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!
Photographing polar bears at ground level can be a rare and magical experience at remote Eco Lodges on the Hudson Bay coast. Not your normal Churchill fare.
Professional photographer Dennis Fast has been leading polar bear photo safari tours at Churchill Wild’s remote eco lodges on the Hudson Bay coast for years, yet every season he can’t wait to get back.
“I’m addicted,” smiled Fast.
What used to be a day trip to the wild Seal River to photograph polar bears has now developed into all-inclusive week-long stays at Churchill Wild’s polar bear eco lodges to photograph not only polar bears, but also arctic foxes and wolves, snowy owls, caribou, arctic landscapes and the northern lights.
Professional photographers, amateur photo buffs and world travelers from all over the planet come for the rare photo opportunities that can only be found at ground level in the natural environment of the polar bears.
“I love it,” said Fast. “The beauty of it is the polar bears have to walk by the point of land that juts out into Hudson Bay where the Lodge is, nine kilometers north of the Seal River. Polar bears are naturally curious. They smell the cooking at the Lodge and they’re also interested in the activity.”
It’s not unusual to have polar bears meander right up to the front door of Seal River Heritage Lodge on a daily basis, and often the bears will spend days lying around the Lodge enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of humans. It’s a unique environment where humans can meet polar bears in their natural home amidst spectacular scenery.
“When the tide is going in and out it creates surreal lunar-type landscapes,” said Fast. “During the summer you have these huge ancient boulders of black and gray and their shadows combined with bright orange sunrises and sunsets. In the winter when the tide envelops the rocks, they get covered in ice and you have this huge hummocky ice field, which is also enhanced dramatically by the sunrises over Hudson Bay. ”
In October and November there is a stunning mix of colors formed by a rare combination of the sun, warm air off the land, cold air off the bay, two major river systems and huge boulders rising from a glowing ice fog. That being said, the advantage of the remote polar bear eco lodge location is that the fog bank is further out, which allows much more opportunity to see polar bears. While Churchill can sometimes be totally socked in by fog, the atmosphere at the Lodge is clear.
The unique combination of weather at the Lodge often results in phenomenal northern lights viewing. The location at Seal River doesn’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to the northern lights.
“It’s among the premier aurora borealis viewing areas in the world,” said Fast.
But one of the major reasons Seal River Heritage Lodge attracts both professional and amateur photographers, as well as travel companies that offer photo tours, is for the ground-level photo opportunities.
“When you’re on the ground and a polar bear gets close to you the shot is that much more intimate,” said Fast. “You can’t get these types of shots from above, from a vehicle. You have to be there, on the ground. You can get them either by hiking over the tundra or through the specialized fence around the compound at the Lodge.”
Using a super wide angle lenses you can not only get unobstructed shots of the bears up close but also of the landscape in the background. The wide buffalo fence keeps the bears out while still allowing for exceptional photos. Smaller zooms can go right through for really intimate shots.
“Last year we got some great photos of a polar bear 35 feet away chewing on caribou antlers,” said Fast. “We wouldn’t get that close to a new bear, but with an old bear, a “resident” bear that has been around the Lodge for awhile, a unique relationship often develops between the bear and the photographers. They respect each other’s space. The bear knows he’s going to get yelled at or chased away if he comes too close and the photographers have no desire or need to intrude into the bear’s comfort zone. The bears are generally very quiet, they don’t threaten you.”
And it’s not just the polar bears. Two years ago there were over 3000 caribou in the area. The actual number of caribou around the Lodge at any given time depends on the weather patterns. Arctic foxes have been known to come right into the compound and just about take food out of your hands. There are also the arctic hares and in 2009 photographers were lucky enough to catch a White Gyrfalcon.
“Through guiding photo tours and staying at the Lodge I’ve met some fascinating people,” said Fast. “Professional photographers and photojournalists from some of the world’s top publications like National Geographic and the L.A. Times, and I’ve also met some of the world’s wealthiest people. Trading stories in this kind of company is more than enjoyable. I’ve met people from Japan, Mexico, China, Russia, Germany and the USA at the Lodge. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.”
The facilities at the Lodge are excellent and the food is superb, prepared from the family’s award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears. And importantly notes Fast, the trips are all-inclusive.
“Expenses can add up on a trip to Churchill when you take into account airfare, hotels, hot meals, day tours etc.” said Fast. “So the cost of staying at the Lodge is actually quite reasonable when you consider it’s an all-inclusive adventure vacation and you’re actually staying in the wild – experiencing the polar bear’s natural environment. Yet you still have all the comforts of home along with gourmet meals and great company.”
“This is going to get hot,” continued Fast. “Everybody’s starting to get wind of it and major adventure tour companies are starting to organize more and more arctic photo safari tours to the Lodge. They’re beginning to realize that this is a fabulous venue for polar bear photography and it’s only going to get better. I have tons of polar bear shots and I can’t get wait to get back there.”
Polar bears, the feeling of the arctic wilderness, the northern lights, arctic wildlife, great food, superb company and photo opportunities with soft light and a blend of colors you just can’t find anywhere else in the world.
“Catch a white polar bear in purple fireweed at sunset and add in the fog,” grinned Fast.
“And you’ve got something magical.”
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.
New polar bear viewing adventure at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge a chance to get close to polar bear mothers and cubs
Churchill Wild has a new polar bear wilderness lodge adventure!
Our long time friends Stewart and Barb Webber have spent the last 12 years operating Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge located near Cape Tatnam on Hudson Bay and have decided to let the folks at Churchill Wild carry on their great tradition of wilderness hospitality.
Nanuk is fast becoming known as one of the greatest wilderness polar bear lodges on the planet with an incredible summer polar bear migration right past it’s front door! A high percentage of polar bear mothers and cubs in a very unique coastal setting provide polar bear viewing opportunities second to none for avid photographers and bear lovers alike, all at ground level! Combine that with plenty of wolf and moose action, fantastic birdlife in stunning Hudson Bay vistas and you’ve got all the makings of another spectacular Churchill Wild experience.
And did we mention the spring and fall bird migrations?
The Canadian Wildlife Service count this past spring estimated 7-10 million waterfowl on the ground within an 80 km stretch of coastline at Nanuk – standing room only! For those of you who have joined us at Seal River Lodge in the past, rest assured that Nanuk is “wildly unique” in its setting and wildlife experiences, something along the lines of the great African safari camps. Though not as luxuriously equipped (yet) as our other destinations it boasts the same fabulous food, service and staff.
Nanuk’s rich history will play an integral part in your experience, as its past is “checkered” with over 300 years of the fur trade era, considered by some to be the very birthplace of Canada. Every season brings new discoveries of century old relics of sea battles gone wrong – upon arrival note the ancient cannons parked outside our door.
And bringing it all together will be your First Nations Cree guides and eco-hosts, who maintain an intimate connection with the wild lands you’ll see. They and their forefathers were making a living from this beautiful land long before we arrived and their knowledge base is sure to add to the richness of your adventure.
For a limited time only we are making a special offering of a 10% discount on direct bookings deposited for Nanuk by March 31, 2010. August through early September is the best time to take in one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth – the largest gathering of polar bears – anywhere.
See you on the coast!
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 email@example.com or call Toll Free: 1 (866) 846-9453.
What can we say but -WOW!! What an amazing season we had in 2008 thanks to all you wonderful people who made the effort to travel to our little Arctic paradise to take part in one of our polar bear wilderness adventures.
We might have to turn down the “volume” a bit as the sheer numbers of incredible “gigabyting” bear and whale sightings got to be a little overwhelming at times! (Websters: gigabyting: the sound made by multiple high speed shutter exposures blending together, usually involving six or more digital cameras. Occasionally applies to singular user if finger has become fixed in full auto mode due to visual over-stimulation.)
There is always a lot of work behind the scenes that goes on prior to the delivery of any great wildlife experience and this past year was no exception. We hope you enjoyed the new bedrooms with en suites as it took more than just a little effort to complete that renovation in time for the opening date in July. The project actually began taking shape with much planning, measuring and sketching going on in July of ‘07 while we were running that year’s Birds, Bears & Belugas program. This was followed by ordering and purchasing materials in fall of 07, shipping them to Churchill via train in January of this year, and finally hauling the 80,000 lbs of building materials to the lodges.
The hauling from Churchill to the lodge took place in April over the sea ice using a D6 Caterpillar and large sleigh which is quite an adventure in itself and soon to be a photo feature on our new web site. We then returned on June 15th with a construction crew of 6 very able bodied men and women who “slaved” many long exhausting hours to be ready for opening day. Stuart put the last coat of paint on at 4 a.m. six hours before the first guests arrived. Kudos to Len, Real,Yvan, Stuart,Andy,Terry, Riley, Karli and of course the “human forklift” – Barney!
The new rooms still need a few finishing touches and Jeanne has her sites set on a new kitchen and dining room which means we’re starting the whole building project planning over again for 2010!
Spring hauling was a great success, a lot was accomplished, no one got hurt or lost in a “whiteout” (blizzard) and best of all no equipment failures! Four of our Inuit friends from north of the border brought their trusty Bombardiers down from Arvait on the sea ice and managed to haul in 20,000 lbs. in one trip. Talk about a traveling road show, what a riot that was, though Dave and I had a little trouble with the raw beluga, walrus, and caribou offered for lunch and were grateful for the moose meatloaf Dave had packed for us.
Our Fire & Ice adventure in April, though a bit on the short side, was a huge success.All guests raved about Dave’s awesome cookery, the dogsledding, snowshoeing to the sea ice, northern lights, snowmobiling, and of course the finishing blizzard on the way back to Churchill wasa hit as well!