All too soon our last morning at the lodge came around and it was time for our last yummy breakfast and or last walk with the bears. We got all our bags packed and ready before our walk and went out with just our cameras as all our bags would be meeting us at the runway.
The bears didn’t fail us and they once again littered our path out onto the ice and back to the runway. We watched the plane come into land flying over our heads onto the runway. As we were first to fly out to the lodge we would be first to fly back to Churchill again. Two of the couples in the group were planning to do activities in Churchill (helicopter flight and dog sledding) so they had to be on the first flight out which temporarily split our group of six up.
We welcomed the new guests who were just as excited as we were when we arrived! We said farewell to Nolan and our guides and a temporary farewell to Chriss & Bob from our party.
The flight seemed shorter on the way back to Churchill and in no time we were being welcomed by Koral and being taken to the Seaport Hotel restaurant for lunch and to await the rest of the group. On the way we briefly stopped at the Polar Bear Holding Facility (Polar Bear jail). You’re not allowed in at this time of year, only during the summer when there are no bears in residence.
Koral had pre-booked tables for the whole group for each of the three meals we would be having in Churchill. Only dinner, breakfast & lunch out on the tundra buggy was included in the package so lunch at the Seaport was at our own expense.
Chriss & Bob re-joined us and we waited for them to have their lunch before walking to our hotel, the Polar Inn. We were told we wouldn’t be able to check-in until after 6pm because other guests due out by train were still using the rooms. We got lucky and one room was ready, so the six of us were able to dump our bags in the room and head out to explore Churchill. During our time between lunch & dinner we walked along the Bay front, visited the Eskimo Museum and Parks Canada Visitors Centre.
As it went dark we headed back to the Polar Inn and a couple more rooms were ready allowing all six of our mini-group to check-in and get ready for dinner. Other members of the wider group weren’t so fortunate and as Alan, Chriss and I went for a pre-dinner drink some of them were still waiting in reception for their rooms. However, an hour later when everyone arrived for dinner at the Tundra Inn they all had been allocated their rooms.
Dinner at the Tundra Inn was much better than the lunch at the Seaport and we enjoyed chatting about what we had seen and what we may see the next day.
We had a do-it-yourself breakfast at the Polar Inn and were picked up at 7:30am to be taken to the Tundra Buggy docking ‘station’. I have to admit to being slightly amused by the armed guards at the station and how we were rushed from the bus to the docking platform ramp as though a ninja polar bear was going to break through security and get us!
Our group of 14 was allocated a small tundra buggy and we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t enough seats for us all to have a window seat to ourselves. The good news was after about an hour on the tundra the little Buggy broke down and we had to transfer to a bigger one! The way I have written this it sounds like a quick affair but we had to wait around an hour for the second buggy to get to us.
During the two hours on the little buggy we saw several bears at a distance, including a mother with a cub. We were fortunate that we broke down within sight of a nice male bear and we watched him resting for a while and walk across the ice. I jokingly asked if we could move forward and our Buggy driver (Darcy) pretended to start the engine and it started… we were able to move forward to watch the bear some more, but it wouldn’t be safe to continue in the little Buggy so we awaited the arrival of its replacement.
It arrived shortly after the bear moved out of sight and it backed up to the little Buggy and we stepped across from the one Buggy to the other. We now had much more space to spread out and a window each. Despite the interruption everyone was in good spirits.
Our sightings started to improve from distant bears to much closer ones and we saw a flock of arctic redpolls and many ptarmigan.
We had stopped for lunch on the Buggy, excellent sandwiches and cake, when a mother bear with two cubs were sighted in the distance walking towards our location. We watched them get closer and closer. They walked across the front of our Buggy to check out the Tundra Buggy Lodge and then onto a bed of seaweed to do some munching.
Against all you read about mother bears wanting to keep their young away from males, we were surprised to see her bring them in amongst many large males. We could see at least five males in the vicinity. Three of them resting on the seaweed rip that she was feeding on. The only bear to get up was one with a heavily scared face, otherwise they all remained resting while the continued the long wait for the sea ice to form.
We started our slow drive back to towards Churchill and had our own Tundra Buggy Polar Bear close encounter as a bear decided to check us out. It walked up to the Buggy and sat up on its back legs to stretch up towards the windows. We all stayed silent and enjoyed this short encounter before he decided we weren’t that interesting and trundled off again.
Back to Churchill as the sun was setting and we were taken to Gypsies for dinner (at our own expense). I seriously do not get the hype about this place, it’s supposedly the number 1 place to eat in Churchill but the Tundra Inn was so much better. We were told the owner was a bit of a character, but I don’t consider rudeness to be ‘character’, he shouted at his customers and immediately after finishing our meal he demanded we all leave! Not the best of ends to our visit to Churchill.
Our flight back to Winnipeg was uneventful, after check-in back at the Grand we were resting in our room by 10pm and our Great Ice Bear Adventure was complete.