Churchill, Manitoba – You know it’s not your average tour when you notice that your driver is armed and keeps guard when you step off the bus for photos.
It’s with good reason, in October and November this small community of 750 on the western shore of Hudson’s Bay and the region around it, is smack in the middle of a polar bear migration route. Hundreds pass through on their way to ice flows in Hudson’s Bay.
This is one of the easiest places to see polar bears in their natural environment. I visited Churchill (read about town) in October 2011 to view the polar bears close up from a Tundra Buggy on an adventure with Frontiers North.
The Tundra Buggys take you from the community of Churchill out onto the neighbouring tundra for the day. Once we were out on the tundra everyone stayed in the vehicle at all times.
The vehicles have huge tires which keep you raised above the reach of the bears. There is a heater, enclosed section with plenty of windows that can be opened for photography, and an open air section at the back. Guides provide commentary on and information on the bear migration through the region.
We had a fabulous experience. The first day on the tundra we spotted a dozen of the great white bears, the second day we sighted 15. At times we had curious ones approach our vehicle, and even stand up to try to peak inside.
The region we were exploring was once used by the military and its roads contained the largest pot holes I’ve seen in my life. At two points we spotted polar bear lodges. These are a group of similar vehicles that have been joined together to create a protected environment where visitors can stay out on the tundra overnight. With luck, Northern Lights can be part of the experience.
Until you can make it up there yourself, you can watch on a live webcam. It usually starts up about mid-October.
Have you experienced seeing the polar bears via Tundra Buggy at Churhill? Have you seen polar bears in the wild elsewhere in Canada? Please Share
Bruce Lane, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada