The Polar Bear Capital of the World—Churchill, Canada and Environs
by Teri E. Popp, Tastemaker in Residence - Photos by Teri E. Popp and Christine Popp
Located on an estuary of the Churchill River on Hudson Bay, Churchill, Canada is the gateway to some of the most fantastic wildlife on planet Earth—the magnificent and majestic polar bear; graceful and friendly beluga whale; and the Canadian timber wolf!
We chose the tour group Churchill Wild for this trip of a lifetime, and boy, did they deliver an experience. From our comprehensive introduction to Canada, its native indigenous people, its wildlife, and its delicate environment, we not only spent time tracking the beauty that is the beast known as the polar bear—we learned about our fantastic neighbors to the north and their quest to save their fragile eco-system.
We started our trip in Winnipeg and, since we arrived early, decided to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo for an over view of upcoming travels. This special place supports many species survival programs for their various northern animal and sea life. A true treat, we spent an hour just standing in a acrylic tunnel watching the polar bears swim from below them! Please visit https://www.assiniboinepark.ca/zoo/home/explore/animals/polar-bears to learn about Assiniboine and the many orphaned and saved polar bears that populate the zoo.
We then officially started our tour with Churchill Wild by spending an evening privately touring the Manitoba Museum and enjoying dinner overlooking the Nonsuch, a rebuilt version of the ketch that sailed into Hudson Bay in 1668-69. During our stay, we learned about the many indigenous peoples of the area including: the Cree, Dakota, Dene, Ojibway, Oji-Cree First Nations, and the Métis. We then switched gears as our lecturer shared the history of Hudson’s Bay Company and its impact, both on the native peoples, as well as the expansion of England’s hold on the area. For more information, visit https://manitobamuseum.ca/main/
The next morning, we took a two hour flight from Winnipeg to Churchill to begin the athletic part of our adventure! The only way to access the town of Churchill is by air, boat, or sled dog as no roads go into, or leave, this tiny port town. We spent 1 1/2 days exploring the Churchill River and the Hudson Bay by water in a zodiac, kayak, and snorkeling—an absolutely amazing opportunity to see 100’s of beluga whales up close and personal. We were even lucky enough to see a beluga whale calf being born!!! (underwater beluga whale photos were shot by Christine Popp)
We finished off our time in Churchill with a scrumptious meal prepared in her home by noted Canadian cookbook writer, Helen Webber, author of “Blueberries and Polar Bears”, “Icebergs and Belugas”, and many more yummy recipe books. For more on Helen, please visit https://www.churchillwild.com/blueberries-and-polar-bears-cookbook-authors-celebrate-25-years-of-culinary-excellence/
Early the next morning, excitement filled the air as we flew by small plane from Churchill to Churchill Wild’s compound located on the Hudson Bay—the Arctic Discovery Tour based at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge—where our only neighbors for 3 days were bears (both polar and black), wolves, and moose—if you didn’t count the few thousand birds, whales, and other ocean and sea life in the area!! For more information on Churchill Wild’s various tours, please visit https://www.churchillwild.com/adventures/arctic-discovery/
We truly enjoyed our fantastic stay, filled with gourmet meals, incredible sunsets, and polar bears in the background of our family photos as we tracked, and were privileged to view, polar bears up close and personal!! I even saw 17 polar bears from the air as we flew back to Churchill for our return flight home. I highly recommend a trip to The Polar Bear Capital of the World for the Arctic experience of a lifetime!
Please note: The Arctic Discovery tour offered by Churchill Wild involves a great deal of hiking while wearing rain gear and, if you bring all of the right things, heavy camera equipment. It should be noted that less trekking tours are available through both Churchill Wild and other companies located in the area. Bug gear and sunscreen are a MUST. The Arctic Discovery tour is offered only in the fall in order to observe polar bears during their migration. While this tour is offered in the early fall, it should be noted that you will be in the Arctic, so dress accordingly!
For other tours and resources, visit:
*Everything Churchill at https://everythingchurchill.com/
*Sea North Tours at https://www.seanorthtours.com/
*Frontiers North Adventures at https://frontiersnorth.com/
*Great White Bear Tours at https://www.greatwhitebeartours.com
*Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF at https://www.nathab.com/polar-bear-tours/classic-polar-bear-expedition/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Search%20-%20Polar%20Bears%20-%20Churchill&utm_term=%2Bchurchill%20%2Bcanada&gclid=CjwKCAiA4t_iBRApEiwAn-vt-wl-tkmYKUfSac9yv9E1RFtSlJ1deBVrPdjka5cdKij_fATaN6T5MxoCVckQAvD_BwE