Polar Bear encounter in Churchill

Polar Bear encounter in Churchill

I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be writing right now. I should be in my room, with my head between my knees, holding a paper bag over my mouth, and trying to calm myself down. I am far too excitable to be in public, and online for that matter. That being said this is probably the best time for me to write as the events of today are so very fresh in my mind. Allow me to start by stating the obvious.

Dear Churchill, Today. Was. F-ing. Awesome.

I tried to keep my Churchill plans fairly quiet as I was scheduled to do some wildlife encounters and I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. Animals (like men as it turns out) are unpredictable. Silly things.

So I arrived in Churchill ready for just about anything.

My day today started with a Culture & Heritage with Gerald, a local guide who is pretty badass and has way nicer hair than I do. Damn him. Gerald drove us to various points around Churchill, talking about local history and all the while carrying his gun in case we encountered any Polar Bears along the way. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up though. Polar Bear season doesn’t start until October, so the likely hood of seeing one is rare.

We saw seven Polar Bears! Yes, I said SEVEN!!!!!

Our first polar bear was resting on the rocks across the Churchill River. He was a little far away, but with binoculars we were able to get a better look. It was cool, but I was all, Meh.

Our next two polar bears popped up quite literally while we were exploring a plane wreck from the 1970’s. The bear was close. Close enough that Gerald cocked his gun and was ready to shoot in the air if the bear decided to come our way. Luckily he was sleepy and merely stood up a few times to check us out. It was amazing. I didn’t need binoculars or my camera for a better view. The best view was with my naked eye. He was huge. And fluffy. And I wanted a can of Diet Coke as soon as I saw him. Off to the left in among the rocks was another polar bear, but more chilled out.

The next encounter happened later in the afternoon while we were on a whale watching boat tour. Gerald spotted a polar bear on the shore in an outcrop of rocks and drove the boat a little closer to shore so we could see better through the binoculars or camera zoom lenses. As it turns out there were two of them, but they were crazy shy so we eventually gave up and drove off.

Polar Bear swimming in Churchill

Polar Bear swimming in Churchill

Just a few minutes later when Gerald spotted a bear walking along the beach near the rocks on the other side of the Churchill River. I was able to get a couple photos before the Parks Canada rangers fired their guns and scared the bear into the water (he was too close to town). Normally that would have been it, but Gerald, being awesome, drove the boat slowly through the water so we could watch the bear swimming across the river to the other side. Wow.

This evening we saw three more Polar Bears and all of them from fairly close up. My mind is still reeling from the experience.

Saw polar bears sleeping, walking, AND swimming today. Pretty f-ing amazing since I didn’t expect to see any!!

I Lost Count on How Many Beluga Whales We Saw

As if the Polar Bears were not enough, we also encountered a gagillion Beluga Whales. Okay, maybe not that many, but there were a lot of them – which is saying something since this is the end of whale season and many have already left Churchill.

GoPro tied to my wrist and iPhone in my hands

GoPro tied to my wrist and iPhone in my hands

Beluga Whales are no my favourite whale. Seriously. They are so friendly and playful. And they breach a lot, which turns my normally introverted personality into an ADHD personality. It was like I was on crack. I was swearing from excitement. The water just clear enough for us to see them just below the surface, the whales would swim right behind us, turning onto their backs, and waving at us. I couldn’t get over how friendly they were. And as luck would have it, my GoPro camera was floating on the water behind the boat, filming the whales swimming below us.

Here is how the video turned out (this is a very rough edit):

My mind is still reeling from my whale encounters this afternoon. Sitting on the boat and watching pods of whales approaching us and being playful underwater was absolutely incredible. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Seeing the Polar Bears today was also pretty f-ing amazing. Churchill, Manitoba may be a small town of roughly 850 people, but it is THE place in Canada for Beluga whale and Polar Bear encounters.

A big thank-you to Lazy Bear Lodge for hosting my stay in Churchill and arranging my tours. It has been fabulous. Still more to write on Churchill though so stay tuned!!

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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2 Responses

  1. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    Wow, you really turned around this content fast. Weren’t you just there yesterday? I’m hoping to go to Churchill soon, so this makes me very excited for the visit… I cannot wait for polar bears!

    • Pamela MacNaughtan

      I’d like to say that I normally don’t write this quickly. It was such an amazing day. I was on a high and I simply could not help myself. I just had to write real quick. I do have more to write about Churchill and the rest of my trip across Canada, so keep coming back! 😉


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