With International Polar Bear Day on February 27, we’re drawing attention to the King of the Arctic’s plight in a warming world.
A global leader in sustainable and conservation-focused tourism, Nat Hab has been taking visitors to see polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba—known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World—since 1989.
For about six weeks each fall (mid-October through November), several hundred polar bears gather on the tundra outside the small subarctic town of Churchill, waiting for the sea ice to form. Atop the ice, they spend the winter hunting seals, their primary food source, staking out over seal breathing holes.
Polar Bears Under Threat
Unfortunately, Canada’s Western Hudson Bay population—one of the Arctic’s 19 distinct polar bear groups—has declined 27% in the last five years, according to a government assessment released at the end of last year.
Despite the decline in overall numbers, Churchill remains the best place to see them in the wild, and the bear-viewing experience has remained consistent and rewarding.
“Few animals are a more powerful symbol of wilderness and the fragility of our planet,” says Ben Bressler, Nat Hab’s president and founder. “When you see them up close in the wild, your heart soars. And you go home an ambassador for conservation, with a potent sense of what is at stake.”
With the bears’ future imperiled as shrinking sea ice shortens their hunting season, time is of the essence. It’s never been more important to introduce travelers to these threatened animals and inspire them to help change their fate for the better.
Nat Hab’s Polar Bear Trips
On a varied slate of six- and seven-day itineraries featuring the smallest tour groups in Churchill, we take travelers onto the tundra for delightful encounters with the world’s largest marine mammal. Custom Polar Rovers are designed to facilitate the closest possible experience in comfort and safety. (Check out our video showcasing these unique vehicles.) And with our expert naturalist guides at the helm, visitors get in-depth interpretation that’s second to none.
“We may spy lone bears roaming, mothers teaching their cubs survival skills, and juvenile males play-fighting,” says Bressler. “And if you’re like me, you’ll never feel more alive than in those wondrous moments watching the bears.”
While polar bears are the primary focus, Nat Hab’s Churchill adventures also feature a mix of northern activities. These include dog sledding, helicopter flight-seeing over the tundra, and engagement with local residents through cultural presentations on Indigenous heritage and Churchill’s fascinating history.
Conservation and Community
Each polar bear adventure begins and ends in Winnipeg, with easy flights from the U.S. on several airlines. Travelers then board privately chartered planes to fly to and from Churchill, maximizing time with the bears. Traveling with Nat Hab is 100% carbon-neutral. All flights and travel-related activity are offset, a practice we’ve led the industry in since becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company in 2007.
Committed to its mission of Conservation through Exploration, Nat Hab not only creates a legion of conservation ambassadors by educating our guests through immersive polar bear encounters, but we also work closely with the Churchill community in supporting various programs and initiatives to help improve the lives of residents, the on-the-ground stewards of these bears.
In recent years, Nat Hab has provided community breakfasts to more than 250 Churchill residents and donated fresh produce, milk and groceries for school meals and community food share programs. We’ve helped fund a cutting-edge hydroponic growing system for the Churchill Northern Studies Center, an independent nonprofit research and education facility. And we’ve helped lead and facilitate enhancements to community recycling programs, especially related to our own operations and guest activities in and around Churchill.
Nat Hab’s Churchill Polar Bear Adventures
Ready to see polar bears and experience this remote and fascinating part of the planet for yourself? Explore Nat Hab’s Churchill polar bear adventures:
Our flagship polar bear tour. In addition to regular departures, this six- or seven-day trip also features both women-only and special photography departures. Limited to 16 travelers / Priced from $7,495 per person.
This seven-day expedition is Nat Hab’s most comprehensive encounter with the world of the polar bear and the Canadian North. It includes a helicopter flight to a vacant bear den, a dog sled ride through the boreal forest, and cultural activities with residents where travelers learn about life on the Arctic frontier. Limited to 15 travelers / Priced from $9,995 per person.
On this six- or seven-day adventure, stay directly on the tundra among the bears in the world’s most remarkable hotel. Set seasonally on the edge of Hudson Bay, the Tundra Lodge is a custom “train” of connected lounge car, dining car and private sleeping compartments that offers guests round-the-clock proximity to the bears and includes daily Polar Rover excursions. Limited to 29 travelers / Priced from $9,995 per person.
Combine the best of both worlds on this seven-day adventure! Spend two nights at our exclusive Tundra Lodge, then another two nights in historic Churchill to enjoy cultural activities and a chance to meet and chat with locals who call this subarctic outpost home. Limited to 29 travelers / Priced from $9,995 per person.
Few of nature’s marvels match the intense aliveness of an Arctic summer, when the tundra turns green, wildflowers burst into color, and animals come forth in great flocks and herds, including thousands of beluga whales that return to the Churchill River for summer feasting. And while polar bears aren’t the main focus in the summertime, they are seen frequently, including from a scenic helicopter flight over the tundra and taiga forest. Limited to 14 travelers / Priced from $7,895 per person.