', Seal River is set right on the edge of Hudson Bay. Its prime location ensures optimum chances of seeing pods of beluga in July to August, as well as the mighty polar bear. In August it is also possible to see wolf and black bear as they roam the wilderness in search of fox and hare. The lodge allows for awesome polar bear sightings and photographs in October and November, as the landscape turns to snow. Northern Lights are visible from August to November.
Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge
Also one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is located south of Churchill, unlike the other lodges. You might think this reduces the chance of seeing polar bears, but bears are around from August to October, with belugas also in the area in August. Unique to this lodge, it is possible to see wolf, black bear and moose in August and September, and the surroundings are greener and lusher. Visiting the lodge in November allows for great photographic opportunities as the snow has settled and the bears start to camouflage into the landscape. Northern Lights are visible from August to November.
Dymond Lake Ecolodge
Dymond Lake Ecolodge is located slightly further south and more inland than Seal River Heritage Lodge. It only operates during the months of October and November, to provide superb winter bear viewings, as well as the occasional wolf. Northern Lights are visible during this period and make a beautiful end to a day of incredible wildlife sightings.
From Seal River Heritage Lodge, it is possible to camp for two nights in the tundra, hopefully underneath the Northern Lights, during September. A chance to learn about Arctic flora and fauna, your time will be spent following the ancient migratory pathways used by the Qaminurjuaq caribou herds, enjoying the unique opportunity to experience a remoteness and serenity that few travellers get to encounter.