Not a lot has changed in the little town of Churchill in the last 25 years. It still only has about 800 full-time residents (human, that is), and the grain elevators are still the tallest structures in town. But quite a lot has changed in options for Churchill travel to see the polar bears, so we’ll try to sort it out a bit for you.
Churchill Travel: Polar Bear Tours at the Churchill Wildlife Management Area
These trips utilize the now-famous Tundra Buggies® and explore the provincial wildlife management area about 20 miles due east of town. These enormous-tired vehicles are designed to negotiate the rugged tundra area where the bears like to hang out, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze. Depending on the model, they can hold from 22 to 48 passengers. Sort of like single-car garages on wheels.
Visitors are shuttled by school bus about 15 miles east of town to what known as “Launch”, where they board the buggies for their trip into the main bear viewing area. Normally visitors are back in town by around 5 PM at day’s end, which is around dark at this time of year.
There are two variants to these Churchill-area polar bear trips.
The first is hotel-based, where participants stay in comfortable hotels in town and view bears in the wildlife management area during the day.
The other option is to stay in the Tundra Buggy Lodge, a massive set of modular units that are linked up in train fashion with outdoor decks for viewing between the modules. The lodge holds up to 38 participants in two sleeping units, and also sports a dining unit and lounge for socializing and lectures. Day excursions are made by Tundra Buggy from the lodge. The advantage of the lodge-based trips are that you don’t have to travel back to town each evening and bears congregate around the lodge, making for some excellent bear-watching opportunities right from your dwelling!
Churchill Travel: Wilderness Lodge-based Polar Bear Tours North of Churchill
For Churchill travel with a real feel of the Arctic wilderness experience, consider staying at a comfortable wilderness lodge some 30 miles north of town. Here you can actually walk on the tundra, viewing polar bears and other wildlife right from ground level! This is of great interest to photographers who prefer to have a eye-to-eye view of the bears! Your guides are experts with polar bear behavior and the experience is similar to an African walking safari.
To reach the lodges participants fly by chartered plane north from Churchill across the Churchill and Seal Rivers, about a 45 minute flight.
Unlike the Tundra Buggy-type trips, above, these trips are available in both summer and fall, and the summer trips also include beluga whale watching. Imagine seeing polar bears and other wildlife like caribou on the flowering tundra!
If you’re interested in more details about all these options in Churchill travel, find out more about polar bear tours offered by International Wildlife Adventures, the company who was instrumental in developing Churchill’s polar bear watching tours almost 30 years ago.