Below is an excerpt from a story which originally appeared in the July 28, 2010 issue of The Dallas Morning News. It was written by Glen Petrie, a freelance writer from Canada.
Guests mingle with polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge in Canada
CHURCHILL, Manitoba – I see my first polar bear from a distance of 300 feet – straight down. Close-up views of polar bears in the wild are common at the Seal River Heritage Lodge in Churchill, Manitoba.
We’re flying so low that every willow branch on the marshy shores of Hudson Bay is clearly visible, and Nelson the pilot is excitedly pointing. “There!”
He rolls the turbo Beaver into a sudden 30-degree bank and the sky is replaced by a blur of passing bush. Strapped into the co-pilot’s seat, I struggle against gravity to follow his jabbing finger. We’re spiraling to earth; I search for the bear but my eyes keep darting back to the altimeter. In the back, I glimpse ashen passengers with their arms braced against the fuselage.
The bear zips past – a ball of white like arctic cotton grass – and is gone. Nelson changes course, and my stomach pulls in the opposite direction, the horizon rolling to a crazy new angle. Nelson is pointing past my nose. “There, there! See him?” The bear looks up.
This kind of impromptu sightseeing goes on for the entire 30-minute flight from Churchill, serving up six polar bears and two moose, until a lonely wooden lodge appears on the rocky shore. There are two buildings, one with solar panels. There is a scar that turns out to be a dirt airstrip.
Seal River Heritage Lodge is a fly-in outpost amid one of the world’s major polar bear populations, run by husband- and-wife team Mike and Jeanne Reimer as part of their tour company, Churchill Wild. Unlike the well-known tundra tours on the outskirts of town that use supersize buses on giant wheels, in which even sticking your arm outside is forbidden, Seal River gives animal lovers the chance to walk among wild polar bears in their native habitat.
But there are rules… Read the full story at The Dallas Morning News
Polar bears, sandhill cranes, moose, wolves and whales make first week of Birds, Bears and Belugas a hit
In our first week of Birds, Bears and Belugas we spotted not just polar bears but also sandhill cranes, lots of wolves (with cubs!) two moose and a large numbers of beluga whales.
Our first meal interruption occurred last week when a polar bear showed up just as everyone was coming into the dining room for breakfast. We’ve been getting the boats in the water on a regular basis morning and night, weather and tides permitting.
Guests had a fabulous trip by boat to Hubbard Point, 77 kilometres Northwest of Churchill on the Hudson Bay Coast. It was almost too foggy to see but we still saw seven polar bears at close range and had one of our best beluga whale swims ever!
Handed out the first certificates of the season on July 27 and everyone is leaving happy!
Polar bears are being seen in record numbers at Seal River Lodge, our polar bear ecolodge on Hudson Bay.
On a one hour aerial tour we spotted over 100 polar bears within 25 kilometres of the lodge! In our 30 years of working and living on the Hudson Bay Coast we have never seen polar bear numbers like this.
And what’s more, the bears are in exceptional condition, all in waddling fat mode with beautiful glossy coats! Our best aerial tour saw 12 family groups of polar bears.
Beluga whales are also out in great numbers which has made our whale swims a great success. Whales are everywhere, nudging the boat, nibbling on dry suits, and giving free belly rubs!
Guest Lori was adopted by a pod of 15 beluga whales that followed her all the way back to the boat, watched her get out of the water, and then wouldn’t leave!
Spectacular new polar bear watching observatory/dining room on Hudson Bay Coast offers picture window polar bear viewing
The new dining room has become so popular with guests viewing polar bears from its 12 huge picture windows that the staff has had to shoo them out just so they can have a moment to clean up after dinner! Polar bear watching from this gorgeous timber frame structure – the first of its kind in Arctic Canada – has had the kudos flying and the cameras snapbuzzing.
The dining observatory project was in the planning/discussing/daydreaming stage for a couple of years before material was finally ordered in the spring of 2009. The huge white pine beams were all cut from second-growth sustainable forest in Northern Ontario, the closest source we could find to minimize our transportation impact. The bulk of the materials were purchased from a local supplier in Churchill, continuing Churchill Wild’s commitment to supporting the northern communities in which we live and operate from.
In January 2010 the project materials, tools and supplies were collected and shipped via train to Churchill. In March a team of intrepid explorer types headed into Seal River to get the Cat Train going, which in itself is quite an undertaking in -30 to -40 degrees Celsius!
A Cat Train consists of a Caterpillar Bulldozer, in this case a 1962 D6, pulling one or more sleighs loaded with building materials over the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Books could be written about winter freighting in the Canadian Arctic, and certainly this year’s adventures would have been fodder for another chapter. Stuart and Yvan and crew hauled in nearly 60,000 kilos of lumber, windows, roofing, cement etc. in 2 trips averaging 30 hours of travel per run – one way. Good thing we take the guests in by air, 20 minutes!
June was “hit the ground running” time and the construction crew of Len, Yvan, Real, Riley, Ryan, Kyle, and George did so in a big way. Thank goodness Elaine was there working her magic in the kitchen to keep all the hard working guys fed.
Construction started on June 5 and by the end of the first day the boys had half the old dining room torn off the east end of the lodge. Many long days followed and exactly 30 days later the crew had completed the new dining room and kitchen area, put a beautiful new roof over the entire lodge, renovated a bedroom, installed new electrical and plumbing systems and replaced the bear proof fence!!
Owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer are still overwhelmed at what these guys put together in those 30 days.
Thank You Team Seal 2010!