The best places to see polar bears in Churchill and Svalbard...
Churchill Polar Bears:
As the summer months of the northern hemisphere come to an end, polar bears in the Churchill area, just south of the Arctic, are waiting for the waters of Hudson Bay to refreeze so that they can get back onto the ice and start their hunt for ringed seals; stocking up on the much needed food energy they need to survive the harsh winters. The Hudson Bay will normally freeze over towards the end of November and so for roughly six weeks before this happens large numbers of bears are waiting in this area, almost guaranteeing sightings. Here you will find single males, who will spa with each other for fun and mothers with cubs, waiting for their first decent meal since giving birth. Polar bears are quite curious animals and will often approach the vehicles to examine what we are and if there is a chance of food. This provides excellent sightings and quite often you will come face to face with these majestic creatures. Once the bay has frozen over the bears head north and often not seen until the next summer.
In the summer months, it is still possible to see the polar bears in and around Churchill. Lodges such as Seal River Heritage Lodge offer this experience of exploring the wilderness where polar bears roam the bays in search of food. During summer trips like our Birds, Bears and Belugas departure, you have opportunities to not just witness the bears, but also snorkel with beluga whales, go kayaking and enjoy trekking and drives. During the summer, you won’t see such high numbers of polar bears as you would in Churchill during the build up to winter, but they are there. You much even be lucky enough to catch them enjoying the bright purple saxifrage blossom. There is other wildlife around at this time too, from wolves, moose and birds (often at least 100 species are seen during just one week!).
Arctic Canada Polar Bears:
Safaris into Arctic Canada often include camping in our special Arctic Safari Camp right on the frozen sea ice. It is here that the polar bears roam the very edge of the ice floe, hunting out tasty seals as the ice recedes due to the oncoming summer months. During June and July, you head out on a traditional qamutik with local guides to your camp, and then spend each day watching for wildlife at the floe edge, from seals and polar bears to walrus. In fact, it might even be possible to see the ‘unicorn of the sea’, the narwhal, and even swim with them on our Narwhal and Polar Bear safari if you are keen enough to brave the icy Arctic waters. Other activities include watching thousands of birds, climbing icebergs and kayaking. Seeing the polar bears is likely and at this time if you are lucky, you might spot a mother with her cubs – although at this time they have grown to quite a large size!
These safaris are very adventurous, taking place in the high Arctic, usually north of Baffin Island. Most safaris here are done in a luxury safari camp, rather than a lodge, however we do have a very special March departure where you can witness polar bear cubs emerging from their dens for the very first time. This safari is incredible and there is only one per year, lasting a week. We often book it up to 2 years in advance and it is based at the comfortable Wat'chee Lodge.
Svalbard Polar Bears:
Polar Bears live in Svalbard all year round with the estimated population of bears slightly higher than the population of people. Again during the winter months the polar bears are out on the sea ice hunting for seals, but once this ice has melted some of the bears will remain on land, missing the departure of the ice. At this time it is possible to attempt to cruise around the island of Svalbard and this is when our ships will set off with expeditions running throughout June and July. The bears that are stuck on land can often be seen roaming the shores looking for any food they can find, which is normally the carcasses of whales.
Although sightings are quite probable, the vastness of the area and because some of the bear population has followed the ice northwards, bears are never a guarantee. Although most people’s aim when travelling to Svalbard is to see polar bears, if sightings are few, people rarely come back disappointed. With towering mountain peaks and glaciers, a rich array of wildlife and stunning scenery, an expedition around the islands of Svalbard always excites.
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