Dining with a polar bear

This week we’d like to share a blog post from Frontiers North Interpretive Guide Hayley Shepard. Hayley is an incredibly adventurous soul who has not only guided in Churchill for the past nine seasons, but has also guided expeditions in Antarctica and in the further reaches of the northern arctic. Visit her blog (link below) to learn more about her adventurous spirit.

Just imagine….sitting with your family at the dining room table, about to bite into a deliciously baked Arctic Char and something catches your eye. Glancing out of the window you are suddenly taken back from the very sight before your eyes. Two 800 pound male polar bears are dancing in the snow, right beside your window. Standing upright with all weight on their hind legs these bears stand like skyscrapers. Their plate-sized paws are out in front, as though they are mirroring one another, and every now and again one takes a playful swat at the other during this good-natured battle. Oh, I forgot to mention that you are not dining at home, but rather at the Tundra Buggy Lodge a few miles east of the Sub-Arctic town of Churchill in Manitoba.

Thousands of people venture to this Northern town that is situated along the Southwestern shores of the Hudson Bay to witness the migration of bears who gather here while they wait for the ice to form on the Hudson Bay. While many people choose to stay in town during their visit to Churchill, other adventurists opt to stay out on the Tundra in accommodation very similar to that of a train. Imagine a school bus being turned into a motorhome….well, Frontiers North Adventures turned Tundra Buggies into a comfortably cozy lodge that sleeps 40 guests. For three days and three nights you live and breathe the Tundra as you witness the truly wild nature of the polar bear.

I just returned from a lodge tour and I was once again reminded how authentic and unique this unforgettable experience is. The lodge is situated at Polar Bear Point, a two hour Tundra Buggy ride on a rough and rocky trail. There are no trees, only flat lying willows and we are literally a stones throw from the frigid seas of the Hudson Bay. The only creatures that live out here and can withstand the chilly climes are those with the warmest of coats.

During our 2nd night at the lodge, a storm approached, bringing strong winds which gusted up to 70 km/ph. At times it felt as though we were on a boat as the lodge shuddered from every gust which came at us in full force from the North.

When out about in our buggy, the days were action packed as new bears arrived in the area, one bear after the other. At one stage we could see 3 pairs of bears sparring with each other, some at a distance and one pair battled right beside us. Snow was literally being flicked onto the sides of our buggy, as the bears wrestled and played. Gyrfalcons were sighted every day as well as a Snowy Owl perched on the tip of a Spruce tree. We had the privilege of watching a red fox forage beside us, listening and watching for lemmings, a fox’s favourite winter snack. A young, curious female bear approached us and gave us some Buggy Love. She placed her paws on the side of the buggy and with her long neck, stuck her snout high in the sky trying to catch the scent of the strange creatures wearing cameras. We literally looked in the deep, dark eyes of the most powerful land carnivore that exists on our planet.

Oh how I love my job. To not only watch the magnificence of nature but to witness the lives of people changing as they encounter a truly wild animal. And the beauty of it all… for once we are the ones in the cage and the bears are roaming free.

Hayley xoxo

Author - South Solo: Kayaking to Save the Albatross


Photo: ©Jeff Cooper

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