October 14, 2014

Polar Bear Capital of the World

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Viewing the Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Three years ago this week I had the privilege to travel to Churchill, Manitoba, polar bear capital of the world. As part of Polar Bears International's Leadership camp, I joined forces with Educators from zoos and aquariums across North America travel to experience these iconic species in the wild, learn about the effects climate change on their habitat and discuss how we, as educators, could use what we learned to educate others and conserve the big white bear for future generations.

When to visit?
October and November are the prime months for polar bear viewing as the Hudson Bay begins to freeze and the bears start moving from their summer habitat inland on the tundra where they have been fasting all season, back to the sea ice to hunt for their favourite food, seals.

How to get there?
Since I was flying from Alaska, it was quite a hike to get to Churchill, Manitoba. In fact, I won the 'award' for the longest travel in our group. 

Regardless of where you are coming from, there aren't any roads into Churchill so you only have two travel options to get there - by air or rail. By plane: Air service is available year round, with two airlines flying into Churchill - Calm Air (who we flew with) and Kivalliq Air. The flight from Winnipeg is approximately 2 hours. By train: Via Rail trains depart Winnipeg for Churchill twice a week, and return to Winnipeg three days a week. The train ride is approximately 48 hours long.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Where to stay?

We had the privilege of staying out on the Tundra Buggy lodge, operated by Frontiers North Adventures. Our feet did not touch the ground for 5 days! 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

While you can stay out on the Lodge if you are not part of a large group like PBI, the opportunities are limited. Luckily, Churchill's popularity has resulted in a number of options for you to stay in town, including hotels, bed and breakfasts and remote lodges. For more information on the town of Churchill, including hotels, restaurants and amenities, click here.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

How to view the polar bears?
The best way to experience wild polar bears is on an authentic Tundra Buggy. If you are interested in taking a day trip out on the tundra, there are two companies to chose from. Frontiers North Adventures, who operates the "Tundra Buggy" is by far the leading company, and holds the larger number of permits from the Manitoba government. All of their Tundra Buggies are furnished with dual-pane frost-free windows for all of those photography opportunities and contain propane heating systems that closely resemble a cozy fireplace. 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Tips for packing?
The weather in Churchill can be unpredictable. The year my colleague was there, it was bright and sunny. The year I was there, grey and windy. The year after I was there, snowy. You definitely need to be prepared for cold and snowy conditions, but layers are also key. Musts include a warm jacket and/or windbreaker, thick gloves, warm harm insulated boots, wool socks and long underwear.

Other must sees?
Polar bears aren't the only thing to see in Churchill. Churchill is also known as a beluga-watching hotspot, birders' paradise and one of the best places to experience the Aurora Borealis. There's a chance to see arctic hare, ptarmigan, red fox and arctic fox. 

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba
visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Additional tips for visitors?
Seeing polar bears in the wild is extremely popular, and space fills up fast. Be sure to book your visit far enough in advance.

If seeing polar bears in the wild is on your bucket list, the time to go is now. Even though 60% of the world's polar bears can be found in Canada (Churchill is called the polar bear capital of the world for a reason), with climate change and the melting sea ice, polar bears are loosing their habitat. If we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, 2/3 of the world's polar bears could be gone in our lifetime, by 2050.

visiting the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

I was extremely fortunate to have been given this opportunity and it still remains high on my most memorable experience list. I highly recommend you check out Polar Bears International. As the world's leader in polar bear conservation, they are doing wonderful things for all Arctic species.

Read my other posts about Churchill:
Part 1: The Beginning of an Adventure
Part 2: Greetings from Churchill
Part 3: Looking Into the Eyes of a Big White Bear
Part 4: Tying It All Together
Part 5: Back to Reality
#thankful project: an experience

Have you ever seen polar bears in the wild? Or, is it on your bucket list? I'd love to hear!



  1. I would love to do such a tour! I always read about polar bears in Svalbard on the Norwegian news although these news sometimes are quite dramatic.....anyhow, would love to see a polar bear in the wilderness (from afar) one day ;) and I love love love your new blog design!!!!

  2. OMG this is gorgeous and who wouldn't love to see a polar bear?! this is on my list!

  3. Wow that is terrible to hear that our stupid habits have created such problems - always crazy to hear it in perspective to other realms, like animals, etc. Very sad to think that polar bears could be gone soon!
    That said, Churchill sounds amazing! At first I was wondering if it was not dangerous to go out into the wild to see bears (we all know how that turns out) but if you're in a Buggy then it makes sense!

  4. It's astonishing to read that 2/3 of the population will disappear by 2050. I didn't realize the numbers were so bad so thank you for bringing attention to this issue!! PS: The picture of you driving the buggy is super cute. I'm loving your bright blue coat (Canada Goose right? A necessity for northern winters)!

  5. That is terrible to think about 2/3 of the polar bears disappearing. They are such beautiful animals! You're definitely lucky to have had the opportunity to do this!


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