When Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer’s daughters Kate and Emily invited U.S. President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia to visit the polar bears in Churchill a few years ago it got us thinking. They probably considered visiting Churchill, but it’s unlikely they knew they could actually walk on the tundra with polar bears, or swim in Hudson Bay with beluga whales.
Churchill Wild eco-lodge owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer say the Obama and Doer families would be more than welcome to do just that at their Seal River Heritage Lodge 40 miles north of Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast.
“It’s the only place in Canada where you can actually go out and walk with the polar bears in their natural environment,” said Mike Reimer, who has been stomping the terra with the polar bears for over 30 years. “We would absolutely love to have the Obama and Doer families visit our polar bear eco-lodges and take part in all the activities we have to offer.”
That of course, would include walking with polar bears on the coast of Hudson Bay and snorkeling with beluga whales in Hudson Bay, not to mention eating gourmet meals straight from the award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears, which were co-written by Jeanne Reimer’s mother Helen Webber of Webber’s Lodges.
Helen is married to Webber’s Lodges owner and former Churchill mayor Doug Webber. She is certainly no stranger to hosting dignitaries at the Webber’s home in Churchill and preparing spectacular feasts for them, including Ambassador Doer when he was Premier of Manitoba,
Helen’s dinner parties in Churchill are legendary, the last of which was held for the top international executives of the Canadian Tourism Commission, who later flew out to see the polar bears at Seal River Lodge. The dinner, and the trip to Seal River Lodge, received rave reviews.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who is promoting healthy eating as her platform while in the White House, would likely enjoy herself immensely in Churchill Wild’s family-run tundra kitchen, which prides itself on utilizing the freshest ingredients available from the surrounding landscapes.
Mrs. Obama launched her Let’s Move initiative to battle childhood obesity and improve the quality of food in U.S. schools in February, 2010 and on March 16, 2011 she reached an agreement with Crown Publishing Group to author a cookbook in which she will talk about the garden she established on the South Lawn of the White House. Due out in 2012, Mrs. Obama’s new cookbook will also explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities. You can watch the video about the White House Garden here.
“Last year we built the new dining room,” said Reimer. “Right now we’re hauling in a new gourmet kitchen. It was designed by Len Friesen and it will be the first of its kind in the arctic. We’re planning on having a Celebrity Chef Contest at some point with a combination of original creations and recipes from the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbooks that will feature seal, caribou, moose, goose, arctic char, northern pike, lake trout, local plant garnishes, wild blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. In between cooking sessions we’ll be out on the tundra with the polar bears or swimming with whales. We would love for Mrs. Obama to participate!”
But seriously, fabulous food and cooking contests aside, what about safety and secret service and fighter planes?
“We’ve never had a polar bear problem in the 30 years that we’ve operated our lodges,” said Reimer. “It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience and our guests love being able to get up close and personal with the polar bears. It’s one of the few places on earth where you can actually go out and walk with the bears, and there are numerous safety measures in place. I’m not sure what the bears would think of secret service agents and jet fighters. They probably wouldn’t even notice.”
While he was Premier of Manitoba, Ambassador Doer persuaded numerous high-profile people to visit Churchill, including Janet Napolitano, who is now President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security; David Wilkins, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada; and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Last fall, famous visitors to Churchill included George Stroumboulopoulos, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Martha Stewart.
Still, try to imagine the Turbo Beaver taking off from Churchill for Seal River Lodge accompanied by fighter jets. Or the curious looks on the polar bears’ faces when the secret service agents arrive with the Obama family. And what kind of boat would be required if the Obama and Doer families decided to go swimming with the beluga whales? Would the Zodiaks suffice?
“It would something very special for us,” said Reimer. “We would like to extend a heartfelt open invitation to both the Obama and the Doer families to visit Seal River Lodge any time. It would be an incredible honor.”
Churchill polar bear trip, 5-Star hospitality, result in glowing testimonial from Canadian Tourism Commission for Churchill Wild
Steve Allan, Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), his wife Marjie, and five members of the CTC had a chance to experience the hospitality of Churchill Wild, Mike and Jeanne Reimer and the Webber Family when the Olympic Torch made its way through Churchill, Manitoba on the weekend of November 6-9, 2009.
Not only were the Commission Members treated to a gourmet meal at the the Webber’s home in Churchill, they also flew to Seal River Heritage Lodge to see the polar bears, one of which happened to greet their party as they departed their plane.
The Webber family and Churchill Wild thoroughly enjoyed having their CTC guests, especially on Olympic Torch Weekend!
And as you can see from the thank-you letter below, the CTC members also had a fabulous time!
Thank You! Please visit again soon!
Dear Jeannie, Mike, Helen and Dave:
On behalf of my wife, Marjie, and the other five members of the Canadian Tourism Commission team, I want to thank all of you for the truly amazing experience we enjoyed in Churchill at Webber’s Bed and Breakfast and at the Seal River Lodge on November 6 through 9, 2009.
Firstly, our stay at Webber’s Bed and Breakfast was wonderful. I am sure we had the most comfortable lodging in all of Churchill and there is no doubt we had the most outstanding meals of anywhere in Churchill. Helen and Dave, the caribou dinner on Saturday night was absolutely spectacular. Marjie has been carefully studying her new cookbooks ever since we arrived home and I am looking forward to sampling more of Helen’s recipes.
Dave, I am so happy you talked us into flying over to Seal River Lodge on Sunday. The flight over was very cool and it is always an experience to be able to fly at 200 feet, to view wildlife, rivers and the environment.
To climb off the airplane and see a curious polar bear coming to investigate about 100 yards away was initially a bit unnerving, but given the knowledge and attention to safety of everyone at Seal River, we all quickly relaxed.
We really appreciated the wonderful lunch and hospitality and were very impressed with the physical facility you have developed at Seal River over the years.
All of us were impressed with the warmth, friendliness and professionalism of all of the staff at the lodge.
Then the fog rolled in.
We’ve all experienced flight delays from fog or other conditions but I can’t imagine a better place to be fogged in than at Seal River.
The welcoming spirit, warmth and hospitality of you and all the staff really came to the fore. You could not have done more for us. When you produced eight toothbrushes and contact lens solution, that was the crowning touch.
To be able to see polar bears eyeball to eyeball at the lodge was an amazing experience I will never forget. You will recall one bear sniffing around the front door on Sunday evening and looking in the window and a second bear making a similar house call on Monday morning.
Seeing those polar bears from that perspective is an experience that very few people can claim to have had.
I was also struck by the beauty of the landscape. The incredible sunrise over Hudson Bay was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed. The different shades of light on the water, ice and snow were spectacular.
It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to meet each one of you and I hope that our paths will cross again in the future. Congratulations for the great job you are doing for Northern tourism. You offer a very special product that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere in the world.
Best regards to all and please keep in touch.
Yours very truly,
To learn more about Churchill polar bear viewing trips and our new 2010 polar bear photo safari please visit the main Churchill Wild Web site at http://www.ChurchillWild.com
Churchill Wild chefs serve up gourmet meals for Canadian Tourism Commission on Olympic Torch weekend
A delegation from the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) ventured to the polar bear capital of the world – Churchill, Manitoba – to join in the festivities on the weekend the Olympic Torch arrived in this small arctic seaport town, and the Churchill Wild chefs had the honor of cooking dinner for them!
Helen Webber and Dave Schellenberg prepared dinner for a group of 15 which included delegates from the CTC, a representative from Travel Manitoba, Frontiers North owners Linda and Merv Gunter, Frontiers North GM John Gunter and his wife Lisa Joy. Below is the menu the Churchill Wild chefs prepared for the group:
Your Dinner tonight has been prepared fresh for you while you were out on your Tundra Buggy Adventure. Our bread is made fresh daily with fresh ground flour and all berries are hand picked on hands and knees and are local to Churchill and our Lodges.
Feel free to ask questions, indulge and enjoy!
The weekend of November 6-8, 2009 was an exciting time to be in Churchill, Manitoba. Not only was polar bear season in full swing, the Olympic Torch also made its way into this tiny arctic seaport community of less than 1000 round residents.
The weekend celebrations began with a town social (a Manitoba tradition to party and raise money for events and charities). There was an excellent turn out of local townspeople, tour operators and especially tourists, who were flocking to the Polar Bear Capital of the World to try and catch a glimpse of these ice giants.
Saturday was a typical day in Churchill during bear season. The streets were filled with tourists and buses were zooming back and forth with people going to see the polar bears on one of the massive buggies that operate just east of the town.
At the Webber house, Helen and I were busy in the kitchen preparing a meal fit for a king. We had been asked by Lynda Gunter of Frontiers North if we could host a dinner for a group of people who were here to see polar bears and take part in the Olympic Torch Run.
Our guests showed up that evening after a very eventful day on the Tundra Buggy. Among them were Steve Allen, the Chairman of the Board for the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), and his wife Marjie; Charles McKee, Vice President International for the CTC; Sandra Teakle, the CTC representative from France; and Donna Campbell, the CTC representative from Australia. Our guests were also staying at the Webber house for the weekend!
Dinner went off beautifully and our 15 guests also included Lynda and Merv Gunter from Frontiers North, their son John and his wife Lisa Joy. The only interruption of the evening was the postponement of dessert so we could all go out and enjoy the fireworks display that was put on that night.
After breakfast the next morning we ventured out to watch as the Olympic Torch was carried through Churchill to the Town Square, where the Olympic Cauldron was lit. Among the officials in attendance were the President of Coke, the new Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger, and Deputy Premier Eric Robinson, Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs.
After watching the Olympic ceremonies we took a group of seven from the CTC and crowded into the Turbo Beaver for the 25-minute flight north along the coast of the Hudson Bay to Seal River Heritage Lodge. We thought we were just going for quick lunch, but upon arrival there was a sleeping polar bear only 100 yards away from the airplane.
The big white bear awoke from his sleep and proceeded to check out the new arrivals! He was within 20-yards of us before he decided we were not a threat, and he sauntered off to his napping spot again. We made the 10-minute trek to the Lodge through six inches of glistening white snow, all the while keeping an eye on our new white friend, who had moved to the runway to pushover one of our marking signs.
After a quick lunch of Hamburger Soup and Chocolate Banana Crater Cake, our hosts Mike and Jeanne Reimer, gave us a bit of an orientation, including a history of the area. We took a quick tour of the Lodge, and got the call that the plane was in the air already on its way to pick us up. That was quick! Ten minutes later we looked out the window and saw nothing. We were fogged in and it wouldn’t lift until sundown, which made it too late for the plane to take off from Churchill. We were at the Lodge for the night.
But there was more than enough room, and the staff appeared to enjoy accommodating an extra seven people for the night. In fact, our extra guests were treated no differently than any other. They enjoyed appetizers and cocktails, as well as the slide shows we present in the evenings about polar bears and the local wild life in and around our Lodge and the Churchill area. Everyone had a bed to sleep in, their bellies were full, and we even found extra toothbrushes and contact solution!
We awoke to a stunning sunrise over the ice forming on Hudson Bay. And just when the sun had fully risen, a large male bear walked up the road and right to the front door of the Lodge. He must have smelled breakfast! And all of our guests had a chance to get up close and personal with the bear while staying in the warmth and comfort of the Lodge. We made it out of the Lodge that morning and everyone made it home safe and sound.
For many in the group it was the polar bear trip of a lifetime.
The friendships and memories created that weekend will certainly last that long.