“Bear at 3 o’clock!” someone would yell to a flurry of movement towards the right side of the buggy and windows being lowered. Our tour group was a mix of retirees, young professionals, solo travellers – but none could hold his or her childlike excitement every time we caught sight of a bear – a mass of slightly yellowish fur in the distance.
On a couple such occasions, we had the truly amazing opportunity to meet the bears face-to-face – literally. It was on our second morning out on the tundra when we spotted a bear just 20 or 30 meters away. He yawned, looked to left, to the right, and slowly made his way across the small river. He moved closer and closer until he stopped beside us and looked up with an expression of innocent curiosity. As we leaned over to see the marvelous animal below us, he stared up at us.
With a quick heave, he stood up on his hind legs, pressing his front paws up onto the side of our back porch, extending his long head and nose towards us until he was just one or two feet away. That’s when I came face-to-face with one of the world’s most amazing, majestic creatures and time stood still.
After a few moments, our expedition leader, Brad whispered gently, “Forget taking photos for a minute. Just look into his eyes.” The open-close “clack-clack-clack” of camera shutters stopped. The only noise heard was a grunting exhale from the bear’s big black nose as the rest of us held our breath in complete awe.
Throughout the next few days, we encountered another bear up-close and around 50 hanging out in the tundra during our trip. Some bears were walking in the distance, others were napping in lakeside bushes. We even got to witness a bear being flown out of polar bear jail.
There’s a reason why Churchill is ranked as one of the top 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. This truly unique Canadian experience won’t disappoint.
Natural Habitat Adventures has been offering Churchill polar bear tours for over 20 years and it has consistently ranked as their most popular tour. The tours begin and end in Winnipeg from mid-October to mid-November each year. Natural Habitat Adventures is also a leading eco-tourism company offering tours to destinations like the Galapagos, and more. For more information, go to: www.nathab.com/polar-bear-tours.
Go to the beginning: Polar Bears in Churchill, Part 1: Visiting Churchil, Manitoba: the Polar Bear Capital of the World.