Extreme Adventures x3 - Part I: Polar Bears
Updated: May 21
I’m not gonna lie. In 2017 I’m pretty sure I entered my mid-life crisis. I turned 50. I changed jobs and I decided to go on some extreme adventures. Part one: The bad boys of the Arctic awaited. My affinity for polar bears started when I was a little girl so you can imagine my excitement when I received a catalog in the mail advertising a trip to see the furry beasts in the wild! How could I pass that up? Natural Habitat, nathab for short, was my salvation. I mean, my friends will tell you I wasn’t above just grabbing a backpack and trekking North on my own but when you’re on the food chain, it’s probably better to have some precautions in place. I was making this journey on my own, and as one of my fellow writers attested, solo travel nourishes the soul and that’s exactly what I needed. This is my story.
Fact: This was my first solo travel and something quite big (I mean it’s not like I was going to Boise) this was, after all a polar bear excursion. OMG. I was really fortunate to have picked such a fantastic travel group. Nathab took care of everything. A personal travel representative took care of all the flights and lodging complete with itinerary provided so I knew exactly what to expect. The journey began in Winnipeg, Manitoba province of Canada. The tricky part was packing a week’s worth of items in a waterproof duffle bag weighing less than 50 lbs. Don’t worry, they supply parkas and boots so that saves a ton of space and weight. It’s funny how meticulously I packed when the bottom line is, who cares? I was literally in the arctic tundra mingling with polar bears, did anyone care what I was wearing? No. But first things, first. Meeting in Winnipeg.
Because this journey attracts people from all over the world, we met in one centralized location which happened to be the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. A luxurious 5-star hotel. I was met at the Winnipeg airport by representatives from Nathab and met some fellow travelers as we piled into a shuttle and were escorted to the hotel. I had the next day to explore. Some folks took a bus tour of the city, but I opted to walk the city and photograph the sites. Also, I am from Vegas so when I saw they had a casino I had to go check it out, right? I don’t have time to go into too much detail, but let’s just sum it up with I won a jackpot, couldn’t catch a cab back, ended up rescuing a very sick man (who did get a cab) and shared his cab to the hospital and eventually made it back to the hotel in time for the ‘meet and greet’ dinner. Whew. At the dinner, I was adopted by a foursome of friends who traveled together regularly and I was amazed at the friendliness in which these strangers opened up their hearts to me. The next morning, we boarded a small charter plane and flew to Churchill, Manitoba province of Canada. From the Churchill airport, we bussed to a docking station where we loaded onto a tundra bus. At this point, our feet wouldn’t touch the Earth for 7 days. We would remain elevated either on the bus, or in the lodge at all times. It would be bad business if one of us got eaten by a bear. Because the Arctic tundra bordering Hudson Bay is not to be tampered with, we drove on the natural terrain and stayed on the old jeep trails from WWII. In winter, when Hudson Bay freezes, the polar bears migrate to feed on the seals so Nathab has strategically placed its tundra lodge in an area that optimizes plenty of bear viewing. Because the trip only allows approximately 28 people, it’s not overcrowded.
We lived in the elevated tundra lodge which was very comfortable. Imagine a bunch of shipping containers or railway cars assembled but insulated with carpet, furniture, bathrooms…etc. There was a dining car, a recreation lounge and sleeping quarters. Between each car, was an outdoor patio area with steel grating that we could see through and observe bears walking underneath. The trip did not disappoint. Less than 10 minutes underway on the tundra bus taking us to the tundra lodge, we saw a male bear. Just hanging out. His big paws lumbering him forward. It was so surreal. And that was only a taste of what was to come. As the trip progressed, we saw 2 momma bears with single cubs, 3 different sets of momma bears with twin cubs and one momma with her triplets. Additionally, we saw a Snowy Owl, an Arctic Fox, and Ptarmigan. The guides are well-versed and knowledgeable on the subject and provide educational talks/films during down-time. For example, I didn’t know the fertilized embryo of the female bear after mating will not implant until the pregnant female has eaten enough to sustain the pregnancy through the winter. Cool, huh? I could drone on sounding like the Discovery channel from everything I learned which made the trip all that more enjoyable. Amidst pure isolation, in the Arctic, I stood on outdoor viewing decks experiencing the magic of nature; watching these magnificent beasts. Once a prolific mammal of the Northern Hemisphere, the polar bear species is now fighting for survival as a failing ecosystem ravages them into extinction. The town of Churchill is doing their part. When a bear wanders into their township looking for food, the animal control will trap and house the bear until the following winter and release it to the bay to hunt. Although there was sadness in my heart for these amazing creatures, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to experience them in their natural habitat. This trip will always hold a special place in my heart. Don’t miss out on seeing the world! Contact www.nathab.com and book your next travel adventure.
Remember this was part one of three in my mid-life crisis extreme adventure. Stay tuned for my next article when I take you skydiving!
**I am no Thomas Mangelsen, but these photos are from my camera, that I took on this trip NOT downloaded images from the internet**