Walking (yes, walking) with polar bears in the wild, northern lights and no humans for a hundred miles. Our idea of paradise!
A mother polar bear and her cub. Photo: Pete Zaluzec
And where in the world are we? At Nanuk Lodge, one of the Churchill Wild lodges (also part of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World). The lodge is 100 miles from Churchill, Canada only accessible by a very small plane (and we are talking single engine with a pilot who looked like he had just graduated kindergarten although he turned out to be an amazing pilot) and a landing on a crooked dirt runway. Whohoo!
A sunset at Nanuk Lodge right before the northern lights
Where to begin. The vastness of the Arctic tundra changing its fall colors right before our eyes, millions of geese, moose crossing streams, black bears, bunny rabbits (more on that in a minute) and oh yes, a pack of 18 wolves frolicking on the dirt runway in front of our lodge.
We learned so much first-hand about wildlife interactions and were in awe of the northern lights and more stars than either of us has ever seen. Anywhere!
A black wolf at dawn with the first frost. Photo by Jim Wright
Having read polar bears
are declining as a worldwide population due to climate change we found the bears in Hudson Bay to be quite healthy and numerous. As were the wolves.
Polar bear after polar bear lounged in the tundra waiting for the ice to come in November so they could have their first substantial meal. We also viewed some early diners gorging on washed up beluga carcasses, which we saw from the air on our flight.
While walking the first day, a curious mother and cub approached us within 50 feet. Our guide made some noise and talked to the mom just to reassure her we meant no harm. She and her cub casually wandered off. Then we saw the wolf pack with 10 pups (most likely 4-5 months old) which is the most pups our guides have seen in years. Signs of a healthy ecosystem.
Walking with a polar bear mom and cub. We were 50 feet away from these 2
The animal exchanges were amazing. The rabbit (mentioned above) decided at just the wrong time to scoot in front of the wolf pack. Although a wolf sprang into action, the rabbit got away. If that wasn’t excitement enough, a pregnant black bear confronted one of the wolves right in front of us. They were less than 10 feet apart. The entire pack took off after her, but she also managed to escape (Yea!).
Life on the tundra. So much to learn and share. And we came away with hope for wildlife, at least in this part of the world. Truly our idea of paradise.