Churchill and the Polar Bears

Like many of you, I have missed travelling, and jumped at an opportunity to get on a plane and visit somewhere different. My destination was Churchill, Manitoba, home of the largest congregation of polar bears on western Hudson’s Bay, and accessible from where we live.

I should explain, the reason polar bears gather in Churchill, is its location. There is a small section of Hudson's Bay which freezes earlier that anywhere else, and it is the southernmost site of Arctic ice on the planet.

The polar bears, all six hundred to a thousand spend their spring and summers lethargically foraging for berries. I say lethargic, because they do what they can to conserve their energy, in anticipation of their winter seal hunt, which begins sometime in November.

Seeing polar bears in Churchill can be tricky. If you are too early, the bears have not yet arrived. If you are too late they will have made their way onto the ice for the winter hunt. It is recommended to arrive somewhere between mid-October and mid-November, and I decided to venture out the last week of October.

Although there are two ways to get to Churchill, the most common is by air. You can take a train from Winnipeg, but it takes 42 hours, and zigzags all over the place. The more practical method is flying from Winnipeg directly north. The flight is just under three hours on a propeller plane, operated by Calmair.

The best way to do the trip is through one of the lodges in Churchill. They arrange your transportation from Winnipeg including accommodation, some meals and all the polar bear viewing you could hope for. I chose Lazy Bear Resort, as it appeared to offer everything I was looking for.

Spending a night in Winnipeg was a great, as it gave me an opportunity to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which has fantastic exhibits showcasing the history of civilizations in Canada.

I should mention that flying was much easier than I expected. I simply showed my vaccination proof, breezed through security, and found myself ready to board the plane in less than 20 minutes. It was the same process on the return flight

The town of Churchill was more or less as I expected. It is a typical Northern Canadian town of 600 to 800 people of whom 60% are indigenous and the other 40% consists of Europeans, Chinese and people from the Philippines.

The Lazy Bear Lodge was great. It is a massive log cabin, built in the late 90s out of reclaimed wood. The rooms are comfortable, and feature television, Wi-Fi and double beds.