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…
GeorgieJet, from the popular travel website “JohnnyJet.com“, came up to the Seal River Heritage Lodge this summer to experience Churchill Wild’s “Birds, Bears & Belugas“, a one-of-a-kind Arctic summer adventure.
Her first account of the adventure can be found here. Now on to part two!
BBB, as we like to call it, has the best of the best in an Arctic summer experience for wildlife lovers, it is a step beyond the traditional Churchill polar bear tour - beluga whale swims, incredible scenery, incredible Arctic cuisine, approximately 250 species of birds and Churchill Wild’s trademark polar bear hikes. It’s all on the ground, up close and personal with the world’s largest carnivore and environmental poster child.
Here’s part of what she had to say about the food at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge:
Most of the recipes come from the array of cookbooks written by Jeanne’s mother, but the creative chefs come up with their own as well. Breakfast included homemade granola, a hot cereal call Red River, yogurts, and fresh fruit. There were also homemade muffins, breads, egg dishes – like frittatas or egg blossoms, and bacon. The coffee is strong and delicious. The chefs (usually related to the Webbers/Reimers in some way, or friends of the family) cook in the open and the dining room completely surrounded by windows. The panoramic views really make you feel you are on top of the world and make wildlife spotting easy and there is a telescope and a deck accessible here.
Here’s part of what she had to say about swimming in the Hudson Bay with beluga whales:
Kayaking was a cool experience, because there were no bugs and the Belugas came quite close to us. At one moment, I felt like I was accompanied by many of them. Listening to their constant and highly physical breathing above the water was calming, like a meditation.
…the dry suit was cumbersome to put on and take off because I was sharing it, so I was a bit grumpy… until it was my turn to get into the water! The water was not at all cold (dry suit) and I opted not to wear the wetsuit hood. I had a snorkel and mask and was being “trolled” by my feet, face down on a 15 foot tether. An awkward position, but perfect for attracting the whales.
I did not get close enough to see the Belugas, as others did, but I heard them! It was absolutely magical! Their sounds are really incredible and I felt like I was on another planet surrounded by hundreds of welcoming, sentient beings talking to me in another language. I did not understand what they were saying, but I could FEEL their curiosity and their acceptance and love! I think the human group was disappointed that I did not see the Belugas underwater or get a picture of them, but I was completely satisfied. I would do it again in a minute, if I had the chance. It was undeniably another life changing moment within my 6 days at Seal River Lodge! As a travel writer, I have had hundreds of amazing experiences, but this is rated amongst my top five!
Make sure you go past the JohnnyJet website and read the whole thing. Georgette – thanks for coming up and sharing your experience!
GeorgieJet, from the popular travel website “JohnnyJet.com“, came up to the Seal River Heritage Lodge this summer to experience Churchill Wild’s “Birds, Bears & Belugas“, a one-of-a-kind Arctic summer adventure.
BBB, as we like to call it, has the best of the best in an Arctic summer experience for wildlife lovers, it is a step beyond the traditional Churchill polar bear tour - beluga whale swims, incredible scenery, approximately 250 species of birds and Churchill Wild’s trademark polar bear hikes. It’s all on the ground, up close and personal with the world’s largest carnivore and environmental poster child.
Rick Kemp, Churchill Wild’s Director of Marketing & Communications, met with GeorgieJet in New York this past spring and was able to entice her to pay us a visit. With the support of Travel Manitoba Georgie made her way to the “Wildest Place on Earth” and logged her experiences regularly from the lodge.
Here’s part of what she had to say about her life changing experience at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge:
We walked about 500 yards out on the mudflats as it was low tide. The large bear, approx. 1000 pounds, was another 500 yards farther out on a point of rocks. I was astounded at how close we were. He put his nose up in the air and got a whiff of our scent. Their sense of smell is incredible and their eyesight and hearing are keen as well. He sensed that we were not a threat or food, and continued to relax on his spot of sand and rocks, aware of us, but tolerant.
Go past the JohnnyJet website and read the whole thing! Georgie told us she will be writing about her beluga swim and Jeanne’s renowned meals next. We’ll let everyone know when that story becomes available.
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!
Here is a picture of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) taken on August 28, 2011 at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Our staff are at the lodge preparing for today’s arrival of the first 2011 guests.
There has been quite a bit of talk about polar bears starving in the arctic, but we’re not seeing that where we are on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. The photos in the gallery below were taken near our remote Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast during our recent Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure.
Polar bear watching at its best, on the ground, up close and personal. But not too close. We have great respect for a polar bear’s personal space – as should everyone. Still, the photos our guests are able to take with ground level access can be spectacular. You can view more polar bear photos taken by our guests here.
Wish you were here!
by Allison Reimer
It’s been a slower week at the Seal River Heritage Lodge because of the cool and cloudy weather but who can control that?
Thankfully the outdoor conditions haven’t deterred our adventurous polar bears, who have been plentiful for the opening week of Birds, Bears & Belugas.
We had a beautiful, big white bear wander by two days ago and last night we had a visit from a smaller bear. He sniffed around the lodge for quite some time and stood up to peer into the windows every once and a while.
Everyone was very excited – rushing from window to window as quietly as possible so as not to scare him off. Eventually he meandered off to get some rest and once the excitement died down we all followed suit.
Our videographer, Stuart, configured two cameras on top of what resembles a mini dune buggy in attempts to get Polar Bear footage at a closer (but safer for him) distance.
The guests are off on a new adventure today – a trip out to explore the tundra flats. We also have a group of travel agents from around the world visiting us for lunch today, courtesy of Travel Manitoba.
Churchill Wild is proud to announce their most ambitious adventure to date: the Arctic Safari!
Fashioned after a traditional African safari, Churchill Wild owner Mike Reimer saw an opportunity to offer Churchill Wild’s own version of “The Big Five” in the arctic. Set against the visually stunning fall colors of early September, the Arctic Safari promises to be an all encompassing encounter with endless photo opportunities and arctic wildlife experiences.
A small window in early September provides the perfect apex to see the widest variety of wildlife and brilliant displays of Aurora Borealis. The Arctic Safari takes you over 20,000 square kilometers of the wildest regions in the Arctic; providing the potential of seeing wolves, caribou, moose, three species of bears (polar, black and grizzly), beluga whales, arctic and colored fox, wolverine, beaver, pine marten and arctic birds.
The Arctic Safari will explore vast areas of Canada’s last remaining wilderness, from the Arctic “Serengeti” the great tundra plains known as The Barren Lands, through “The Land of Little Sticks” and finally down to the rugged Hudson Bay coastline, home of the Great White Bears.
The adventure begins in the frontier town of Churchill, Manitoba, Can ada – the Polar Bear Capital of the World – where guests will spend their first night and have time to take in the town sites, shops, historical points of interest, and hopefully snap a few shots.
The next morning guests will board the great Canadian bush plane, the deHaviland Beaver, and wing their way north-west to the finest Arctic Eco-Lodge on the planet, the remote Seal River Heritage Lodge – Churchill Wild’s polar bear viewing Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast.
Upon arrival, guests will meet their hosts, check into their private rooms, prep their camera gear and receive an orientation from the guides before heading out on to the tundra for one of Churchill Wild’s signature polar bear walks!
Up close, personal and safe.
During their stay at the remote polar bear lodge, guests will participate in a full-day fly-out to witness the fall caribou migrations on the northern border between Nunavut and Manitoba, from the air and on the ground. The Qamanirjuaq caribou herd (ka-min-YOO-ree-ak) is estimated to be between 300,000 to 400,000 strong, and Churchill Wild has located the perfect spot on the migration route to witness this stunning spectacle.
At Schmock Lake, where the Caribou experience originates, there is excellent hiking terrain consisting of high ground, climbing hills and rock ridges. The ground is untouched and there are only caribou trails.
“What makes this opportunity possible for Churchill Wild guests is the ‘on the ground’ nature of our adventures”, said Reimer. “We walk with polar bears. Our eye-level experiences with these magnificent creatures have become a Churchill Wild trademark.”
Seal River Heritage Lodge is already home to Churchill Wild’s popular Birds, Bears & Belugas and Polar Bear Photo Safari adventures. The Lodge features a 1400 square foot dining room overlooking Hudson Bay, private bedrooms with ensuite washrooms, Internet connectivity and all the comforts of home.
Churchill Wild offers the only fly-in eco-lodge based polar bear experiences in the world.
Their season runs from mid-July to mid November with limited space available for adventure packages. In addition to Seal River Heritage Lodge, Churchill Wild also operates Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge on the west coast of Hudson Bay, and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which is located approximately 30 kilometers east of York Factory on the southern tip of Wapusk National Park.
Walking with polar bears… in the summer? Perhaps our guests say it best! What’s on your bucket list?
Our Birds, Bears & Belugas summer polar bear trip has become a hot ticket item among bucket-listers, especially at the trade shows we’ve been attending. That’s understandable. After all, where else in the world can you actually walk on the tundra with polar bears?
Our remote location north of Churchill, Manitoba on the coast of Hudson Bay is part of a vast coastal polar bear waiting room, where the bears dream away the summer while they wait for the sea ice (their personal hunting ground) to return. Bears saunter by our Seal River Lodge on a daily basis, providing fabulous polar bear viewing, photography and video opportunities. They often come right up to the lodge windows and the front door! The scent of the gourmet meals at Seal River Lodge is probably part of the reason they visit so consistently, but we don’t feed them.
And if the polar bears are not in our back yard, peering in the lodge windows or lazing around the front door, we’re out on the tundra looking for them. And we do find them!
We’ve got beluga whales here too, and as weather permits we’re out on Hudson Bay in the Zodiaks jumping into the water and snorkeling with these ghostly white creatures. The polar bears, like the people, are interested in the belugas too (though for slightly different reasons) and we’ve actually seen them hunting beluga whales from the coastal rocks.
This isn’t polar bear watching from a buggy, this is on the ground viewing up close and personal. With gourmet meals in a remote fly-in polar bear lodge that would be considered luxurious by arctic standards. You have to be a bit of an adventurer to enjoy it, but that’s precisely why Birds, Bears & Belugas is making it on to so many bucket lists.
Perhaps our guests tell it best…
We had outstanding up-close-and-personal access to polar bears and belugas that we would never have dreamed possible. We felt we were visitors in the bears’ home (rather than being at a zoo where humans are in control), yet we always felt safe. — Kerrie
There is NOTHING like walking amongst the top predator of North America that makes you acutely alive! The appreciation for every nuance of a glance or shuffle increased my awareness 100-fold. And to swim with belugas too??? Incredible, and unbelievable! Magic is an overused word, but it was indeed magic. I am so thankful I got to experience it all! — Leslie
Hosts Mike & Jeanne Reimer and their top-notch crew hosted us like family, feasted us like royalty and sent us home shaking our heads and still wondering, “was that for real?” There is simply no wildlife viewing experience that tops this in North American, and probably in the world. Just how close do you get? While filming a bear that came up to greet me through their lodge’s observation fence, I smelt his hot breath. And while hiking the tundra, our guides often determined that it was safe for us to get within a 100 feet of them. — Paul Schurke, Great Northern Adventure Blog
More from TripAdvisor.com
My family and I have recently returned from Canada and we had an amazing six days at The Seal River Heritage Lodge. It is a remote lodge which you reach by float plane from Churchill. We saw lots of polar bears and had an amazing experience swimming with beluga whales in the Hudson Bay – a once in a lifetime experience. The lodge was very comfortable and had great views out onto the Hudson Bay and the food was superb. The guides were amazingly knowledgeable about the local wildlife and were so welcoming with our 2 children aged 11 and 12. Our daughter made a plaster cast of wolf prints, which she was able to bring home. Great experience would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. If you go, say hello to the belugas and polar bears for me. — Mrs. M. Smith
The reason I chose Churchill Wild over all other Churchill tours was the fact you go out hiking in bear country… Unbelievable! — Irish Captain
I am a wildlife photographer and have traveled to all seven continents pursuing great photographs of earth’s most amazing creatures. Polar bears were right at the top of my “amazing creature” list, of course, so finding the right venue to photograph them was of major importance. It’s important to note that I am somewhat tough to please regarding photographic opportunities. So, where do I go and how do I get close to the bears with unobstructed views in a safe environment? Polar bears do have a reputation, you know. OK, there are the tundra buggies out of Churchill. Do I want to spend all day in a crowded vehicle and then photograph bears from 12 ft. above them? Then, what about Norway? Do I want to attempt to view the bears from a long distance aboard a ship around Spitzbergen with the possibility of not even seeing a bear? For me, the clear answer to these questions was a resounding “no”. — Larry G. Kinney
For help in taking Birds, Bears & Belugas summer polar bear watching off your bucket list, call Churchill Wild Toll Free at 1.866.UGO.WILD (846-9453) or 1.204.377.5090. You can also e-mail us at email@example.com.