This Incredible Polar Bear Safari Will Change Your Life

By: Angela Ayles
MIchael Poliza / ©2008 Michael Poliza


Photo by: Michael Poliza, courtesy Churchill Wild

If you travel to where northern Manitoba’s boreal forest, the Canadian Arctic tundra, and the tidal flats of the southern Hudson Bay meet, you’ll find the town of Churchill. To call this community a remote outpost would be an understatement — it can only be accessed by train or plane — but surely that’s how it has kept its rugged, untouched beauty preserved for so long. This isn’t a bustling metropolis, but a town that lives in harmony with nature.

Many who make the journey to Churchill do so to catch a glimpse of polar bears roaming around their natural habitat. But for some, a glimpse simply isn’t enough.

If you’re one of these adventurous spirits, consider going on an Arctic safari that brings you right into the heart of polar bear country. Board an eight-person prop plane from Churchill to the even more remote ecolodges of Churchill Wild. This family-run tour operator owns three wilderness lodges on the rugged Hudson Bay coast. Flanked by freshwater lakes and the Seal River, these lodges are perfectly positioned for up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters.

In addition to National Geographic-approved accommodations, Churchill Wild offers a suite of on-the-ground polar bear tours between July and November. These tours are a truly unique and exclusive experience that capture a kind of magic you can’t find outside of Canada’s Arctic. Consider the search for your next life-changing travel destination over.


Float alongside beluga whales in Hudson Bay or along the Churchill River. Photo courtesy Churchill Wild

Birds, Bears, and Belugas

On one of Churchill Wild’s summer tours, Birds, Bears, and Belugas, you’ll move into the Seal River Heritage Lodge and venture out on guided daily excursions to walk alongside very real polar bears. This particular spot off Hudson Bay is nicknamed the “polar bear waiting room” because it’s where the bears wait for the sea ice to return, so you’ll have ample opportunity to get close to these white giants as they laze about in the dazzling fireweed that blankets the tundra this time of year.

Another magnificent sight you can only see in Churchill in the summer is the thousands of beluga whales that flood the Hudson Bay and Churchill river to mate and birth their young. These roly-poly creatures are incredibly intelligent, friendly, and vocal, often surfacing to interact with (and chirp at) travellers in boats or on shore. Back on land, you may also spot red and Arctic foxes, charcoal-coloured wolves, moose, and over 100 species of bird, including Ptarmigan, Smith’s Longspur, and the rare Ross’s Gull.

This tour is suitable for adventurers of all ages, making it an excellent choice for families seeking a break from the ordinary. It’s also worth noting that this tour (along with all of Churchill Wild’s tours) is incredibly intimate and exclusive, only accepting groups of up to 16 people — meaning you won’t have to throw elbows to get that perfect shot.


Walk where the polar bears roam. Photo courtesy Travel Manitoba

Vacation Among the Polar Bears

If you’re seeking a safari that places you even deeper in Manitoba’s untamed wilderness, look no further than the Arctic Discovery.

This journey takes place in early August and starts in the nearby city of Winnipeg, where you’ll learn more about the region’s history at the Manitoba Museum’s carefully curated Arctic Gallery. From here, you’ll move on to Churchill, where you’ll spend two days exploring the waters of the Churchill River. Belugas also make an appearance on this tour, but this time you have a chance to kayak with these swimming goliaths and hear their gleeful whistling and chirping.

This incredible experience is capped off with a four-night stay at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which has unparalleled access to polar bears and their coastal habitat, and is rich in other wildlife such as wolves, moose and black bears. Once you’re settled at Nanuk, you’ll be taken on daily treks and ATV excursions across the rugged landscape.

One of the most stunning aspects of each of Churchill Wild’s ecolodges is their construction, which offers wrap-around views and picture windows in every room — ideally suited for spotting wildlife while getting cozy by the wood-burning fire. Curious polar bears often wander right up to the glass to say “hi,” and outside around the lodges there are large-gap wire fences that let you stand within mere metres of these 1,000-pound looky-loos. It’s a true thrill, set against the beautiful backdrop of one of the world’s last untamed lands.


The Northern Lights can be viewed 300 days of the year in Churchill. Photo courtesy of Churchill Wild and Columbia Sportswear

Be Part of an Exclusive Adventure

The Great Ice Bear Adventure might be the motherlode of all polar bear safaris. It takes place during high polar bear season (October-November), when Churchill’s population doubles with explorers from far and wide. But at the remote Dymond Lake Ecolodge, the polar bears and their natural habitat are still completely undisturbed.

The bears are more active this time of year, sparring in anticipation for mating season and readying themselves for their migration out onto the ice. Tread carefully as there is a reason these majestic animals made our list of the most dangerous animals in the world and for the most part, you’ll be roaming around on foot — just like the bears. But this tour also includes a one-day tundra buggy tour where a protective open-top vehicle takes you safely onto the coastal flats to get even closer to the bears. In addition to spotting polar bears and other wildlife, keep an eye on the sky for the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights), which can be viewed 300 days of the year in the Churchill area.

The main attraction of Churchill Wild’s tours is undoubtedly the ability to get up-close-and-personal with the furry, feathery, and flippered creatures that call the area home. But after a long day of channeling your inner David Attenborough, it’s also extremely satisfying to sit down and enjoy a meal of tundra-inspired gourmet comfort food, step outside with a glass of wine for a late show of the dancing Northern Lights, or just let your head hit the pillow in the bedroom of your private, coastal lodge.

If you’re looking for a life-changing adventure that gives you access to both the best of the Canadian Arctic and all the comforts of home, look no further than Churchill Wild.