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A once in a lifetime polar bear experience

A once in a lifetime polar bear experience

story by: Tom Ricketts

Polar bears are just one of those animals that everyone loves. Thinking of a playful polar bear running around the ice and jumping in the snow no doubt brings a smile to your face. As they only live in remote parts of Siberia, a handful or Arctic Islands and Greenland, chances are you’re never going to see one its natural habitat. However, there is one more place they live, the north of Canada. And the great news is, there are tours available in Canada to see these majestic animals.

Before you start your polar bear adventure, you need to get yourself to the small town of Churchill. However, this is no mean feat! Churchill lies on the shores of Hudson Bay, about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg as the Canadian goose flies. Winnipeg is where your adventure begins. There are no roads to Churchill. None at all. The only way to get to the town is by a three hour flight on a small commuter plane, or aboard the Winnipeg-Churchill train. What better way to start by taking the train on its two day, 1700 kilometre journey through pristine Canadian wilderness? Think snow covered forests of pine, viaducts bridging roaring rivers, and eerily calm lakes. Beautiful! There’s very few, if any stops along the way, so all meals are served aboard the train and cabins with beds are available.

Once you arrive in Churchill, the fun really begins. After being collected from the station or airport you’re given a quick tour of the town (it’s only a village really) and then be settled into your hotel. Then it’s all aboard the Tundra Buggy for a drive out to find the polar bears. What is a Tundra Buggy? Well it’s hard to explain, but it’s basically a bus with huge tractor wheels, purpose built to operate in the harsh Canadian weather conditions. It’s lined with windows and even has a balcony on the back for all your unobstructed photography needs. Of course when you spot the polar bears, you cannot get off the Tundra Buggy (we have been asked!), and all viewing is done from onboard. Depending on what tour you’ve booked, you can spend anything from a couple of hours to a full day watching the polar bears go about their daily routines. Best of all, polar bears are quite an inquisitive animal and regularly come right up to the buggy to investigate! This is much closer than you’ll get at any zoo!

But, it doesn’t finish there. For the complete polar bear experience there is now the Tundra Buggy Lodge. The lodge consists of five or six buggy’s connected together and contains dorm style bedding complete with a dining car and bathroom facilities. You’ll be able to watch the polar bears as the sun goes down, and witness them hunting for brekkie the next day too. And if you’re lucky, you may even be able to see the Northern Lights. A truly unique experience!

The best time to see polar bears is October and November, but they’re not the only animals you’ll spot in this part of the world. Artic foxes, Arctic hares, moose and stunning beluga whales also all call this remote corner of Canada home. There’s many different tour combinations available, so go see your favourite House of Travel agent to find the best option for you.


Images courtesy of Travel Manitoba.

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