Reach for the Rainbow polar bear trip draws rave reviews. Churchill Wild donates Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure for 25th Annual Crystal Ball.
Special to Churchill Wild
by +George Williams
Nicole Leaper surprised her husband Bob on his 60th birthday last year by giving him a Churchill Wild Polar Bear Photo Safari in a blog post.
Nicole had won the trip in a Reach for the Rainbow live charity auction at that organization’s annual Crystal Ball, proceeds of which go to benefit the integration of children and youth with disabilities into the mainstream of society through summer camp programs in Ontario.
The couple had a fabulous experience on their polar bear adventure and will be back again for the 25th Annual Crystal Ball on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“We’re proud to be associated with Reach for the Rainbow and the work they do for the kids,” said Rick Kemp, Director of Marketing and Communications at Churchill Wild. “It’s a wonderful cause and we’re happy to be able to contribute to making the lives of the kids and their families better.”
“It’s for both the kids and their families,” said Nicole. “The kids go to camp for a week and the parents are afforded a respite while knowing their kids are having fun, learning and growing in an enriched, supportive environment.”
Bob wholeheartedly agreed. The Director of Information Technology at Southern Graphic Systems Canada also had rave reviews for Churchill Wild. He was thrilled to learn he was going on a trip to photograph polar bears last year after being cajoled by Nicole into reading How to Gift Wrap a Polar Bear.
“Is that me?” he asked with surprise in his eyes. “Yes,” smiled Nicole. “Yeah!” he exclaimed.
A self-described serious amateur photographer, Bob was ecstatic about having a chance to photograph polar bears. He’d traveled the world over the past few years to take photographs, which he displays at RobertLeaper.com, and thought that this would be an incredible opportunity to photograph the world’s largest land carnivore.
The couple flew from Churchill, Manitoba to the remote coast of Hudson Bay last fall by helicopter, instead of via the usual aircraft used to take visitors to the Lodge. That was the beginning of a trip that Bob said was, “Very well organized from the start. We were well looked after.” But when the couple landed at the Lodge they realized something was up.
“You’re immediately greeted by people with shotguns,” said Nicole. “That’s when you start to realize you’re the ones who are captive in this environment. The polar bears are at the top of the food chain here.”
The couple spent their time on the daily hikes with four other photographers who were, “very into nature photography” according to Bob. The days – and the polar bears – just flew by.
“Bears?” said Bob. “Oh my gosh! All the time. There were plenty of polar bears. It wasn’t easy to eat dinner. There was always something outside. We saw so many bears we got used to them. We started to look at landscapes, plant formations and other wildlife. We snapped the arctic fox during a lunch time and that was exciting!”
Because of the time of year and the chill in the air, camera lenses were often wrapped when inside so that they wouldn’t succumb to condensation when the group ventured outside. On one day there was so much polar bear action the group decided to leave their cameras outside.
“That was when we photographed the arctic fox,” said Bob. “We got some stunning photos that day. And we were able to get great shots even without big lenses. I have a 300 mm, but that was more than enough.”
“You don’t need a huge lens to get great shots. On the daily hikes we were able to get very close to the bears depending on their demeanor, and the guides were excellent, always chatting with us about the wildlife, the area and its history.”
Bob and Nicole were also impressed by the quality of the food at the Lodge.
“Gourmet meals,” said Bob. “Unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting that in such a remote area. Caribou, arctic char, pickerel, goose, local berries and other ingredients from the area. You couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Bob and Nicole’s polar bear trip with Churchill Wild will no doubt hold a special place in their hearts for many years to come. “I’ve traveled the world, and anyone seriously into photography would love this place,” continued Bob, who put his polar bear photos online at: http://www.robertleaper.com/polar/.
“It was an absolutely fantastic adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. And it was for a great cause. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
“My heart was beating out of my chest when I bid on that trip,” said Nicole. “I’d never done that before.”
Was it was worth it?
“In so many ways…”
Award-winning journalist plunges into Hudson Bay with beluga whales, hikes the tundra with polar bears, eats like a king
Some of Manitoba’s wildlife comes with claws attached – but there are gentler creatures here too, as Mike Unwin discovers on an encounter with beluga whales. — The Independent on Sunday
Mike Unwin, a UK-based, award-winning freelance writer and editor specializing in travel and wildlife, was a guest of Churchill Wild and Travel Manitoba this past summer on our Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure.
Unwin experienced the thrill of plunging into Hudson Bay with beluga whales, walked the ancient tundra with polar bears and ate like a king. Below are a few excerpts from the recent story he wrote for the The Independent on Sunday.
On snorkeling with beluga whales in Hudson Bay:
The idea is to get closer to belugas, the small white whales that gather here in their thousands every summer. I have already seen them from the air: scattered like rice over the wrinkled tablecloth of the bay, you could hardly miss them. But now, face down in the dark, choppy waters, meeting one is a more daunting prospect.
On hiking the tundra with polar bears:
The retreating tide has exposed a moonscape of glacial boulders across the mudflats, and it is behind one of these that we meet our first bear – having a kip. The long neck swings up, roman nose testing the breeze, before the head settles on massive forepaws, black eyes fixed on our approach.
On hanging out at Seal River Heritage Lodge:
…the lodge makes a delightful zoo. Inside, safe from inquisitive bears, wild weather and ravenous mosquitoes, we enjoy fabulous food – caribou wellington, blueberry muffins, snow goose casserole with wild rice – all prepared from treasured family recipes using tundra ingredients. And after stuffing our faces…
Churchill Wild has been the premier eco-outfitter in Northern Manitoba for over 40 years, but we’re always excited when polar bear watching season begins at our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, the only tourist camp along a 100-mile stretch of Hudson Bay coastline in Northern Manitoba, Canada.
One of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the world, it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. And we promise that you won’t find a better place, anywhere in the world, for close encounters with polar bears.
When the ice breaks up in June, the polar bears move ashore. During the summer months they socialize and prowl the shoreline, restlessly waiting for the ice to return. Many of these bears spend their summers within a few miles of our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. During an average season up to 400 bears pass by the Lodge.
What makes this population of polar bears so unique is the high concentration of mother bears and cubs. At Nanuk, our guests will encounter polar bears, and often these will be mothers with their offspring. Many of these bears have never seen a person before, and they have the calm demeanor of bears that have not learned to fear people.
Guests who visit Nanuk count themselves among a small group of lucky individuals who have seen these majestic animals up close, undisturbed. These are not habituated “Park bears” or hunted bears that run at the sight of humans.
“We have already been in many nature places in this world. We have seen the lions in Africa; the tigers in India; the grizzlies in Alaska; orangutans in Borneo; the penguins in the Antarctic; but one of the most beautiful places is Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge with their many polar bears. We were overwhelmed to experience so many, so close. We thank the entire staff who made these special days a wonderful experience.” – Marlies & Hartmut Thierfelder and Marlies & Siegfried Neubüser, Hamburg, Germany
These are pure, wild polar bears living the way they have lived since time began.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about this year’s trip to Nanuk. If you would like more information about Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge please call us at: 1.204.377.5090 or Toll Free at:1.866.846.9453. You can also e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear from you and…
Wish you were here!
A seasoned adventure traveler, writer and editor with world-wide safari experience, Katie wrote a story about her Churchill Wild experience for NUVO entitled A Canadian Safari – Churchill, Manitoba: the polar bear capital of the world, which appeared in their Spring 2011 Issue. Below are a few excerpts from Katie’s Story with a link to a PDF of the story at the end. Enjoy!
First polar bear
I see the first bear in the distance. A big, beautiful Ursus maritimus. Adrenaline kicks in and the quiet chatter halts, followed soon after by the clicking of camera shutters and zooming of lenses. Our guides remind us to be silent – although this bear is familiar with the presence of people by now, we don’t want to disturb or frighten it – and we take a few steps forward until I’m standing about 10 metres away from this larger-than-life beauty. I eye the guns slung over our guides’ shoulders: loaded, and a necessary precaution, they are very rarely used, and only to scare off an approaching bear. Nothing stands between us and this wild animal but a short distance and a few rocks; polar bears are capable of running up to 40 kilometres an hour.
A fight in the morning
One foggy morning, I awaken to an early morning knock on my bedroom door and a commotion outside. A night watchman stands guard over the lodge each night, eyes peeled for curious bears and Northern Lights. I’m expecting flashes of green and blue aurora borealis, but out of the main-room window is a more unexpected early morning sight: far in the rocky distance, two bears are stretched up on their hind legs, standing at least eight feet tall, their furry arms in the air like boxers, jabbing, dodging, and blocking each other, paws flailing. Their show of strength is spellbinding. I want to get closer. I walk with my guide until we come within about 15 metres…
About NUVO Magazine
Inspired by quality, NUVO is a lifestyle magazine for the Canadian sophisticate. It is our mandate to create an editorial environment that is stimulating, evocative, entertaining and informative, and relevant to both the amateur and the connoisseur. The NUVO reader is the inquisitive, culturally aware, well-travelled urbanite who appreciates a blend of insight and entertainment. We share the NUVO reader’s discerning taste in travel, food and wine, film and TV, fashion, art, architecture, design, business, automobiles and music. NUVO features the finest in writing, photography, illustration, design and production. Our commitment to quality is essential to being a leader in the magazine industry. It is thus our assiduous intention to craft a magazine that is quite simply unlike any other.
Imagine what it would be like to get a polar bear for your birthday! Is that even possible? And if so, how would you gift wrap it? And how would you give it to the person?
The answer to question one is… not quite, but close!
The answer to question three will have to wait until the end of this story.
Reach for the Rainbow, a non-profit organization which has pioneered the integration of children and youth with disabilities into the mainstream of society at summer camp programs throughout Ontario, provided the gift wrapping via its 24th annual Crystal Ball Fundraising Gala this past November in Toronto.
Churchill Wild provided the polar bears, in the form of a trip for two to their Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge, as one of 13 featured live auction items at the gala. The top prize was a BMW which went for over $130,000.
“It is due to the generosity and support of donors such as Churchill Wild that Reach for the Rainbow can deliver the integrated opportunities we do, to close to 700 children with disabilities across Ontario each year,” said Jennifer Jeynes, Reach for the Rainbow’s Manager of Communications & Public Relations.
“The amazing team at Churchill Wild have really stepped up to aid the charity, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be associated with such a wonderful company which provides the ultimate experience of adventure and exploration!” Churchill Wild’s Polar Bear Photo Safari gives professional, amateur and hobbyist photographers the chance to walk with polar bears for incredible on the ground opportunities.
Churchill Wild’s Director of Marketing & Communications Rick Kemp worked with disabled children for eight years and identified Reach for the Rainbow’s Crystal Ball Gala as an ideal event to support. His enthusiasm and the worthiness of Reach for the Rainbow’s goals made it was an easy sell to Churchill Wild owner’s Mike and Jeanne Reimer.
“Churchill Wild is a family business,” said Mike. “And when it comes to family, it’s really all about the kids.”
The winning bidder for the Polar Bear Photo Safari has been a guest of Fuel Advertising at the Crystal Ball Fundraising Gala for the last few years. Every year she buys her Christmas gifts at different charity events. This year was a little different – she wanted something unique and very special.
“I wanted a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime gift,” she said. “My husband is an avid photographer, he’s always had an interest in it. I think he will be blown away with this because it’s something he would not have discovered himself. He’ll be very surprised!”
Especially when he reads this, on February 4, 2011:
Happy Birthday Bob! — Love, Nicole
Professional photographer and world traveler Larry G. Kinney of Lexington, Kentucky was at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge for the Polar Bear Photo Safari last fall and gave a glowing report of his first meeting with Manitoba’s polar bears.
“Having photographed wildlife worldwide, I can truly say that photographing polar bears at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge is one of, if not the best experience I have had,” said Kinney. “The eye-level photography, the amazing scenery and backdrops, and the polar bear-like weather make for an unbeatable adventure.”
High praise considering Kinney has been on some spectacular wildlife photography trips. From grizzly bears in Alaska to penguins in Antarctica, from crocodiles in Kenya to sea lion pups in Australia and more, Kinney has seen some very wild places. He’s now proud to include the polar bears of Northern Manitoba, Canada in his portfolio. But it wasn’t just the polar bears and the northern lights Kinney enjoyed.
“Mike and Jeanne Reimer are excellent hosts,” said Kinney. “Andy and Terry (our guides) are very knowledgeable and safety conscious, and the staff were always busy taking care of the guests. The food was great and the lodge, way beyond my expectations, was perfect. In fact, the whole experience exceeded my expectations on every level.”
A photo gallery of Kinney’s trip to Seal River Lodge, along with his previous adventures, can be seen on his Web site: http://InOurSight.com. Kinney’s next trip will take him to the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda to photograph gorillas, but a return trip to visit the polar bears also made the future agenda.
“It is my goal to return to Churchill Wild’s Seal River lodge and also visit their Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for a very different experience”, said Kinney. “Mike and Jeanne, please save a space for me and thanks for an incredible adventure!”
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!
A polar bear photo safari for the discerning photographer!
Churchill Wild has added a new ecotour to it’s offerings, this one specially designed for discerning wildlife photographers. The Polar Bear Photo Safari takes place in October and November, which is prime polar bear season – a time when the polar bears begin to gather in large numbers as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can begin their annual hunt.
Photographers will fly into the heart of polar bear country and stay at Churchill Wild’s remote Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay Coast, where Arctic wildlife including polar bears, caribou, arctic fox and more can be photographed at ground level in a pristine untrammeled wilderness with a backdrop of incredible seascapes and landscapes. And let’s not forget the northern lights, which can often be spectacular at this time of year!
And of course you’ll also be treated to the finest food and wine in the arctic! If you’re a photographer and you’ve never trekked the tundra with the polar bears, you’re going to love this!
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!
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