by Doreen Booth, Churchill Wild Adventure Specialist
This past November, I was at our Seal River Heritage Lodge for the last departure of the Polar Bear Photo Safari. While at the Lodge, I had the opportunity to visit with Clare and Andy Coleman, two guests who were up for their second trip with us. I knew they lived near London, England, so when I told them I might have a trip to London coming up, they told me to contact them should the trip go ahead.
It is a rare opportunity that I get to visit with our guests in their home country, so I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with Clare and Andy for a visit. This was primarily a work trip (of course) but, due to timing, I found myself with a free weekend.
Clare and Andy live outside of London and had not had the opportunity to be “tourists” in London for many years so they were excited to take me around to see the sights. My only requests were to get as many pictures as I could of all the sights I had been driving by all week, and to see a musical.
We met up Saturday morning and our first stop was the very long line for Wicked tickets (yes, my musical wish come true!) From there, we found “Big Bus Tours” and purchased a hop-on hop-off two day pass. This became our mode of transportation for the weekend!
Our first stop was the Tower of London – “Built to strike fear and submission into the unruly citizens of London.” There were many people who lost their heads in this tower over the years for their unruly behavior. In the White Tower we saw the armor of Henry VIII, the beautiful 11th-century Chapel of St John the Evangelist, and the Crown Jewels.
The Tower of London was also used to house exotic animals. These animals were given as royal gifts and animals were kept at the Royal Menagerie for the entertainment and curiosity of the court. There were many stone sculptures around the Tower showing the different types of exotic animals including a polar bear that was gift from the King of Norway. We spent almost five hours exploring.
Our evening was comprised of a cruise on the River Thames, more sightseeing on the Big Bus Tour, a dinner of fish and chips at a small pub in the theatre district, and Wicked the musical. I have to admit I now have a different opinion of the Wicked Witch.
Sunday brought an open sky and wonderful sunlight! We headed straight for the London Eye, as it was the perfect day to see the sights from high above. After driving around the city all week it was great to see the city from a different vantage point.
Afterwards, we walked past Big Ben to get some close-up pictures and then we headed over to Westminster Abbey. It was neat to see the buildings in person and remember them from when the royal wedding took place.
Next, we headed over to Buckingham Palace for more photo opportunities and then to the Queen’s Gallery to view an exhibit titled The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton & Antarctic Photography.
After viewing the wonderful display of pictures we headed to a restaurant for lunch before parting ways. There was still work for me to do before Monday.
It was wonderful to meet up with my friends in London. I appreciate the time they took to show me around the city and keep me company. I learned a lot, laughed a lot, and will remember my trip to London for many years to come.
Thank you to Andy and Clare for being great “tour leaders” on my trip!
Wow, talk about role reversal!
Churchill Wild guest Claire Wilson makes semi-finals in Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition
by Claire Wilson
We visited Seal River Heritage Lodge on Churchill Wild’s Great Ice Bear polar bear tour at the end of October 2009. I have always had a huge fascination with polar bears and was extremely excited about visiting the Seal River area in search of polar bears. I tried not to get my expectations too high however, telling myself that we might only get a distant glimpse of a bear.
How wrong I was!
As soon as our plane touched down at Seal River, we could see several bears around us. Within an hour, there were two bears play-fighting a few feet from the front door of the lodge – amazing! I felt like I had died and gone to wildlife heaven!
We were lucky to get a mixture of conditions – the weather was dry and bright when we first arrived, but we then had plenty of snow and at one point the temperature cooled down to -27 degrees.
Our whole three days at the lodge were jam-packed with photo opportunities. Terry and Andy, our friendly and knowledgeable guides, were ready to take us out for hikes at any opportunity, and we saw plenty of bears every time we ventured outside. Everyone learned a great deal about these majestic animals and their environment, and every day we all came back with full memory cards on our cameras. My husband Pete and I took about 3000 photographs between us!
Upon returning home, I was so proud of some of my photographs that I decided to send a few into the Wildlife Photographer of The Year competition, now in its 46th year and organized by The Natural History Museum, London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. This is a huge competition which has tens of thousands of entries from all over the world every year. Last year there were over 43,000 entries, and apparently there were well in excess of this amount for 2010.
I was absolutely stunned when I recently received an e-mail advising me that three of my entries had made it into the semi finals!
One photograph entitled “High and Mighty” (Semi-Finalist in the Category Animal Behaviour: Mammals) was taken on our first full day at Seal River when we went for a long group hike. The two bears seemed to want to perform for the cameras!
I shot “On The Rocks” (Semi-Finalist for the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife) the next day, literally feet from the lodge. And the third photograph I submitted, “Clash of the Titans” (also a Semi-Finalist in the Category Animal Behaviour: Mammals) was taken on our last morning at Seal River Heritage Lodge just a few minutes before we had too, reluctantly, leave this wonderful location.
We had such a great time with Churchill Wild! I can’t wait to return for our next adventure!