One animal that is the undisputed master of its terrain is the polar bear. These powerful creatures are apex predators, and afraid of nothing.
Polar bears live a lot of their lives out on the ice floes, so how can you get to see these animals in person? The place to go is Churchill, Manitoba, in northern Canada. This is the "Polar bear capital of the world".The polar bear is the master of his domain, and he knows it
Polar bears, Lords of the Arctic
Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world. Adult males are enormous - up to 10 feet tall, and almost 1,500 pounds. It's more than twice the size of a Siberian tiger, and for short distances they can run at up to 25 miles per hour.
Perfectly adapted for their arctic life, polar bears spend most of their life at sea, living on moving sheets of ice. These predators have a diet of seals, and can scent their prey over a mile away, under three feet of ice.A polar bear investigates the tourists
You wouldn't want to encounter one of these powerhouses on their own terms, out in the snow. But what could be more fascinating than watching them from a safe place?
Watching polar bears in Churchill
The town of Churchill, Canada, on the shores of Hudson Bay, give you a chance to do just that. Every year, hundreds of polar bears migrate right through this little town, which makes it a perfect viewing center.
When summer melts the sea ice, polar bears are forced onto the land. They live on the tundra for a season, then as winter sets in, the bears migrate back to the shore, and gather waiting for pack ice to freeze over the Bay.
In Churchill, you can board a tundra buggy - a unique vehicle designed to move across the snowy ground and provide safe viewing of polar bears. The enormous wheels raise you above bear level, even though they sometimes get up on their hind legs to see what's inside.
For the most daring, you can also take guided walks in bear habitat. Don't do this unless you are with a professional guide who knows about the bears and how to stay safe.Awww... How cute! A mom polar bear with two cubs.
Polar bear travel guide
- Where it is - Churchill is in Canada, in the northern end of the province of Manitoba. The town is in a rugged area near Hudson Bay.
- Weather - It's cold! In November, the average daily high is 16 degrees (F). Of course, that's why the polar bears love it! 🙂 See weather averages for Churchill.
- When to go - October and November are the prime months for the polar bear migration, and November is the best of all. In November, you may also be able to see a display of the northern lights, though Aurora borealis is most prevalent January to March.
- What to take - Obviously a good camera is high on the list! Aside from that, if you're traveling in Oct/Nov, you'll want multi-layered clothing (including long underwear), with a warm waterproof parka, boots, hat and gloves. Picture polar bear habitat, and dress for that.
- Where to stay - Churchill has a moderate selection of hotels and B&B's. You can also stay in a fly-in lodge north of Churchill to be even closer to the bears, or a tundra lodge with mobile accommodations like massive tundra buggies with sleeping compartments. Another option is to see the polar bears on a one-day package tour from either Calgary or Edmonton.
- What else to do in Churchill? - You can go dog sledding, visit the Eskimo museum, or watch the northern lights if you're lucky. If you visit Churchill June to Aug, you can go kayaking with beluga whales, though the bears aren't normally around then.
For more information on polar bear vacations, see Everything Churchill.