Polar bear season” has come to a close in Churchill for another year as the bears have moved far out onto the frozen reaches of Hudson Bay in search of the seals that comprise the bulk of their diet. But when the big carnivores were congregating on the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to solidify, travel writer Sarah Gold was among them for some magic moments.

Gold’s Travel + Leisure story, “On Thin Ice with Churchill’s Polar Bears,” appears in the February 2012 web edition of the magazine, along with photos Gold took during her time on the tundra.

Polar Rover

On the tundra aboard a Polar Rover outside Churchill, Manitoba. Photo credit: Wendy Worrall Redal

Gold traveled on one of Nat Hab’s Classic Polar Bear Adventure tours. She and her companions were fortunate to experience a number of big moments with the bears.

Young bear

A curious young polar bear checks out Nat Hab’s Polar Rover. Photo credit: Wendy Worrall Redal (2009).

They watched two young males rise on their haunches and spar, tumbling onto the snow. They saw steam from a bear’s nostrils rise between their boots as they stood on the grated-steel outdoor viewing platform of the Polar Rover while the bear wandered beneath it. Perhaps best of all, they enjoyed a face-to-face encounter with a bear that stood some nine feet tall, then planted its shaggy paws right on the side of the Rover to peer at the enrapt onlookers. It was hard to tell whether the “moment” lasted a few seconds or an hour — among the bears, time tends to stand still, as Gold and her companions noticed.

Acknowledging the tenuous fate of the polar bear in a warming world, Gold wanted to see them in their wild environs while a chance to do so still exists. She wasn’t disappointed. Read her full account in Travel + Leisure online.

Hope to see YOU in Churchill next fall,