A Polar Bear Watching Journey Unlike Any Other

Polar bear watching is best done naturally, and nowhere does it better than Churchill Wild’s collection of luxury ecolodges way out in the arctic tundra. Resting near the shores of Hudson Bay, this arctic refuge is a gateway to a northern experience like no other. Featured in National Geographic’s unique lodges of the world, a journey here viewing ice bear is nothing short of a once in a lifetime experience. Have a read of what you can expect on our polar bear watching journey to Manitoba.

A polar bear watching lodge unlike any other:

The Churchill Wild site was a dilapidated research station when guide Mike Reimer came across it over 25 years ago. Since then, Mike and Jeanne Reimer have spent countless hours building an unparalleled collection of ecolodges in, what they call, the polar bear capital of the world!

Polar Bear Watching: Seal River Heritage Lodge in the arctic summer sun
Seal River Heritage Lodge in the arctic summer sun.

Located north of Churchill just off the shores of Hudson Bay, Seal River Heritage Lodge is remote by any standards. Access is granted by a commercial flight from Winnipeg to Churchill, followed by a stunning helicopter or light craft journey along the Hudson Bay coastline to the lodge. This outpost of comfort has hospitality so good that you may forget you’re here to see polar bears, that is when they’re not peering through the windows like a nosy neighbor. We’re not kidding, sights such as these are a regular occurrence. Facilities at the lodge include a viewing and photography tower, comfortable rooms with ensuites, a map library, satellite phone and various other perks that cannot be found for miles. Expect some hearty Arctic-inspired fare, chef Helen Weber is the author of the best-selling cookbook “Blueberries and Polar Bears” – so you can be sure that your appetite will be well looked after. The upper lounge offers panoramic views of the tundra, and there’s even a stuffed moose head or two. No living room in the world has a view quite like it, and when it comes to the polar bear watching, you’ve got the best seats in Manitoba. Solar is the main supplier of the lodge’s power and all garbage is either composted or sent to Churchill for proper disposal – your impact on Manitoba will be kept to a minimum.

Polar Bear Watching: a polar bear looks at a boy taking a photo.
Seal River Heritage Lodge gets some rather nosy neighbors.

A polar bear migration experience that you’ll never forget:

Each day, after a hearty breakfast, you’ll head out with an expert guide to explore the surrounding landscape. Seal River Heritage Lodge has the goal of leaving a light footprint, quite literally in fact, since walking is the preferred means of transport. Like the polar bears, you’ll amble on foot, and you can expect a comfortable pace for everyone in the group. Bears are curious but cautious by nature. This means that, with your guide’s expert knowledge, you may safely gain close proximity to the world’s largest species of bear. The bears are often known to staff by name, and over the course of your stay, you will learn more about their personalities and habits. Bring your cameras, outstanding photography opportunities are all but guaranteed. Many of the guides are expert photographers, so don’t forget to ask for top bear-capturing tips. Our Polar Bear Photo Shoot Safari itinerary will be of interest to those wishing to take some truly splendid Arctic snaps.

Polar Bear Watching: A polar bear on a rock looking at the camera.
Looking a polar bear in the eye. Credit: Ian Johnson.

Even when you’re not wandering the area, polar bear watching moments might not be far away. The lodge is built within a fenced compound. You are free to wander this area as you please, and polar bears will often come up to the fence in a curious manner, and may even stand on their rear legs for a better view. If this happens, you’ll realize just how large these creatures are. We recommend always having a camera to hand, you never know what frame-worthy opportunities are just around the corner.

Polar Bear Watching: a polar bear out on the trail!
A polar bear out on the trail.

Viewing more than just polar bears:

During your stay, you may tour on the specially designed all-terrain vehicle, the Tundra Rhino! This ten wheeled behemoth navigates to truly remote locations that few experience. The marshes at low tide are a highlight for avid bird watchers and you may see; ptarmigan, smith’s longspur, bonaparte gulls, jaegers, and more. The diversity around the Churchill area is spectacularly varied, it’s not uncommon for bird watchers to see over 100 different species over the course of their stay! There are also regular sightings of wolf, black bear, moose, caribou, arctic fox, and hare.

Curious beluga whale will often come and say hello!
Curious beluga whales will often come and say hello!

The wildlife adventures don’t stop at the shore, however. Venture onto the water, and you’ll realize that Hudson Bay is home to a catalog of breathtaking wildlife. Whale watching is a highlight for many, and there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy sightings of beluga whales. Kayaking is a particularly immersive way of exploring these Arctic waterways, belugas are inquisitive by nature, and you may see mothers and their calf’s playing alongside your craft. Make sure you listen out for their unmistakable communicative clicks.

Polar bear watching and the Northern Lights:

The famous Aurora Borealis are a common occurrence this far north, and the team at the lodge offers a “gentle wake up call” when the lights are on show to ensure that you don’t miss any bucket list opportunities. The viewing tower is a particularly spectacular spot to take photos from. Because there is little to no light pollution in this area, on a clear night you can capture photos of a lifetime. Just set your camera to slow shutter speed and enjoy the show! Alternatively, the raised lounge with its full-length windows is a cozy lookout if you’d like to kick back in the warm. Seeing this phenomenon is never guaranteed, but if they do occur, it will likely result in polar bear hugs all around.

The dazzling Northern Lights is a common sight here. Credit: Xie Jianguo
The dazzling Northern Lights is a common sight here. Credit: Xie Jianguo

Beyond the polar bears in Churchill:

Our journeys also include some time to explore the town of Churchill, a dwelling in the heart of polar bear territory. There are some unique places to explore here. We recommend heading to the Eskimo Museum for an immersive insight into the First Nations people of the Hudson Bay area. You may also enjoy a visit to the Prince of Wales fort ruins where you can learn about the history of the Hudson Bay fur trade. Alternatively, visit the wreck of cargo plane Miss Piggy, which has since been repainted as part of Churchill’s SeaWalls Arts Festival. A visit to the polar bear holding facility, otherwise known as polar bear jail, will also lend a fascinating window into how the residents of Churchill live alongside their clawed counterparts in the safest way possible.

The eskimo museum in Churchill makes for a fascinating visit
The eskimo museum in Churchill makes for a fascinating visit.

Polar bear watching up close in Manitoba:

A visit to Churchill Wild in Manitoba is a sure-fire way of having a safe and truly breathtaking Arctic experience. These phenomenal ecolodges offer true comfort and classic Canadian hospitality. Those interested in photography or wildlife will have a ball experiencing true polar bear country, as the species on show are outstanding and plentiful. Have a read of our Great Ice Bear Tour itinerary for further inspiration on Dymond Lake Lodge, or fill out our quick plan your trip form for more booking information. Thanks to Churchill Wild for their stunning photography.

We could never get tired of viewing polar bears in their natural habitat.
We could never get tired of viewing polar bears in their natural habitat.