Imagine what it would be like to get a polar bear for your birthday! Is that even possible? And if so, how would you gift wrap it? And how would you give it to the person?
The answer to question one is… not quite, but close!
The answer to question three will have to wait until the end of this story.
Reach for the Rainbow, a non-profit organization which has pioneered the integration of children and youth with disabilities into the mainstream of society at summer camp programs throughout Ontario, provided the gift wrapping via its 24th annual Crystal Ball Fundraising Gala this past November in Toronto.
Churchill Wild provided the polar bears, in the form of a trip for two to their Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge, as one of 13 featured live auction items at the gala. The top prize was a BMW which went for over $130,000.
“It is due to the generosity and support of donors such as Churchill Wild that Reach for the Rainbow can deliver the integrated opportunities we do, to close to 700 children with disabilities across Ontario each year,” said Jennifer Jeynes, Reach for the Rainbow’s Manager of Communications & Public Relations.
“The amazing team at Churchill Wild have really stepped up to aid the charity, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be associated with such a wonderful company which provides the ultimate experience of adventure and exploration!” Churchill Wild’s Polar Bear Photo Safari gives professional, amateur and hobbyist photographers the chance to walk with polar bears for incredible on the ground opportunities.
Churchill Wild’s Director of Marketing & Communications Rick Kemp worked with disabled children for eight years and identified Reach for the Rainbow’s Crystal Ball Gala as an ideal event to support. His enthusiasm and the worthiness of Reach for the Rainbow’s goals made it was an easy sell to Churchill Wild owner’s Mike and Jeanne Reimer.
“Churchill Wild is a family business,” said Mike. “And when it comes to family, it’s really all about the kids.”
The winning bidder for the Polar Bear Photo Safari has been a guest of Fuel Advertising at the Crystal Ball Fundraising Gala for the last few years. Every year she buys her Christmas gifts at different charity events. This year was a little different – she wanted something unique and very special.
“I wanted a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime gift,” she said. “My husband is an avid photographer, he’s always had an interest in it. I think he will be blown away with this because it’s something he would not have discovered himself. He’ll be very surprised!”
Especially when he reads this, on February 4, 2011:
Happy Birthday Bob! — Love, Nicole
Presented by Canada’s Churchill Wild and Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
For the very first time, wildlife adventurers and photographers will have the opportunity to get up close and personal to Canadian black bears and polar bears, humpback whales and beluga whales, during a spectacular summer trip in 2011.
The Black & White Adventure has been created by two of Canada’s top wilderness resort operators, Churchill Wild and Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. Both specialize in wildly incredible nature holidays with top notch amenities, and discovered that once guests experienced one species of bear and whales, they crave the opportunity to view, photograph and learn more about other species. The only package in the world to offer this intense wilderness combination, this adventure takes guests from the UNESCO protected biosphere reserve and rainforests of Clayoquot Sound to the rich and vibrant northern wilderness of Churchill Manitoba’s Hudson Bay Coast, with opportunities to stay in Vancouver and Whistler, BC, in one mind blowing trip.
This photographer’s dream experience is being offered during 13 different dates, July and August 2011, ranging from 10 – 14 nights. Rates for the package start at CDN$12,795 per person, based on double occupancy. Included are overnight accommodations, meals, guided activities and local transportation including seaplane transfers to/from Vancouver and Clayoquot Wilderness Resort and aerial and ground transfers at Churchill Wild, and ground transfers to Vancouver and Whistler. Not included are flights to Winnipeg or Vancouver and between Vancouver and Winnipeg.
At Manitoba’s Churchill Wild, (www.churchillwild.com) guests have on the ground and in the bay access to polar bears and beluga whales as well as spectacular northern flora and fauna, and birding during the summer months. Churchill Wild is the only company on earth that offers fly in eco-lodges in remote Arctic locations that have been strategically built to follow the path of the polar bear during its seasonal migrations. Sensitive to the fragile environment that surrounds the eco-lodges, guests enjoy Arctic luxury accommodations and gourmet meals, with a light environmental touch which is one of the reasons most of the wilderness excursions are done on foot or by boat.
“For 15 years, we’ve specialized in light-footprint, personalized eco-tours into Canada’s North,” said Mike Reimer, co-creator of Churchill Wild. “There’s something pretty awesome about coming face-to-face with a polar bear or nose to nose to a beluga whale for the first time and making that genuine connection with nature. We’re proud to partner with Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, a well-respected and like-minded company to offer such a wide ranging experience that celebrates whales and bears.”
The Canadian eco-safari experiences of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (www.wildretreat.com) first began 13 years ago, just off the coast of Vancouver Island near Tofino, BC. The resort has popularized the term “glamping” for glamourous camping, with its award winning blend of upscale tent accommodations, with fireplaces and ensuite washrooms, antique furniture matched with Persian carpets, Healing Grounds spa, exceptional dining and adventure opportunities tucked deep within what National Geographic has termed an “upside down rainforest”.
“We have built our business on providing guests with the type of experiences they can not get any where else in the world,” says John Caton, managing director of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. “When people see their first black bear they are hooked and want to know more, including how they relate to the Polar Bear of our northern areas. Knowing the quality of experiences offered at Churchill Wild, it was a natural fit to see how we could offer this expanded experience to guests.”
People are encouraged to call either Churchill Wild (1-866-846-9453) or Clayoquot Wilderness Resort ( 1-888-333-5405) and speak to one of the resorts’ travel experts to learn more about the Black & White Adventure package, and arrange for the type of personalized experience that is the specialty of each company. Additional information may be found at www.wildretreat.com or www.churchillwild.com.
Professional photographer and world traveler Larry G. Kinney of Lexington, Kentucky was at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge for the Polar Bear Photo Safari last fall and gave a glowing report of his first meeting with Manitoba’s polar bears.
“Having photographed wildlife worldwide, I can truly say that photographing polar bears at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge is one of, if not the best experience I have had,” said Kinney. “The eye-level photography, the amazing scenery and backdrops, and the polar bear-like weather make for an unbeatable adventure.”
High praise considering Kinney has been on some spectacular wildlife photography trips. From grizzly bears in Alaska to penguins in Antarctica, from crocodiles in Kenya to sea lion pups in Australia and more, Kinney has seen some very wild places. He’s now proud to include the polar bears of Northern Manitoba, Canada in his portfolio. But it wasn’t just the polar bears and the northern lights Kinney enjoyed.
“Mike and Jeanne Reimer are excellent hosts,” said Kinney. “Andy and Terry (our guides) are very knowledgeable and safety conscious, and the staff were always busy taking care of the guests. The food was great and the lodge, way beyond my expectations, was perfect. In fact, the whole experience exceeded my expectations on every level.”
A photo gallery of Kinney’s trip to Seal River Lodge, along with his previous adventures, can be seen on his Web site: http://InOurSight.com. Kinney’s next trip will take him to the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda to photograph gorillas, but a return trip to visit the polar bears also made the future agenda.
“It is my goal to return to Churchill Wild’s Seal River lodge and also visit their Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for a very different experience”, said Kinney. “Mike and Jeanne, please save a space for me and thanks for an incredible adventure!”