by Nolan Booth
There were three big polar bears hanging around Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge on the first day, one you could see from the Lodge. A mix of honkers and snow geese were buzzing the coast on and off all day. The numbers were low but it was still early. A mother black bear with three cubs showed up just outside the compound this afternoon while the guests were out “playing” with the white bears.
We have a small group of people for this trip and all are really getting along well with each other. Now all settled in and excited about the early bear sightings. Guest expectations were met right off the bat.
Had some good polar sighting bear sightings over the next two days and the guests got within 30 feet of a wicked black wolf. It was slower trying to travel east against a high tide and lots of water. Dinner was a little less formal than at Seal River Heritage Lodge as per guest recommendations and also the Aussies kept trying to clear the table etc. Everyone enjoyed the York Factory DVD.
The final day of the trip started off with a bang, literally! Lying in bed after the alarm went off I was woken up by a Kapow! That made me jump, and the screamer that followed it had me out the door in seconds to see one of our guides, Andy, backing off a big polar bear that had charged the fence. The bear backed off and we started getting the guests moving, but they certainly didn’t need much encouragement after that!
The big bear stayed with us, circling, hissing, and showing us how thrilled he was with Andy. He walked the entire way around from the kitchen to the runway. He then laid around for awhile before heading towards Hudson Bay to wake up another old timer for an argument followed by a morning mud bath. There was a wolf running east on the coast. All the guests spotted him, then another and another, five arctic wolves in total. Then the horseshoe jokes started.
It was a great way to end the trip!
Angela Saurine was at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge last summer and wrote for media outlets in Australia about her adventure.
It wasn’t until around lunchtime that we spotted our first polar bear wandering along the tidal flats in the distance its muddy brown feet making a stark contrast to its pure white body.
Another is swimming in the bay and a couple of others can be seen on the horizon. We decide to drive closer and stop for lunch.
“If we stay in one place for a while,” our native guide, Butch, says, “the bears will get used to us and come to us.”
To read the full story, click here.
Angela also posted a video to the News.com.au website. It can be found here.
by Rick Kemp
Most of our Churchill Wild polar bear eco-adventures take place at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Every year we’ve added an upgrade or two and our guests rant about the service, accommodations, and the unequalled on-the-ground access to polar bears. We are the only company on the planet that operates remote fly-in polar bear eco-lodges.
Last year we added a new 1400 square foot dining room with huge picture windows overlooking Hudson Bay, to provide guests with a sea-side dining experience that makes viewing any polar bears that might walk by (and decide to peak in) an exceptional experience for both humans and bears!
This year we’re adding a kitchen fit for a celebrity chef. Construction starts next week and Jeanne is particularly excited about the concept of her new workspace.
Seal River is increasingly becoming THE destination in luxury arctic adventure travel and we’re proud to host whenever we have the opportunity. Seal is home to the popular summer adventure Birds, Bears & Belugas as well as September’s Arctic Safari and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.
But Seal River Heritage Lodge is not the only lodge in the Churchill Wild arsenal – we also operate Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge for our Great Ice Bear Adventure. And last year we started a new project – Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge – which is home to our Mothers & Cubs Adventure.
This converted old goose hunting camp is about as secluded as you can possibly get! Located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Churchill, Nanuk is a 10 minute bush plane flight from the historic York Factory (and about an hour from Gillam). Nanuk has been around since the 1970s and the previous owner had often noted the massive number of polar bears in the area. As it turns out, Nanuk is situated right in the heart of newly discovered polar bear denning areas.
Last summer I went to Nanuk for the first time and it was a mind-blowing experience. The lodge can be best described as “rustic”. Individual cabins sleep two per room and at present the Nanuk operation can accommodate up to 12 people. Each cabin has its own bathroom and shower.
The main lodge has Wi-Fi, a kitchen, dining hall and a large common room with a fireplace and a bar. It’s all very cozy but not on the level of Seal River (yet). Plans are to bring it up to par with Seal but I must admit, the atmosphere at Nanuk lends itself well to an authentic arctic wilderness setting. The polar bears were plentiful and we also saw wolves, moose, Northern Lights and many different species of birds including eagles.
A number of media types were there with me (it was a media trip) and Michele Sponagle recounted our polar bear tale better than I could for MSN Travel in Polar Express. Angela Saurine came all the way from Australia and wrote Close Encounters with Polar Bears for News.com.au and Birgit-Cathrin Duval from Germany blogged about her experience in Guess who’s coming for dinner on her visual storytelling takkiwrites.com blog. We even had a trio from Mexico who gave us salsa dancing lessons one evening. Lucas Aykroyd and I spent our downtime talking about 1980’s hair bands and Euro heavy metal. Lucas wrote 1984: The Ultimate Van Halen Trivia Book so I knew ahead of time we would have lots to talk about.
The Mothers & Cubs Adventure at Nanuk takes place on the coast of Hudson Bay within the Cape Tatnam Wildlife Management Area, truly one of the most fascinating places on earth, with so much history I couldn’t get enough. I ended up reading three books about the area after my trip! Northern Manitoba is one of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the world – so remote that it has barely changed in thousands of years.
After a two hour flight from Winnipeg we arrived in Gillam and then took a bush plane to Nanuk. The breathtaking flight east from Gillam to Nanuk takes you over the Northern Taiga Forest and tracks the mighty Nelson River over the plains and tidal flats of Hudson Bay.
Following the same route the fur traders took for hundreds of years, you fly over York Factory, a trading post that was permanently established in 1684 by Governor George Geyer of the Hudson’s Bay Company – the beginning of Canada’s fur trade history. Some of the Nanuk staff expedition leaders are descendants of the Cree people who originally inhabited the area when the first Europeans arrived in the early 1600s.
This coastline of Hudson Bay around Nanuk and York Factory was in turmoil between 1600-1900 as the French and English played king of the hill – both looking to control the riches provided by the fur trade.
The early expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage would have followed the coast right past Nanuk. Many ships got wintered into the Bay and numerous explorers died in search of the elusive route. That in itself could be a blog post.
When you’re at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge you’ll notice all sorts of artifacts. The previous owner was an avid explorer of the area and always carried his trusty metal detector with him. Within the fenced compound you’ll find remnants of old shipwrecks such as brass railings and authentic cannons from the 1800s, possibly even earlier.
Butch and Gordie, two of the Nanuk guides, have been there for almost 30 years combined. Both are proud Canadian First Nations people who know the surrounding land through a deep spiritual connection. Gordie is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and Butch was born at York Factory in the 1950s, before the residents were relocated to York Landing Cree Nation. In the off season, Butch manages the York Landing airport but he loves to return to Nanuk every year.
The trip to the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge was my first Churchill Wild Adventure. I can’t wait to go back. There’s a shipwreck that we didn’t get a chance to see.
It’s on the top of my “to do” list.
Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge – What’s it really like? Photojournalist and adventure travel blogger Birgit-Cathrin Duval tells all
Writer/photographer Birgit-Cathrin Duval, who was recently nominated for a Best International Story Award 2010, was a recent visitor to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge - and she documented the entire experience!
An adventurous type who says she would rather sleep in a tent than a 5-star hotel, Birgit-Cathrin also says she loves the challenge of getting to where she’s going, meeting great people and listening to their stories.
“I don’t want to write a story,” she says in her bio. “I want to live it and bring back those experiences to my readers.”
Whether it be mountain biking in the Rockies, snowshoeing in Banff, riding horses in ranchland or swimming with beluga whales and hiking with polar bears, Birgit-Cathrin wants to be “in” the story.
That’s exactly what happened at Nanuck, where she found “friendly” polar bears, stormy weather and spectacular aurora borealis – all of which she photographed for her blog.
Birgit-Cathrin’s entire polar bear trip is documented on her visual storytelling blog at http://www.takkiwrites.com/. The blog is written in German but if you are using the Google Chrome browser with built in Google Translate, you can also read about her trip in English. And you definitely want to check out the photos!
Thanks for visiting Birgit-Cathrin!
“Bears to the left of me, bears to the right, here I am… stuck in the middle with Bears.”
Interested in trying some of our Artisan Bread for yourself? Here is Helen Webber’s recipe for what she calls Shaggy Bread.
“I have tried a number of recipes for Ciabatta breads,” says Helen, “And all of them have been delicious, but none have been this EASY and delicious!”
Shaggy Bread (Ciabatta Bread Recipe)
- 3 cups Warm Water
- 1 ¼ Tbsp. Sea Salt, Kosher Salt or 1 Tbsp. Table Salt
- 1 ½ Tbsp. Yeast, instant or regular
- 6 cups Flour – Unbleached or All Purpose – I often substitute 1 cup of some type of whole grain flour for a total of 6 cups
- Mix the water, salt and yeast, stirring to dissolve in a 16-cup container preferably with a lid. I use a gallon ice cream pail.
- Add the six cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is moistened. It should look like shaggy dough when you’re done. It will not be a smooth like regular bread dough and it will be quite sticky.
- Cover with lid (don’t put it on tightly) or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for two hours. Then refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Cut off about a third of the dough and shape into a ball on a well floured counter. Place on a baking sheet that has been well sprinkled with cornmeal. The whole sheet doesn’t have to be covered with cornmeal, just an area a little larger than the dough ball. Be sure the top is well covered with flour.
- Let rise for 40 to 50 minutes on the counter. Slice the top two or three times.
- Begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees about 20 minutes before it is time to bake the bread. Place a broiler pan on the floor of a gas oven, or on the bottom rack of an electric oven.
- When the oven is hot, place the bread on the rack above the pan and then immediately throw a cup of hot water into the pan. Close the oven quickly. Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.
This bread dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It just gets to be more of a sourdough as it ages. There is no need to wash the container between batches. It can also be doubled if you have a big enough container. A little wetter dough will give a different but still delicious result, as will slightly heavier dough.
Experiment and have fun!