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flights to Winnipeg, a night in an airport hotel, and then a few more
hours in a prop plane to get to Churchill. After a couple days in Churchill,
I was on a bus to “Launch,” the spot outside of town where the buggies
set off into the wild. An hour and a half in the bouncing buggy brought
my fellow travelers and me to the lodge.
Although the weather is gray and sad today, yesterday was magical.
We passed ptarmigans and a silver fox en route to the lodge, a brilliant
blue sky above. Our eagle-eyed buggy driver, Bob, spotted the first bear
as the sun began to set. With a bright pink sky reflected in the many
ponds and lakes that seem to make up more of the tundra than land
does, the bear rambled about near the shore of the Hudson Bay. We
gathered on the balcony on the back of the buggy, cameras clicking and
shutters opening and closing. The fall colors – red, orange, gold,
umber – were emphasized by the low light. And in the midst of all this
amazing scenery was a polar bear.
I wanted to come to Churchill now, because polar bears won’t be
hanging out in this part of the world much longer. In my lifetime, it’s
likely they will go extinct here. As the climate warms, the ice they need
to reach their food source – seals – is forming later in the year and
breaking up earlier. Already their numbers have dropped from about 900
to 600 in the last ten years. And cubs are rarely spotted these days.
But, in another couple of weeks, there will be even more bears. As
winter approaches, and with it the promise of snow, bears gather around
Churchill and wait for the ice to freeze on the western Hudson Bay. The
colors I am loving so much will be covered in white. Males will spar with
each other to prove who is the strongest. After fasting for eight months,
they will be ready to fill their bellies with seal blubber.
I finish watching the bear out the lodge window; or rather the bear
finishes being watched and snuggles back into the vegetation. I wander
over to a table and email my kids to tell them about my adventure.
For your own Churchill adventure, check
in with one of these companies that will
arrange transportation, lodging and tours.
Frontiers North Adventures
Frontiers North provides authentic adventures
in Canada’s north. Since 1986 they have been
creating unique itineraries and delivering memorable
experiences for their guests. Their programs are
geared to accommodate small groups of travelers
with specific interests in experiential travel,
photography, culture and adventure. They run the
famous Tundra Buggies and the Tundra Buggy Lodge.
Great White Bear Tours, Inc.
Great White Bear Tours, Inc. is a family owned
and operated company incorporated in 1994. Like
Frontiers North, they have Polar Rovers and a
mobile Tundra Lodge that is situated outside of
Churchill on the tundra.
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