Polar Bears

Get up-close with natures largest land carnivore (the polar bear) with Churchill Wild on the shores Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada.

SEAL RIVER LODGE

There is no experience quite like this and few places where one can be close to a polar bear on the ground, in the field, eye-level, with no fences in between. The Seal River Lodge is one such abode.

To stand here on the vantage ground before the beast, it stirs the blood in the heart and makes the pulses fly. What we face terrifies and pleases the mind. This is the sublime encounter–an agreeable kind of horror. This is a wild, wild place that fires with fervor, a tundra of singular vitality, a terrain that breaks the boundaries of expectation and delight. This is the Seal River Lodge experience.

The Story: Churchill Wild

Churchill Wild designed a way to walk eye-level with polar bears, and the outfit remains the only in the world that offers this experience. It’s not so much a company as an idea, an outrageously good idea. Churchill Wild pioneered a way to swim in arctic waters face-to-face with belugas. It came up with the concept of crafting luxury lodges in extreme latitudes to give access to these beasts of the northern wild.

The Origins: Little House on the Tundra

At first there was nothing but a vast stretch of land and an abandoned whale research center. Flying over the Hudson Bay and scouting for the perfect piece of tundra, co-founder Mike Reimer had a vision of intimacy with the surrounding wilderness and a quest for daily adventure. Inspired by curious, wild animals and a passion to interact with this unique landscape, a few dedicated individuals took the leap and the legendary Seal River Heritage Lodge was born.

The People: Growing up with Polar Bears

There was once a little house on the tundra and here two sisters were raised, with the wild things in their backyard. Instead of puppies they had polar bears and instead of TV or video games, they swam with the belugas, watched the northern lights, and chased the arctic hares. While most children learn about cultures and language through books and videos, the Reimer girls just talked to the guests at their family’s Seal River lodge.

The Wildlife: Singing with Belugas

Belugas are some of the most curious animals in the world. Their playfulness and interest in humans makes them fascinating to interact with underwater. They say belugas are attracted to certain types of music. Can you guess this one’s favorite song?

NANUK POLAR BEAR LODGE

We visited their fly-in property known as Nanuk Lodge. Sitting on the shores of the Hudson Bay….

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The People

Some call guide Andy MacPherson, “The Polar Bear Whisperer.” He doesn’t disavow the title, but admits he can’t really Dolittle with the bears; rather he has come up with techniques to “keep them off balance.” Polar bears are intelligent, curious, and socially complex, he says, though there are several instinctive responses to humans approaching, and each bear has his own contextual personality and reaction. If she deems approaching vehicles, or a walking group, threatening, she might turn and run. Or she might charge. But once a response kicks-in, it is near impossible to stop. So, if kept disoriented, Andy postulates, she won’t decide on an action, but will wait for more information

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The Polar Bears

Wildlife abounds with polar bears; black bears; wolves; caribou; moose; bald eagles; snow geese, peregrine falcons, tundra swans, golden plovers, and the silver rhino (the ATV that trundles guests into the tundra).

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The Lodge

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, owned by Churchill Wild, is surrounded by a 10’-high page wire fence, evoking the feeling that we, the humans, are in the zoo, especially when the animals rear haunches and place paws on the linkage. Inside the fence is a boneyard of animal skeletons found nearby, adding to the Planet of the Beasts sensation. In the compound there is a wooden viewing tower, better to watch the surrounding wildlife, and, at night, the aurora borealis.  The heated cabins with big beds and full bathrooms. In the Common Room, you can snack on caribou bacon wraps, and sip pinot noir in front of the large handmade stone fireplace, backed by a huge bay window that looks, when a bald eagle perches on a black spruce outside, like a giant screen saver.

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How to get there:

The Lodge is 250 kilometers southeast of Churchill, Manitoba on the Hudson Bay coast near York Factory. Fly to Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba, and then Calm Air to Gillam, a dam town on the Nelson River, and finally a charter Britten-Norman Islander over endless spots of water that look like human eyes glittering or brooding, as the mood strikes, mirroring, it might seem, the soul of the landscape. Then swoop to land at the small dirt strip in front of Nanuk, corrugated with footprints the size of hubcaps.

The Food: Tundra to Table

Your trip with Churchill Wild isn’t all about the food.  But it could be.  Inspired by a love for creating and eating fabulous food, the whole family is in on the act.  With a particular focus on local foods, what they create on a daily basis will thrill almost as much as the wildlife.

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Jeanne’s mom, Helen Webber and her cookbook writing partner, Marie Woolsey have written the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series (www.BlueBerriesAndPolarBears.com), Canadian bestsellers, and all inspired by their most requested recipes at Webber’s Lodges and Churchill Wild.

You may start your day with Banana Stuffed French Toast with Grand Marnier Syrup or Tomato and Pepper Omelet’s and of course bacon or sausage.  Every breakfast begins with local Red River Cereal, yogurt, orange juice and fresh fruit.

Lunch is often enjoyed outdoors and may include slow roasted bbq caribou sandwiches on homemade red river cereal bread or an equally tasty vegetarian choice. You will also enjoy fresh vegetables, cheese, and homemade cookies for dessert.  For those days at the lodge for lunch you might be treated to Lemon Pepper Linguini, Prawns in Garlic Cream Sauce, fresh baked bread and Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

You will start your evening with wine and Baked Brie with Cranberry Ginger Chutney or Veggie Strudels or Mushroom Turnovers.  Dinner may include Almond Crusted Lake Trout caught in our own fresh waters, prepared fresh and served with a Leek and Lemon cream, Rosemary Pepper and Potato Medley, Exotic Spinach Salad and finished by Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese Tart.

How to Contact: (mention Richard Bangs when booking and receive a complimentary signed book from Richard Bangs)

Churchill Wild
P.O. Box 79,
Kleefeld, Manitoba, Canada R0A 0V0

Toll-free: 1.866.UGO.WILD (846-9453)
Telephone: 1.204.377.5090
Fax: 1.204.377.4748
Email: info@churchillwild.com

Where in the World are You?
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