World’s Next Great Safari™ – Polar Bears in Arctic Canada

“Okay, say when!” Seal River Heritage Lodge. Richard Voliva photo.??????????????

Join the World’s Next Great Safari™ and take a walk on the wild side deep in the heart of polar bear country! Meet polar bears face-to-face and view beluga whales, all while enjoying world-class service, accommodations and cuisine from the comfort of the only permanent ecolodges on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast.

Churchill Wild owns and operates three remote ecolodges on the Hudson Bay coast, which is home to the largest and most accessible polar bear population on the planet. They pioneered Polar Bear Walking Safaris in 1993 and have been offering up-close polar bear encounters from July through November ever since with a 99% success rate, due to our wildly exclusive locations. They specialise in ground-level walking tours through the polar bear inhabited regions of Arctic Canada.

All three of Churchill Wild’s family-owned and run lodges are a short flight from Churchill, Manitoba, and each offers a cozy style of “rustic Arctic luxury” that will warm your heart after our signature walks with polar bears.

Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge are proud members of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, and Dymond Lake Ecolodge — home to our Great Ice Bear Adventure in the fall — has received 83 5-Star reviews on Tripadvisor.com.

EXPERIENCES:

Churchill Wild has taken the concept of an African safari and translated it to a terrain that’s equally as vast and wild as the Serengeti, but ruled by ice and bears. This is an ecosystem like no other, where every species down to the lichen has a tale of adaptation and survival.

The exceptional guides at the lodges bring it all vividly to life, reading the body language of polar bears; explaining the forces behind the aurora borealis; taking guests on exhilarating, safe wilderness adventures of all kinds. At the end of the day, the lodge is a warm and welcoming retreat where delicious meals and stories around the fire await.

Things to Do (May vary for each individual Lodge)

Walking and Hiking
On daily excursions with your guides—from a quick jaunt to see wildlife in the vicinity to a day-long trek with a picnic lunch—you will peer at Arctic wildflowers, find fox dens, follow migrating caribou, and, yes, walk with polar bears (at a safe distance, of course).

All-terrain Vehicle Excursions
Climb into a custom-made Tundra Tracker (Seal River) or an open-air “rhino” (Nanuk) and head out on a day trip along the Hudson Bay, looking for migratory birds, polar bears, and plenty of other wildlife, and at Nanuk, shipwrecks on the shore.

Photography Excursions
Head out with a lodge guide who is also a seasoned photographer, and learn tips about composition, lighting, and more as you photograph wildlife on Photo Safaris at each lodge.

Aurora Borealis Gazing
Step outside with your camera and tripod and watch the mesmerizing northern lights send waves of colors across the sky.

Bird Watching
Spotting interesting bird species is part of the experience here, even for non-birders: there are so many species that you can’t help but appreciate the diversity. With lodge guides, identify some of the 150 species of birds that visit this area.

Expert Talks
Gather in the evenings for talks by the lodge guides and photo leaders on all kinds of subjects, from arctic wildlife to the indigenous culture of the region.

Boat Trips
Set out on the Seal River estuary in nine-person Zodiacs, and look for seals, seabirds, polar bears, and thousands of beluga whales. Listen to whale songs with a hydrophone and observe these curious and social creatures at close range.

Tundra Glamping
On Seal River’s Arctic Safari, fly out to a remote tundra camp to explore the “Barren Lands” of the Canadian Arctic and sleep beneath the northern lights.

Dogsledding
In October and November, dog-sledding out of Churchill can be arranged.

Aerial Tours
Enjoy a helicopter tour of Churchill and the surrounding Hudson Bay Coastline. Available July – November.

Weather and Seasons

The Churchill Wild Lodges are open in the summer and fall, with Seal River Heritage Lodge’s season running from July to November and Nanuk’s lasting from August through November.

With the vast Hudson Bay on the doorstep, weather conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly. In the summer months, average temperatures range from a high of 62˚F (17˚C) to a low of 42˚F (6˚C). September sees temperatures that vary wildly: a week can begin balmy and end with temperatures well below freezing.

In October and November, highs range from 34˚ to 12˚F (1˚ to -11˚C) and the lows can drop down to 1˚F (-17˚C). As the tundra and the bay begin to freeze, polar bears gather on the coast, making for great viewing opportunities.

Traveling with Family

Families are welcome at the Churchill Wild lodges, and the experience is a fantastic one for kids. The excursions are active but not rigorous, and there are polar bears, belugas, and much more to be spotted! The suggested minimum age is 8 years old and child rates apply to guests ages 8-12. Please note that children must be supervised at all times, and will be expected to remain indoors when the group is not on an excursion.

They offer five months of polar bear viewing on Canada’s Hudson Bay coast at their three ecolodges, and during those five months there are 12 different polar bear tours and safaris to choose from. So how do you pick the one that’s best for you?

BY SEASON

The weather fluctuates a lot on the Hudson Bay coast, so during the five months their lodges are open, they categorize safaris into three main “seasons”: summer, early fall, and late fall/early winter.

Summer (July and August) provides the opportunity to see polar bears against a tundra alive with birds, berries, and blooms. The bears are plump and healthy after a season of hunting and the Bay is bubbling with thousands of belugas. At Seal River Heritage Lodge, guests can embark on marine tours to view the whales up close!

See: Birds, Bears & Belugas | Arctic Discovery | Hudson Bay Odyssey | Summer Dual Lodge Safari

September, that lovely month between Arctic summer and fall when the air is electric with the changing of seasons, is when the tundra and taiga really start to show off. It’s a season unto itself and when you land at your chosen lodge, you’ll see why. The trees and willows start to colour-shift and the mornings greet you with a gentle mist. At Nanuk, you might see moose, wolves, black bears and polar bears on a backdrop of orange willows!

See: Arctic Safari | Wildlife & Wellness | Wading Wild

For those who love the challenge of a snowy landscape, opt for October or November when the ground is blanketed in snow. The bears become more active at this time of year, sparring and play-fighting in anticipation of mating season.

See: Fall Dual Lodge Safari | Nanuk Polar Bear Photo Safari | Seal River Polar Bear Photo Safari | Great Ice Bear Adventure

We also have a full-on winter experience that runs for two weeks in March. For the heartiest of hearty adventurers, guests have the chance to see newborn cubs emerging from their dens, scurrying along behind mom as she heads out to the sea ice.

See: Den Emergence Quest

If you’re making your decision based on season, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the weather. There are no weather stations at the lodges, so they base their info on Churchill readings. Keep in mind, that because the lodges are so near the water, weather can vary drastically between town and the lodge you’re at. Sometimes their pilots can’t get to the lodge because of heavy fog in Churchill, but out at the lodge, they have got clear skies.

In October and November, you’ll also need to take windchill into account. Calculated based on wind speed (km/h), wind chill can make the air feel 10, 20 (or more!) degrees cooler. Now that we’ve covered weather anomalies, here are the average temperatures and precipitation for Churchill:

MONTHJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember
AVG HI63 F / 17 C61 F / 16 C48 F / 9 C34 F / 1 C16 F / -9 C
AVG LO44 F / 7 C45 F / 3 C37 F / 3 C24 F / -4 C3 F / -16 C
AVG PREC. (IN)23321

BY ACTIVITY LEVEL

Do you like a more active vacation? Have mobility issues and want to minimize the amount of walking you’ll do at the lodge?

At Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Ecolodge, excursions are done primarily on foot. While the terrain is not hilly, crossing tidal flats or rocky sections of coastline can be tricky for those with limited mobility.

It’s difficult to say how much walking you’ll do each day because that depends on the wildlife! Sometimes the polar bears will be close to the lodge, sometimes they’ll be a few kilometres away. Each day is different! Generally, excursions, done twice daily, will be no more than four to five kilometres roundtrip, and for some this might be too much, especially if it’s a very cold day.

For those guests, we recommend choosing a safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Situated 250 kilometres south of Churchill, the land around Nanuk is streaked with creeks and small rivers.

The amount of water makes the terrain quite muddy at times, and frankly, a pain to navigate. For these reasons, they use custom built ‘Tundra Rhinos’ (open-air ATVs) to move up and down the coast in search of wildlife. Final approaches to observe bears are done on foot, but the amount of walking is reduced by about half compared to the safaris at the other lodges.

If you’re looking for a more extreme adventure, then Arctic Safari or Den Emergence Quest might be more up your ally.

The Arctic Safari is the only trip that includes two nights at a remote tundra camp, just south of the Nunavut border. Here, you’ll sleep in heated expedition tents and embark on long treks to explore the ancient migratory paths of caribou and seek out archaeological sites.

The Den Emergence Quest involves a lot of snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and trudging through deep snow. Trust us though, the effort involved with finding moms and cubs is more than worth the reward.

Are you a photographer?

Attention, shutterbugs! The photography opportunities on a polar bear safari are limitless, as you can probably imagine. The wildlife, the landscapes, the vegetation of the tundra and taiga — absolutely dreamy. For avid photographers I would suggest the Polar Bear Photo Safari, offered at both Seal River and Nanuk lodges in October and November.

Don’t consider yourself a serious or professional photographer? Not to worry! Some departures have the addition of a photography guide on-site to help you navigate the ins and outs of wildlife photography.

Additional Considerations

While July is a beautiful month on the tundra — the polar bears are pristinely white, the fireweed is blooming, the temperatures are warm — some years produce a lot of mosquitoes and/or black flies. If July is your preferred month, we have bug spray and bug jackets available to make you more comfortable.

When should you book?

It’s recommended that you start the booking process 12-18 months in advance, especially if you’ve got your heart set on a certain trip or departures.

Click the links to the safaris and ecolodges below to learn more about the World’s Next Great Safari™ and YOUR next great adventure!

2021-2022 Polar Bear Tours and Arctic Safaris

SafariLodgeDates in 2021Season
Arctic DiscoveryNanukJuly 29-Aug. 14Summer
Arctic SafariSeal RiverSept. 4-18Fall
Birds, Bears and BelugasSeal RiverJuly 6-Aug. 22Summer
Den Emergence QuestNanukFeb. 25-Mar. 10Winter
Fall Dual Lodge SafariSeal RiverOct. 9-27Fall
Great Ice Bear AdventureDymond LakeOct. 20-Nov. 16Fall/Winter
Hudson Bay OdysseyNanukAug. 12-Sept. 23Summer/Fall
Polar Bear Photo Safari – NanukNanukOct. 9-Nov. 18Fall/Winter
Polar Bear Photo Safari – SealSeal RiverOct. 9-Nov. 18Fall/Winter
Summer Dual Lodge SafariSeal RiverAug. 20-Sept. 3Summer
Wading WildNanukSept. 21-27Fall
Wildlife & WellnessNanukSept. 21-27Fall

Itineraries Overview:

BIRDS, BEARS AND BELUGAS – 7 NIGHTS 8 DAYS
You will see polar bears in the summer! This is the most popular package takes place in July and August at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Birds, Bears and Belugas combines the thrill of walking with polar bears and the exhilaration of beluga whale watching for an Arctic experience like no other!

Polar bear in fireweed near Seal River Lodge. Dennis Fast photo.

GREAT ICE BEAR ADVENTURE – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
The Great Ice Bear Adventure takes place 30 km north of Churchill on a strip of land bordered by Dymond Lake and Hudson Bay, which is one of the first areas the polar bears gather while waiting for the ice to form in October and November.

The Great Ice Bear Adventure combines four days at the Dymond Lake Ecolodge, where many of the Arctic’s most famous residents are seen and photographed on foot, with a one-day Tundra Buggy® tour in Churchill.

Polar bear contemplating life on the Great Ice Bear Adventure.

HUDSON BAY ODYSSEY – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
The Hudson Bay Odyssey takes place in the heart of polar bear denning territory at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, where the boreal forest ends and the subarctic begins. This unique convergence of ecosystems, nourished by the Hudson Bay coastal waters, is home to polar bears, black bears, wolves, moose and a diverse array of other wildlife, flora and fauna that remains unchanged after thousands of years.

Mom and cub at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Ramona Boone photo.

WILDLIFE & WELLNESS – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
The Wildlife & Wellness safari is the perfect relaxing antidote to the hectic pace of everyday life, combining intimate wildlife encounters with guided wellness and mindfulness activities.

Enjoy four glorious days of hiking, meditation, and fitness classes with Corrina Anne-Poss of Limitless Motion as you commune with the wildlife that makes its home around Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which at any given time includes polar bears, black bears, wolves, moose and more.

Wildlife, wonder and wellbeing await you in the soul-soothing wilderness of northern Manitoba.

Polar bear relaxing in fall colours. Ruth Elwell-Steck photo.

ARCTIC DISCOVERY – 8 NIGHTS 9 DAYS
The Arctic Discovery takes place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and immerses you in one of the planet’s last untameable wilderness areas: the Canadian Arctic.

Similar to Hudson Bay Odyssey itinerary above, but with the addition of two days exploring the port of Churchill and kayaking with beluga whales, the wildlife on this safari combined with the untouched terrain and the clean, crisp air, make the Arctic Discovery one of the most loved trips.

Polar bear approaches tundra rhino on the Arctic Discovery.

POLAR BEAR PHOTO SAFARI AT SEAL RIVER – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
Scheduled at Seal River Heritage Lodge during the traditional polar bear viewing months of October and November, the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River is a “must-do” adventure for professional and aspiring wildlife photographers.

This safari provides discerning photographers with the opportunity to experience ground-level polar bear photography as the bears begin to gather along the Hudson Bay coast anticipating freeze-up and the start of their annual seal hunt.

Polar bears sparring at Seal River Lodge. Bill Lyne photo.

POLAR BEAR PHOTO SAFARI AT NANUK – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS, ALSO 7 NIGHTS 8 DAYS
The Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge takes place during the traditional polar bear viewing months of October and November, but offers a different type of photographic backdrop compared to the rocky coastal landscapes found at Seal River.

The sweeping coastal flats at Nanuk are bordered by the boreal forest, which is home to wolves, moose and a host of other Arctic wildlife.

Similar to the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River, this safari provides discerning photographers with the opportunity to experience ground-level polar bear photography, but also offers different photographic opportunities as a result of the boreal forest and its inhabitants.

Polar bears sparring at Nanuk. Robert Postma photo.

SUMMER DUAL LODGE SAFARI – 10 NIGHTS 11 DAYS
The Summer Dual Lodge Safari is one of two dual-lodge itineraries that provide guests with the opportunity to experience the best of what Churchill Wild has to offer at both Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, where you’ll have access to polar bears, beluga whales, black bears, wolves, northern lights, myriad bird species and other Arctic wildlife.

The Summer Dual Lodge Safari features daily excursions to walk with polar bears and other Arctic wildlife, informative evening presentations by your wildlife guides and/or lodge manager(s) and of course, our famous tundra-inspired cuisine!

Mom and cub having a discussion at Seal River.

FALL DUAL LODGE SAFARI – 10 NIGHTS 11 DAYS
The second of their dual-lodge offerings, the Fall Dual Lodge Safari takes you to Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge to experience the best of what they have to offer.

The diversity of wildlife, fall colours and/or stunning wintry landscapes are sure to take your breath away. The addition of a photo leader makes this safari a great option for amateur and aspiring photographers.

On the Fall Dual Lodge Safari you’ll have access to two populations of polar bears, wolves, moose and more Arctic wildlife, as well as potential opportunities for some spectacular northern lights photography.

Go ahead. Take my picture. Rudolf Hug photo.

ARCTIC SAFARI – 8 NIGHTS 9 DAYS
The Arctic Safari includes a two-day stay at the Tundra Camp on the Barren Lands, exploring the ancient migratory grounds of the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd, as well as two days of ground-level trekking in search of polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

A uniquely Canadian adventure vacation in one of the few remaining true wilderness areas on the planet, the Arctic Safari takes place at a time of year when the northern lights are more easily seen under clear skies, and the gorgeous fall colors are just beginning to peak.

Tundra Camp at Schmok Lake. Jad Davenport photo.

WADING WILD – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
Wading Wild is an elite walk and wade fly-fishing trip that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. You’ll be fishing for native and sea-run brook trout that have never seen a fly or a lure, in places on rivers and streams that have never seen a human.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge will be your home for this exclusive fly-in trip, which will allow you to relax in cozy comfort after an adventurous day of fishing the pristine waters surrounding the lodge and beyond.

Landing a brook trout at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

LIGHTS IN THE WILD – 6 NIGHTS 7 DAYS
There are few phenomena more universally fascinating than the aurora borealis. Lights in the Wild provides guests with the ultimate northern lights viewing experience from the comfort of our cozy and remote ecolodges, which are located deep in the northern Canadian wilderness.

Far from light pollution and ideally located for those who love to watch the lights dance, our northern skies are the perfect ballroom for the aurora, so remember to bring your tripod!

Alone with the lights.

DEN EMERGENCE QUEST – 13 NIGHTS 14 DAYS

The goal of this expedition is to find and photograph female polar bears and their newborn cubs in the area of Cape Tatnam on Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coast. This experience is undoubtedly the most rugged of all above listed adventures and not for the faint of heart or weak of knee. The physical participation level is very high.

The base of operations will be Churchill Wild’s Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, located 220 kilometers east of Gillam, Manitoba. This adventure begins and ends in Winnipeg, Manitoba and includes commercial airlines to Thompson and/or Churchill and private air charter access to the lodge. Travel on location will be via snowmobiles, on foot and snowshoes.

Wolf at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Andy Skillen photo.

About the Lodges:

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is the second of Churchill Wild’s lodges to become a member National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. Situated 250 km southeast of Churchill near the historic York Factory, it is also home to newly discovered polar bear denning areas.

NANUK POLAR BEAR LODGE FEATURES

  • Cozy fireplace lounge for relaxation and storytelling
  • 8 guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms
  • Perimeter fencing and 24-hour safety patrol
  • No other human presence within 100 miles
  • Satellite telephone
  • Large picture windows overlooking the coast, passing wildlife, and bears!
  • Tundra inspired cuisine prepared from our bestselling northern cookbook series Blueberries & Polar Bears
  • ATVs and touring trailers with emphasis on safety and environmental low impact

Seal River Heritage Lodge, a recent inclusion into the prestigious National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, is located 60 km north of Churchill near the Seal River estuary where thousands of beluga whales congregate every summer.

SEAL RIVER HERITAGE LODGE FEATURES

  • Authentic wilderness lodge style with all the comforts of home
  • Expansive picture windows to maximize ground level viewing
  • Spectacular coastal views of Hudson Bay while hiking, dining or relaxing.
  • A viewing tower to take in the expansive tundra landscape and its wild inhabitants
  • Cozy common area with fireplace for evening wind down
  • Queen, twin and family rooms, each with their own ensuite washrooms
  • Full service meals
  • Electricity 24 hours a day, every day
  • Natural gas and wood heat
  • Library with maps
  • Gift Shop
  • Radio/Telephone

Dymond Lake Ecolodge is 30 km north of Churchill on a strip of land bordered by Dymond Lake and Hudson Bay.

DYMOND LAKE ECOLODGE FEATURES

  • A viewing tower to take in the expansive tundra landscape and its wild inhabitants
  • Cozy common areas with fireplaces for evening wind down
  • Double and quad rooms in two separate guest cabins, all with private washrooms
  • Expansive picture windows on virtually every wall to maximize viewing
  • Authentic wilderness lodge style with all the modern comforts
  • Full service and meals
  • Electricity 24 hours a day, every day
  • Natural gas and wood heat
  • Library with maps
  • Gift Shop
  • Radio/Telephone

How to Book:

You can book any of above listed journeys using Churchill Wild’s partner agent in India, Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd, based out of New Delhi. They are a Boutique travel design company specialising in wildlife and safari journeys to destinations worldwide including the Canadian arctic. They have the expertise and ability to guide you through these once in a lifetime journeys and help you experience them.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer

Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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