Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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HomeTravelA Place to go: Churchill, Canada

A Place to go: Churchill, Canada

As the world cries for help through natural disasters and virus outbreaks, a portion of its population wishes they were born earlier to experience a kinder, less-harsh world.

Lindsay Tate and a friend had been environmentally conscious since they were young. As acting grown-ups, the pair learned of the atrocities occurring globally and agreed it was time to live life for the experience, freeing themselves from the confines of work, eat, and sleep lifestyle. 

Their first trip on their trek to happiness was Churchill, Canada. Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world, and the two women felt there was no better time to visit. Although they had to book their trip well in advance to ensure their trip to Churchill consisted of a Polar Bear Tundra Buggy Day Tour, something that people do for the glamor or Instagram, it’s something that people with a passion for nature do. 

Lindsay and her friend booked their trip through Frontiers North American Adventures after learning they had the most permits. They donate a portion of their booking proceeds to Assiniboine Park Conservancy to support its polar bear research and conservation efforts.

Their day began earlier than usual, with a 6 O’clock charter flight waiting in Winnipeg to carry them to a place they’d only ever learned about in movies and seen in school books. The flight lasted 2.5 hours and had pamphlets aboard addressing polar bear safety and precautions. 

After landing, the group was taken to a coach bus where they were greeted with a comic of a driver and met their conservation tour guide, Dr. Stephen Peterson. The bus ride to the Tundra Buggies lasted around 20 minutes, and Dr. Peterson talked most of the time about conservation.

As the bus pulled up to the tundra buggy dock at the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, Lindsay expressed nothing short of astonishment, “The tundra buggies were so big that we had to climb stairs to get on.”

“The Churchill Wildlife Management Area is where Polar Bears wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze, placing it in the polar bears’ natural migration path. The Hudson River shoreline (where we were) is the first place the bay will start to freeze, so the bears just know to migrate to those areas as they go out onto the bay in mid-summer when big platforms of ice break and get carried down to the bay to a different location,” said Lindsay. 

Canadian Illustration of the Hudson Bay. The Polar Bears climb on ice that breaks from a current where they then migrate to different locations.

Lindsay said that the Tundra Buggies could fit up to thirty people on them, but to ensure everybody is comfortable and has enough space to move around to spot the bears and other wildlife in the wild, they max the bus out at 16 people. 

The driver introduced himself to the group as they boarded their Tundra Buggy. His name was Trevor. Trevor then debriefed the group on what was going to happen, said he would take them to some of the best viewing spots, and took off with an eager group. 

It wasn’t long until the group spotted their first bear! Trevor told the group that sometimes, during these tours, you may see some bears, but you won’t necessarily see any ‘action.’ Luckily for Lindsay, that was not the case. 

The group’s first bear seemed to be playing with the Buggy, “He thumped the side of the truck on purpose with its paws. We were joking about how it looked like he was trying to open a can of fish.” As the excitement of the first sighting simmered, Trevor announced that it was lunch time, parking next to the bear that had just interacted with the truck. 

Lindsay said it was strangely beautiful to see the polar bears exist freely, “There was one playing with sticks and looking so content and occupied and enriched…just by playing with a stick!” The fascination and curiosity in revealing something unknown can add beauty to the simplest tasks.

While they were eating, Trevor was giving the group some fun facts. “He said things like how most of the time the polar bears are resting on the ice; these quiet periods are when the bears get curious and start to come close.”

After hearing of a good citing nearby, Trevor decided that lunchtime was over, and the group headed towards what Lindsay claimed was “A pair of two males sparring. It was beautiful and peaceful and serene and everything you would think it to be. Peterson said it was uncommon to see females sparring and that sparring was extremely special and rare to see.”

The group continued along the Hudson Bay shore as they how the polar bears use the freshwater current from the Churchill river to migrate. The group absorbed beautiful knowledge and saw how simple life could be. By the end of the day, the group saw a total of 10 bears, with various other wildlife sightings. 

The group took the same bus back to the airport, where they boarded their flight around dusk. Lindsay and her friend intend to return to Churchill in mid-summer when the polar bears are said to break the ice and beluga whales are present.

Lindsay hopes to go back and see a healthier, more thriving environment for the bears. Frontiers North American Adventures said that was the best time to come, “Wait til you see a polar bear in bright purple fireweed. Now that is something.”



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