Close Encounters with the “King of the Arctic”
Come face to face with a polar bear! (Or as close as you’d ever want to be!) Each autumn, hundreds of polar bears congregate on the shores of Hudson Bay, waiting for the sea ice to form so they can wander the Arctic in search of seals, their favorite prey. On this unique adventure you’ll have a rare opportunity to see and photograph these great wild creatures as they prowl the shores in search of food before dispersing over thousands of miles of frozen sea.
Venturing out in the arctic landscape, you’ll search for bears by tundra vehicle, specially equipped and designed for polar bear viewing, with safe perches for photographing the bears up close. Toward the end of the trip you’ll have the chance to experience the tundra from a different perspective—from behind a team of energetic sled dogs or a bird’s-eye view on a helicopter flight (optional)! And in the midst of all the bear viewing, you might just develop a new appreciation for the culture and history of the far north, an area of intense beauty and intrigue.
- Explore the world of polar bears at Churchill, Manitoba, one of the best places to see this magnificent animal!
- Close (but safe!) encounters with the bears and a variety of other northern wildlife: gyrfalcon, snowy owl, ptarmigan, and Arctic fox
- Rare chance to see the Northern Lights on nighttime excursions
Duration: 7 days Start Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba End Location: Winnipeg, ManitobaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive Winnipeg
Our Churchill polar bear tour begins in Winnipeg, once a fur-trading post and boomtown for the Canadian Pacific Railway, today Manitoba’s cultural and commercial capital at the eastern edge of Canada’s vast prairies. Transfer to the historic Fort Garry Hotel, grande dame of Winnipeg hospitality and one of the city’s most prestigious landmarks. Meet your Expedition Leader at an orientation dinner this evening.
Day 2 : Fly to Churchill
After breakfast, we fly to Churchill, the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and Canada’s northernmost port city (about a 2½-hour flight). Upon arrival in Churchill, we will take a brief tour of the town and settle into our local accommodation in Churchill for the next four nights. The afternoon is free to explore the town of Churchill on your own. This evening, we are briefed with a slide show on polar bears and our upcoming adventure.
Days 3 - 4 : Polar bear viewing
Today we explore further the Arctic environment from a safe perch in our tundra vehicles. After a hearty breakfast, we travel outside of town by bus to a special boarding site at the edge of the tundra to meet our vehicles. Our journey takes us to the icy coastline of the Hudson Bay where the bears tend to gather.
This is the only time of year when the bears tolerate each other’s presence, and their interactions are intriguing. We may encounter young bears mock fighting, and although it is ferocious looking, this play activity actually helps prepare the young bears for the hostile environment of the pack ice. An adult male may turn his attention toward us, sometimes approaching within feet, or even lift his massive paws on the side of our vehicle to peer inside. The flat, barren country is also ideal for photographing the wildlife, including snowy owl, Arctic fox, ptarmigan, and gyrfalcon in addition to the bears.
We return to town in the late afternoon and have a short time to relax before dinner. Depending on the activities of the day, our free evenings will include wildlife or cultural presentations, slide shows, or time to relax at your leisure.
Day 5 : Evening on the tundra
After a full-day guided tour of historic Churchill, we head out to the tundra in the evening. We will enjoy dinner in our vehicle and see the Arctic animals in an atmosphere rarely experienced by most visitors. If we chance upon a clear night, we may see the Northern Lights, a captivating light show that may brighten the entire sky! We return late in the evening.
Day 6 : Churchill to Winnipeg
Our return flights are scheduled to depart in the mid- to late afternoon, to offer as much time as possible for exploring Churchill today. Pick up last-minute native handcrafts and souvenirs or, if time permits, take an optional helicopter tour over the tundra or an authentic dog sled excursion. See end of itinerary for descriptions and prices.
We’ll have either a farewell lunch in Churchill or dinner in Winnipeg (depending on the flight schedule). Our final night is at the Fort Garry Hotel.
Day 7 : Depart Winnipeg
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
*Optional Excursion Descriptions for Day 6 in Churchill*
TUNDRA ADVENTURE BY HELICOPTER: $530
Our exclusive helicopter flight over the tundra is the most exciting way to view the North’s fascinating wildlife. Track migrating caribou, arctic fox and the mighty polar bear from a unique aerial perspective as we fly over the northern environs. This vast expanse of open tundra and frozen lakes also contains ancient pre-Dorset tent rings and other intriguing archaeological sites. Join the very few privileged visitors to experience this remote and wild region via a perspective that standard modes of transportation can't come close to! The tour includes 60 minutes of flying time with a quick stop midway through the journey to change seats. Please understand that landings are contingent on weather and safety conditions. Further information will be provided with your pre-departure briefing.
DOG SLEDDING EXCURSION: $110
Churchill is known as the “Gateway to the Arctic,” and as such, the region maintains many Arctic traditions, including the use of dog sleds for transportation and recreation. An introductory sled dog excursion may be available on our polar bear expeditions, weather permitting. This overview outing is designed to introduce visitors to the tradition of sled dogs in the northland and includes a short but exhilarating, mile-long ride through the boreal wilderness. The focus of this excursion is to visit and learn about the dogs and the dog sledding tradition from an expert musher. For many of our travelers, this experience is a true highlight of their northern adventure!
DATES: Best time to go: October - November Departures: Oct 25 - 31, 2014
Single Supplement—$945. Because of limited space, single accommodations are limited to one per departure. We will match up singles of the same gender if you wish to have a roommate.
Fort Garry HotelWinnipeg, Manitoba
The Fort Garry Hotel is one of Canada's lavish railway hotels built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1913 and long a symbol of the prairie city's importance as a transportation and commerce hub. Located downtown one block from Union Station, this historic landmark and gracious accommodation built in French chateau style is Winnipeg's finest hotel, exuding an atmosphere of the opulence that prevailed during the glory days of the development of the Canadian West. Relax in the lounge, enjoy a drink in the antique bar, or indulge in a sumptuous treatment at Ten Spa, an authentic Turkish-style bath and spa located on the top floor of the hotel.
Various Churchill HotelsChurchill, Manitoba
In the Arctic frontier outpost of Churchill, hotels are small and simple. While they would certainly not be considered fancy by any means, they are clean, comfortable and conveniently located in the center of town. Every room has its own private bathroom with a shower. Please be aware that hotel space in Churchill is scarce, and to accommodate demand we must use a variety of local properties. Room size, amenities, and range of services may vary among hotels despite comparable pricing.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Our professional Expedition Leaders are the best in the business, enhancing your experience at every turn with their in-depth knowledge and personal attention. Our Polar Bear Expedition Leaders – who have been guiding bear tours for an average of more than 10 years each — receive additional training and resources from WWF’s top scientists, ensuring the best interpretive experience available. Expedition Leaders meet each guest in Winnipeg and travel with the group the entire way, sharing their wealth of knowledge and insight at every turn.