Churchill Wild, Manitoba
Updated: Feb 7
How can you describe being in the presence of these magnificent animals. The words exhilarating, mesmerizing, surreal do not do justice but the feelings I experienced will never be forgotten. We have a lifetime of memories to cherish.
I honestly cannot put into words how amazing a week in Polar Bear "heaven" Churchill, Manitoba was. I was beyond excitement and slightly anxious to be going to polar bear country. The anxiety wasn't related to any concern about being in close proximity to the bears, more so a little apprehensive about the immense cold we might encounter. One day it reached -70°C with wind chill, with most days hovering around -30°C. We were given strict instructions about not leaving any bit of skin left uncovered and also about protecting our camera gear. You could either leave your camera gear outside or bring it in and place it in a plastic bag and leave it sit for several hours to reach room temperature. Otherwise you risk your lenses and sensors cracking. We never spent more than 3 hours outside, ate more than I have eaten in my life and always had hot drinks at hand. It took about an hour to dress for every outing, with all of our layers and I still felt cold. Hand and feet warmers were a must, even though we had the very best Canada Goose outer layers and numerous wool inner layers - not complaining, just preparing anyone who may be heading to Polar Bear Country.
But regardless, being in the presence of these amazing creatures made everything worthwhile. I don't think I thought about or felt the cold at any time I was standing watching these massive and beautiful animals. I was so excited sometimes when returning, that I would almost forget to secure my camera gear. To experience being in such close proximity to these creatures is unbelievable.
Our day would consist mainly of having breakfast, dressing for an hour and then rushing outside to take the snow buggy (picture way below) in search of bears. Everyday we did see bears around our compound and when inside the compound there was only a fence and about a metre between us and the polar bear. When we left the compound, we would sit in the uncovered buggies with blankets (I know I am a wuss) searching for wildlife and traversing the amazing landscapes. We would return for lunch and do it all over again, returning for dinner and retiring to bed rather early.
I have included many pictures below, but this is so few compared to how many I actually shot. I have tried to group the pictures to the many bears we spent time with, including the beautify baby bear, who I believe had a 50/50 change of survival that winter.
For those who like to look at pictures, I have included a selection of photos below, but have also added another blog with a video collection of various photos.
We saw all of these polar bears on a daily basis and I came to know them very well. Their little ears would twitch and they would entice you to pat them (haha just don't pat the bear). They all looked so cuddly and adorable, but prior to our first trip outside the compound, we did go through polar bear training of what to do and not do. This is imperative to adhere to - you are in their territory and you do not want a polar bear to get harmed because you refused to follow some simple protocol to protect both yourself and the bears.
Their eyes can be mesmerizing. Wonder what he is thinking about?
This bear decided to relax just outside the compound - time for an afternoon nap.
I just loved watching this bear and have more photos of her below. The entire landscape was just like a Christmas scene.
I may look like I'm asleep, but I know you are there. I can smell you before you can see me.
This baby bear was gorgeous and I spent about an hour sitting outside watching her, whilst she showed a lot of curiosity toward me.
We encountered this type of landscape daily as we searched for wildlife.
One afternoon the setting sun put on a magical display of colours.
I caught a glimpse of this dove, actually a very lucky spotting.
Partaking in a friendly game.
A very inquisitive baby bear wondering what I was doing.
At times I wondered about travelling on the frozen ice and whether we might end up in the icy waters beneath.
Our transportation to the tundra.
I know I have included a lot of photos of this bear, but we spent so much time standing and watching her. The setting we found her in was a winter wonderland and she was just adorable.
Such stunning landscapes.
This baby bear was also adorable and extremely inquisitive and very photogenic.
This is the bear I was talking about above, who just kept enticing you to cuddle and pat him; and those twitching ears just added to his charm.
This was the fence surrounding our compound and I wanted to include a photo to try and show the enormous size of these Polar Bears. This was one of the smaller bears.
Just another tremendous day on the tundra.
Another portrait shot.
Ahh and a good morning to you also.
But now time for a rest.
Obviously forgot to clean my teeth this morning.
Differences Between Male & Female Polar Bears.
Male polar bears are typically significantly larger than females, growing to a length between 8 and 10 feet (2.4m to 3.1m) while females are only 6 to 8 feet long (1.8m to 2.4m). Their size difference is even more noticeable in their weight -- while a male may weigh between 550 and 1700 pounds (227kg to 771kg), a female only grows to between 330 and 650 pounds (150kg to 295kg). Take note of how the Polar Bear urinates. If the urine originates from the back of the bear, it's a female. If it comes from the bear's belly area, it's a male.
I am watching you, just as you are watching me.
Oh I can smell food.....how do I get in there with those humans.
Beautiful sunset on the way back to camp.
This big boy was seen most days.
We found this bear snuggled among the trees.
Beautiful late afternoon shots with the sun overhead.
Just some of the amazing scenery we passed on the 2 hour flight from Churchill to Nanuk. The plane was extremely small, freezing cold - as such the instruction to dress warmly and the added piece of advice "that is the best chance of survival if we crash".