Seeing a polar bear up close in its natural environment is a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Polar bears inhabit some of the wildest, most remote regions on earth, and tours are taken in small groups, so as to respect, and cause minimal disruption to their natural environment. Peak viewing times are restricted, so take a look at our list of some of the prime polar destinations, and then see your local travel manager.
Churchill – Canada
There are a number of locations within Canada where you’ll have a chance to see polar bears, but for the best odds of spotting this lumbering, majestic creature in the wild, head to the frontier town of Churchill, located on an outpost along the shores of Hudson Bay. When in Churchill, there is very much a feeling of being at the ends of the Earth – the town is only accessible via train, plane or boat. The reason why Churchill is such a great place to see polar bears is because of a unique ice melting process, that results in the bears being land-based for approximately four months of each year, before once more venturing out to find seals for food. To further increase your sightings, book a room at the Great White Bear Lodge, which features a 360 degree viewing platform. It’s hard to imagine ever tiring of the sight of the polar bear, but just in case, dog sledding is another interesting sight, and an important part of the cultural history of this region.
Svalbard – Norway
The remote Norwegian region of Svalbard is a group of islands, lying nearly 650km from the European mainland, halfway to the North Pole. Although difficult to reach, the abundance of Arctic wildlife that is here to be discovered, makes the long journey well and truly worth it. As well as polar bears, Svalbard is also home to a variety of other creatures, including walrus and puffins. Interestingly, although polar bears on the whole are an endangered species, in Svalbard the numbers are actually increasing, and the total polar bear population is now thought to be in excess of 3,000 – so there’s a great chance you’ll enjoy multiple sightings of the King of the Arctic. Standing out with their highly distinctive enormous canine teeth, the mighty four metre walrus is also a very impressive sight, congregating in groups upon the icy masses.
In Greenland, the best chance of spotting a polar bear is not in fact from on land, but on board a small cruise ship, on a voyage along the Arctic coast. The ample deck provides a prime, and comfortable vantage point for spotting the huge polar bear, which is easily distinguished from the pure white of the snow, by its creamy, off-white fur coat. Greenland is also home to a range of other Arctic wildlife, including Musk ox, puffins, walruses, plus the Artic Wolf, Arctic Fox. For the best chance of seeing a polar bear, take a cruise along the northern or north-eastern coast, as the species is sadly overhunted in some parts of Greenland, making a sighting on the west coast somewhat rare. Finally, if you also visit the mainland on your trip, stop by the southernmost town of Nanortalik, whose name actually translates to ‘place of polar bears.’ If you’re very fortunate, you may spot a bear passing right through town !
For a complete immersion of all things Arctic, head to the icy depths of Alaska, and embark on a photography tour. Covering huge distances over the vast wilderness, the tour is suitable for those of all levels of photographic skill, and you’re guaranteed to create memories of your polar bear encounter, that will last a lifetime. On this journey, you’ll also experience the famed phenomenon of Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Light, capturing the impossible shades of green and purple beams, against the inky black night sky. Trek through the Brooks range, and observe a herd of Caribou, a reindeer-like creature, ambling up the icy slopes, all in a perfectly regimented and orderly line. If you’re lucky, you might also spot a large Musk ox in the icy grasses, characterised by its long, shaggy brown fur coat, perfect for the below-freezing temperatures. Aside from the abundant array of animals, be sure to check out the equally impressive natural phenomenon of the wind blown snow, forming small peaks and hills across the vast flat plains, looking somewhat similar to the creamy frosting found on a birthday cake.
Plan an unforgettable holiday today with your local, personal travel manager. Visit http://www.travelmanagers.com.au/ptm-search/