We returned again to Churchill in 2016 and went out on a Tundra Buggy as part of our Great Ice Bear Adventure - see this page for photos & videos.
In 2006, as part of our 'three bear adventure' we visited Churchill in the hope of seeing a Polar Bear.
Located on the western shore of Hudson Bay and not accessible by road lies the small town of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. To get there we had to fly from Winnipeg and were transferred to basic hotel accommodation in the town centre.
Churchill is a tiny town and the hotels and restuarants all appeared to be located on the same main street. Polar bears are known to visit town so absolute caution is advised, especially at night time!
Once we were checked into the hotel and had dropped off our bags we were taken out on our first tundra buggy tour. The tundra buggies look like converted school buses.
We knew when we arranged this trip that there was a chance that we wouldn't see a polar bear. As with all wildlife viewing there are no guarantees that you will actually see what you are looking for, especially if your visit is slightly out of the main viewing season. We combined this visit with viewing Grizzly bears on the Canadian coast and in our attempt to catch the end of the salmon run we ran the risk of going to Churchill in mid-October.
Churchill is a great place to view polar bears as it is reasonably accessible (it has an airport) and the polar bears are trapped close-by until the Hudson Bay refreezes allowing the bears access back onto the ice for them to hunt during the winter. October and November are marketed as the best months for viewing polar bears from Churchill. Arrive too early and the bears will still be hiding, arrive too late and the bears will have moved onto the ice and away from Churchill. The best time to view polar bears from Churchill is from the beginning to mid-November.
So with low expectations, we headed out on the first of our two tundra buggy tours. It wasn't long before we started to spot some wildlife and we added Artic Hare, Red Fox and Willow Ptarmigan to our 'spotted' list.
It was a windy day and the snow was blowing around like specks of sand in a sand storm. The wildlife was either taking shelter or trying to! It was during a windy spell that we caught sight of our first polar bear, it was sheltering behind some willow and we had to take the guide's word for it that it was a bear and not a pile of snow!
The second bear, although still sheltering, was easy to see and you can tell it's not snow!
Quite happy that we had seen a couple of bears we headed back to town for a rest and our evening meal. It was only when we were out of the tundra buggy we realised how harsh the weather was and why the bears weren't in the mood to stand around for us to take pictures of them. We took a short walk from our hotel across the road to a restaurant and we almost got blown off our feet! We had to turn our faces away from the wind as the ice blowing along the road felt like needles on our skin!
The next morning the weather had improved and we headed out in the tundra buggy with hopes of seeing a polar bear up on its feet. It wasn't long before we spotted one in the distance and it got closer and closer.
All too soon it was time to head back to town and get ready for our flight back to Winnipeg.
This section of our 'three bear adventure' was arranged through Frontiers North Adventures, here is a link to their website:
Viewing from: From Tundra Buggy
Group size: Up to 30
Time Viewing: Half day
Clothing provided: None
Best time of year: Late October / November
Other wildlife: Fox & hares, birds