Visiting the Polar Bear Capital of the World

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Yep, you read that right. There’s a town up North known as Churchill but informally better known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”. If you haven’t heard about it yet, now is the time. Tourism is growing quickly in this little town and with the rapid pace of climate change affecting migratory patterns, you’d better start planning for the next season. So get out your bucket list, start the savings jar and get ready to plan yourself a trip of a lifetime to Northern Canada!


Discovering Churchill

Situated in Northern Manitoba, a province lying in the heart of Canada, Churchill is recognised as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” for it lies on the annual migration path of polar bears. Though numbers can’t be certain, there are said to be an estimates 1,000 polar bears passing through the town of Churchill in Autumn/Fall, making the population of Polar Bears slightly higher than the 900 residents who call the town of Churchill home.

Aside from polar bears in Autumn, there are many reasons travellers seeking Northern adventures travel to Churchill (and indeed another particular reason I was interested in visiting!) The town lies directly under the Auroral Oval, making this one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Having previously seen the Aurora Borealis in Northern Finland and being stuck outside without a camera, I was incredibly keen to see the Aurora on my visit to Churchill and as fate would have it, luck was on my side (see below!)

Given these two factors and the many other reasons to visit Churchill: kayaking with beluga whales, spotting wildlife like the arctic fox, discovering culture and tradition in the North and more, there are thousands of visitors now travelling North to Churchill every year. With no roads in or out of the town, the only way to arrive is by plane or train, making it a trip worth joining a tour group to ensure you see and experience all the North has to offer.


A Frontiers North Adventure

Visiting Churchill and its Polar Bear population isn’t as simple as getting in car, driving North and arriving with your winter woollies in tow. Most travellers join one of the few tour groups operating in the area to make the most of their journey and maximise their opportunities to see polar bears in the wild by joining a Tundra Buggy tour.

Joining a small group tour with Frontiers North, I met with my fellow travellers the night before departing to Churchill to discuss the four days that lie ahead. We would be transported by a charter plane to the town, picked up by a local bus driver and given a half-day introductory tour to the town and surrounds. Day two would be spent on board the Tundra Buggy (looking for polar bears – wahooo!), as would day four, with a break in between for more cultural pursuits.

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Polar Bears for Days

At the time of year I visited (November), the main attraction in town is of course the 1,000 polar bears who pass through the town waiting for the ice to form, before heading off to hunt seals – the mainstay of their diet. As was promised before embarking on our adventure, there were plenty of polar bears to observe over our two days on the Tundra Buggy! Within minutes of arriving in town we spotted our first bear sunbathing, followed by many bears (adolescent males, momma bears, cubs) over the following days.

Because of climate change there is a growing fear among scientists that the polar bears in this area will have to migrate further North in search of colder climates. Thus if you have your heart set on seeing polar bears in the wild (like I did) then I would recommend putting this adventure on the top of your bucket list and continuing to make positive choices to raise awareness about climate change!

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Perfect Conditions for the Northern Lights

On the very first night we arrive in Churchill we were treated to a glorious display of nature known to most as the “Northern Lights”. After chasing the Aurora Borealis around the world on my travels, I was incredibly happy to get the chance to not only see the lights, but be prepared enough to take photos and share them with you!

The town of Churchill has perfect conditions to see the lights as it sits directly under the Auroral Oval. The highest chance of spotting the lights is during winter (particularly January, February and March), however we were lucky enough to see them in November so anything is possible!


Dog Sledding & Local Traditions

On day three of the tour we took a break from polar bear observations to immerse in local cultures and traditions. After museum visits and time with interpretive guides, we made our way out of town to visit Dave Daley’s “Wapusk Adventures” for dog sledding and an introductory education to the sport. While the sport of dog sledding gets a pretty bad wrap on occasion for the treatment of dogs, the story at Dave’s kennel is entirely different. Dave introduced us to the sport, cited his achievements, and spoke about his passion for his dogs and the sport in which they have been raised for. The dogs were incredibly enthusiastic about getting out for a run and as you could imagine it was a lot of fun getting out there to experience the sport!


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Wildlife Safari: What Else Can you See in Churchill?

Other than polar bears (which are of course the main attraction), there are plenty more animals to see in the wild! Highlights from my tour included arctic fox and snowy owl, as well as a range of other birds and foxes. With the changing climate now is as good a time as any to travel to the North for a wildlife safari – who knows how long we will have the chance!


Further Information:

If you’re interested in visiting Churchill you really need to join an organised tour in order to see, experience and enjoy all this region has to offer. I travelled to Churchill with Frontiers North, the primary operator in the area who have been entertaining guests for more than three decades. With thanks to Frontiers North, Travel Manitoba and Destination Canada for welcoming me to experience the True North. All opinions and oodles of photos are my own!

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    December 6, 2016 at 3:17 am

    Wow! This looks incredible! Seeing Polar Bears in the wild has been on my bucket list for years and you got so so close to them. I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to afford the trip.

    December 2, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Love this! Churchill has always been on my bucketlist. I’ve seen the Northern Lights and gone dogsledding in Norway, but Churchill has POLAR BEARS! >.<

    December 2, 2016 at 8:37 am

    So wonderful! It sounds like an incredible adventure! x

    December 1, 2016 at 4:31 am

    I need to go here now! Amazing pictures x


    Jenn Vargas
    November 29, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    definitely adding this to my travel wishlist. if only to see that adorable white fox!

    November 28, 2016 at 2:37 am

    I’ve wanted to go to Churchill for years. I really must save up to go. Your photos are wonderful and how lucky were you to see the Northern Lights?! 🙂

    November 25, 2016 at 6:01 am

    One more lovely article! The photos are amazing, We really want to got there!Who knows, maybe one day 🙂 Keep up the inspirational work Brook.
    Vasilik & George

    November 25, 2016 at 12:52 am

    WOW! Those pictures are stunning.

    November 24, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    This is so high up on our list – especially like you, to try and promote the increasing plight of polar bears. We trekked through the Arctic in January with our own team of dogs – how did you find them? We couldn’t get over how strong they were. Even with our feet on the brakes, they would still drag us along!

    Beautiful photos, as always Brooke! x

    November 24, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Really love this post! These pictures are so lovely!

    November 24, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Brooke what lens did you use to capture the Northern Lights? Amazing photos! 🙂

    • Brooke Saward
      November 24, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Hey Kat! I used myO lympus OMD EM5 Mark II (Camera) with M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens (Wide Angle Lens). Thanks so much!

    the travelogue (by Anna & Vanessa)
    November 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Gosh your photos are really amazing! How lucky you were not only seeing the polar bears but also the arctic fox aaand the Northern Lights! Jackpot we would say 😀
    We would love to do the same tour some day!!
    xx Anna & Vanessa

    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    November 23, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    so beautiful and pristine! great photos!

    shubham pandey
    November 23, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    wow beautiful photos as ever.

    November 23, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I am desperate to see the Northern Lights, and polar bears as an extra would be AMAZING. Thank you for writing this post!

    November 23, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Ahhh Canada looks so amazing! This trip sounds like such a dream x

    November 23, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Straight to the top of my bucket list it goes! This place looks like a dream! I would loveeee to see Polar Bears up (kinda) close someday 🙂

    Brooklyn Murtaugh
    November 23, 2016 at 10:04 am

    I am so jealous! I live in Canada and have been wanting to do a Churchill trip for years. It is just way too expensive to get there from most places in Canada.
    Your trip looks incredible!

    November 23, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Stunning photos! I really want one of those The Adventure Begins mugs, so cute!

    Charmaine Ng
    November 23, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Beautiful photos as always! Dog sledding has always been my dream. I am in LOVE with huskies. Reading your post makes me so excited about trying it one day!

    – Charmaine