Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, you know about the Churchill polar bears. After all, they are a big part of the Canadian province’s unique identity. Every year, news reports would show the polar bears invading the small town of Churchill. My grandmother would tell me all about the polar bears’ massive paws, although she had never seen them in the wild, either. As a 6-year-old boy eager to learn more about our world, nothing could be cooler than seeing real-life polar bears in the wild. And there they were—right in my own province!
When I was that age, though, arranging a trip to see the polar bears was much more difficult than it is now. Despite being in the same province, Churchill is a long way away. Winnipeg to Churchill is about the same distance as the crow flies as it is from my current home in Colorado to Winnipeg, and over boggy, uninhabited terrain to boot. Back then, hotels in Churchill were incredibly scarce. Polar bear tours were operated on school buses that the bears could stand up and reach into if they so desired. The Churchill landfill was mismanaged and attracting bears to town for all the wrong reasons. It was, essentially, a big mess, and the Churchill polar bears were something that, frankly, I never thought I’d get to see.
Today, polar bear season in Churchill is a major success story. I’m proud to say that this is in no small way thanks to Natural Habitat Adventures and our world-renowned polar bear adventures. The presence of conservation travel and responsible partnership with the Churchill community has enabled the town to properly manage the annual arrival of the polar bears. Now, Churchill can safely host curious travelers and help protect the polar bears at the same time.
As an Adventure Specialist for Natural Habitat Adventures, it’s my duty to know everything I can about our polar bear adventures – our flagship programs. I started this process when I was a 6-year-old boy in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to see the polar bears of Churchill firsthand.
To put it mildly, the experience completely exceeded my expectations. I had never felt anything like the way I did when we spotted two male polar bears sparring only 30 minutes into our first Polar Rover excursion. To finally visit the northern reaches of Manitoba and witness the polar bears’ presence myself is something that I’ll always treasure; an adventure that genuinely was a dream come true.
This guest post was written by Natural Habitat Adventures Adventure Specialist Jordy Oleson. All photos © Jordy Oleson.