Spectacular polar bear viewing, fabulous guests and a beautiful new dining room make for wondrous summer on Hudson Bay Coast
Unbelievable, wow, incredible, spectacular, best ever, life changing, beyond expectations, and the list goes on – we can never quite identify the right superlative to describe this past season at Churchill Wild!
Once again the guest book is full of great comments and wondrous praises heaped upon our hard working staff and the awesome Churchill Wild polar bear experience they provide. Thank you to all our new found friends, who traveled from all corners of the globe this year, for making the time and financial commitment to join us on the Hudson Bay coast.
It’s difficult to look back over the crazy exciting busyness of this summer season and identify the highlights – there were so many! One of the most important accomplishments was the completion of the new dining room, with its huge viewing windows looking out over the Bay, a new roof, a new tower access, new decks, and new staff quarters.
I get tired just thinking about all the work that had to be done to see that beautiful building standing there. Yvan and
crew pulled off another miracle, from planning the project last season, to ordering and shipping materials by train to Churchill in January, then spending two weeks in March dragging freight over the frozen sea to the Lodge and finally back in June with the construction crew to build like madmen so we could be ready for first guests in July. Wow! And now we start the whole process all over again – Jeanne has “assured” all of us that she is getting her new kitchen next year.
Our summer Birds, Bears, and Belugas adventure might well have been called Bears, Bears, and Bears as we enjoyed some of the finest summer polar bear action on the planet. Seal River has always been a mecca for polar bears coming off the ice in July, but this year was nothing short of incredible.
One afternoon aerial tour spotted over 100 bears within 30 kilometers of Seal River, numbers which were certainly confirmed by the daily bear action at the Lodge. And the whales continue to enthrall intrepid snorkelers with their charming attention to the strange creatures invading their watery domain. Interactive singing opportunities brought out the creative in everyone. And although it was difficult to tell which whale “whisperer” had the best tune, it was fairly obvious that our whale friends enjoy listening to a well gurgled tune.
This past year Churchill Wild also completed the purchase and expansion of the Canada’s newest and most exciting polar bear destination, the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge located near Cape Tatnum. Cape Tatnum is home to the greatest concentration of summer polar bears on earth and is also near the site of a recently discovered polar bear denning area, not to mention fantastic wolf viewing, countless moose, and a bird migration beyond number. This will undoubtedly become the finest wild polar bear adventure in our ever-expanding stable of great polar bear trips, on par with the great African wildlife safaris of years gone by. Please plan to join us!
Churchill Wild can now guarantee world class polar bear viewing and ground level polar bear photo opportunities at its remote ecolodges from July through to the end of the traditional November season – another world first.
A big heartfelt thanks to all our wonderful guests for making Seal River Lodge a fabulous place to be this summer! We couldn’t have done it without you. Now it’s time for the Great Ice Bear Tour and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.
We hope you can join us again someday soon!
– Mike & Jeanne Reimer & Family
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!
Churchill Wild chef and owner Jeanne Reimer will have a chance to showcase her family’s award-winning Blueberries and Polar Bears Cookbook series and more on July 31, 2010 when their exclusive polar bear eco lodges participate in Food Day Canada 2010.
“We’re very proud to participate in Food Day Canada,” said Reimer, who is clearly looking forward to the challenge. “It’s very exciting for us!”
This year, Food Day just happens to coincide with Churchill Wild’s Birds, Bears and Belugas tour, an exclusive wildlife viewing vacation on Canada’s rugged Hudson Bay coast on which international guests have the opportunity to walk with polar bears, swim with beluga whales and experience the wonders of the ancient tundra landscape, spectacular coastal views and of course… the fabulous food!
Jeanne’s mother Helen Webber is the co-author of the bestselling Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series, all the books in the series having been inspired by the most requested recipes at Webber’s Lodges and Churchill Wild.
The culinary expertise in the Webber and Reimer families now spans multiple generations, with husbands and wives, children and grandchildren involved in blending tradition with imagination to come up with fabulous creations that satisfy even the most discerning palate.
So while the guests are working up an appetite viewing wildlife, hiking the tundra and taking photos, Jeanne Reimer and family will be preparing culinary delights ranging from appetizers to gourmet dinners – all prepared with a nod to local culture and traditional resources. Jeanne has yet to decide what will be served to celebrate Food Day 2010 but promises it will excite the taste buds and do Canada and their International guests proud.
Churchill Wild’s imaginative creations will be eligible for awards in three different categories including Innovation, Adaptability and Hyper Local.
The Innovation Award will be presented to restaurants and individuals who approach food in a new and exciting manner. This can be done to solve a problem or just to add creative flare to a traditionally prepared dish. It can include one ingredient in a dish, or all ingredients in the dish. Or perhaps, there’s an interesting story behind the entire menu! Regardless, this award will be great testament to a Canadian chef who is always pressing the limits of food preparation.
The Adaptability Award takes into account that some of us are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of cooking regionally and locally. Living in a small farm community certainly has its advantages, whereas some urban centres are severely limited by what the local super market chain brings in. Canada’s climate is famously diverse and challenging. The Adaptability Award is presented to a restaurant and individual who exemplifies adaptability, given an environmental, social or other limitation.
The Hyper Local Award will be presented to the establishment or individual who redefines local ingredient sourcing. Perhaps all the items on the menu are local, or perhaps the greens were grown on the windowsill of the urban bistro, or the bees for the honey were kept on the roof! The salmon might have been line caught off the dock, or maybe the flour was milled on the premises. This award recognizes the importance of local sourcing, in terms of the economic and environmental impact, historic significance, or just for the fun of it!
Churchill Wild is one of over 130 food establishments participating in Food Day across Canada. To make a reservation at Churchill Wild, please contact them at the number below. For other restaurants in your region or across Canada, please visit the Events page at the Food Day Canada Web site.
About Food Day
Now in its eighth year, Food Day 2010 will honor establishments, restaurants and individuals who best exemplify the philosophy of “local, regional, seasonal” by presenting awards in several unique categories. Bronze, silver, and gold awards will be presented for exemplary skill, creativity and conscientiousness within the relevant category. The awards are sponsored by leaders in the Canadian food industry, and will carefully reflect the spirit and philosophy of each category.
Food Day Canada was founded by renowned culinary activist, educator, and writer Anita Stewart, who describes the celebration as a showcase of her life’s work. Stewart has been traveling across Canada since 1983, identifying and writing about its essential nature as a regionally diverse food nation. Before “local, regional, seasonal” was in vogue, Stewart was visiting the country inns, farmer’s markets, First Nations and lighthouses of Canada.
Today, many of Canada’s food industry leaders credit Stewart with influencing their style and philosophy. Stewart has 14 books to her name and hundreds of articles published in all major Canadian news and food publications. She broadcasts on CBC Radio One. She holds a Master of Arts (Gastronomy) and is an honorary lifetime member of the Canadian Culinary Federation of Chefs and Cooks. Stewart is supported by a team of dedicated media, marketing and restaurant pros at the tops of their fields, including some of the most notable culinary figures in Canada.
Churchill Wild Polar Bear Photo Safari host Dennis Fast participates in international photo competition
Professional photographer Dennis Fast is building an international reputation for himself and Churchill Wild is proud to count him among those who are responsible for our success. Dennis was recently selected to be one of 20 photographers in a contest organized by the The Images for Conservation Fund (ICF), which offers prize money of $180,000 and world-wide recognition to the participants.
After almost a decade of being our unofficial resident photographer Dennis now hosts many of our Polar Bear Photo Safari tours which run in October and November. If you take a look around the Churchill Wild Web site many of the beautiful wildlife and landscape photographs are his work.
The Arctic Photo Safari that Dennis hosts provides professional and amateur photographers the opportunity to experience ground-level photography with breathtaking landscapes and wildlife including polar bears - and don’t forget the incredible displays of the Aurora Borealis.
Check out Dennis’ work on the Churchill Wild Web site, on our Churchill Wild Facebook Page and on his own personal photography Web site for some spectacular polar bear photos and examples of what you could add to the brag bin of your personal photograph collection.
If you think you might be interested in visiting our Polar Bear Eco Lodges for one of these photo tours please e-mail us and we’ll send you all the information you need. We only run six Polar Bear Photo Safari Tours a year so space is limited.
by Elaine Peters
(This article orginally appeared in, and is reprinted courtesy of, The Carillon Newspaper – May 13, 2010)
It is possible that photographer Dennis Fast could receive recognition for his photography on a world scale. He was accepted into a month-long photo competition in Texas, competing against 19 other professional photographers representing eight countries: USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Holland, Italy, and Argentina. The only other Canadian was from Quebec.
The first step was to be accepted as one of the contestants. The deadline was February, and that had come and gone. But when a couple of contestants dropped out, Dennis was phoned. He felt a little like he came in through the back door. Technically, in order to be considered professional, contestants were supposed to receive 80 percent of their income from photography. That was not the case with Dennis, yet when he told them that he had a couple of books out and had done some other work, that was good enough. He was in.
On March 12, 2010 Dennis and Frieda Fast set out on their great adventure. One week before the competition started, there was a big event where all the contestants were gathered together. Photographers were paired with landowners by a draw from a camera bag. Once on the 90,000 acre ranch, Dennis had from April 1-30 to shoot with Frieda as his official assistant. The pressure was on. The weather was cool, 24-25 degrees Celsius instead of the usual 35-37 degrees.
When intermittent rains destroyed the roads on the ranch for ten days, the pressure increased. One 4X4 left foot-deep ruts. Eventually Dennis and Frieda were given the use of an ATV so that they could resume their photography. The silver lining to this cloud was that the rain brought out creatures that would not otherwise be seen, for example, toads only come out after rain.
The Images for Conservation Fund (ICF) was running this competition for the third time. The first competition was in 2006 and there were 100 contestants. By now it had been narrowed to 20.
The competition takes place every second year in the Rio Grande area near Laredo, Texas, near the Mexican border. The goal is that ranchers would become open to other uses of their land besides hunting, with the photos from the competition being used to promote photography tourism. One hundred and eighty thousand dollars in prize money is on the table. The top prize is $80,000 to be split 50/50 with the ranch owner whose land the photographs were taken on. This year’s winning photos will be published in a book.
The winners will be announced July 10, 2010. Before then Dennis has to sift through 175,000 photographs and choose the best ones to submit. He can only submit 40: ten of birds, ten of mammals, ten of insects and ten of reptiles.
When the polar bears are forced on to the mainland of Canada by the melting sea ice, they can be viewed at surprisingly close quarters, on foot, on the coast of Hudson Bay, while based at remote polar bear eco lodges. As Jolyon Attwooll discovered during a recent visit to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, this can be a mesmerizing experience.
“And then, a veritable bear bonanza was under way. Where most of us could just see endless tidal flats, Butch saw polar bears – and lots of them. Inching nearer on the all-terrain vehicles, we cut the engines – and, impatient to get closer, I volunteered to follow Butch on foot, along with a Californian student photojournalist. After that exhilarating first encounter less than a football pitch away, we thought perhaps that the best was over. It wasn’t.”
“On the far side of a rough meadow, a sow nosed out into a clearing, with two young polar bear cubs in tow. Tentatively, she edged forward, sniffing the air, anxious to steer clear of several nearby boars. Making her way around the edge, she turned towards us, head raised. Perhaps it was a superfluous rustle – a gooseberry thorn or bug too far – but something spooked her. Breaking into a run, she veered toward the tree cover, her offspring gamboling behind. In one unforgettable movement, she reared onto her hind legs, her white body framed by a spruce behind as she surveyed the area for threats. Then she dropped back onto all-fours and moved swiftly away through a shield of trees, her infants still on her tail.”
The above excerpt is from the story Polar Bears in Canada: Trailing the world’s largest carnivore, which appeared in the Safari and Wildlife Holidays section of the Daily Telegraph in the UK.
Churchill Wild, owner of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, has been the premier ecotourism outfitter in northern Manitoba for over 40 years. Our one-of-a-kind on-the-ground polar bear tours at remote polar bear eco lodges cannot be experienced anywhere else on the planet.
If you’re truly looking for an adventure holiday with polar bears, we offer the chance to fly in and get up close and personal with the world’s largest carnivore in their natural environment, while at the same time enjoying nature at its finest, fabulous company, cuisine from our award-winning cookbooks, and the comfort our remote polar bear ecolodge on the Hudson Bay Coast.
Up to 400 polar bears pass by the remote Nanuck Polar Bear Lodge in an average season, but what makes this gathering of polar bears bears so unique is the high concentration of mother bears and cubs. These are not habituated “Park bears” or hunted bears that run at the sight of humans.
These are pure, wild polar bears living the way they have lived since time began.
For more information on Churchill Wild’s remote polar bear lodges and polar bear ecotours please visit Churchill Wild or Nanuk Polar Bear Lodges, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Toll Free: 1 (866) 846-9453.