Event Dates: October 31 – November 7, 2020
Total Cost: 3895.00 CDN
Witness the annual migration of Churchill’s polar bears. Every October and November, polar bears congregate in the Churchill area to await the return of the sea ice and access to their preferred prey – the ringed seal. Spend two full days touring the Churchill Wildlife Management Area aboard a custom-built tundra vehicle. On the first day, course participants will enjoy an excellent firsthand view of polar bears in their natural habitat. On the second day, you will assist one of our visiting researchers with behavioural observations of the bears, collecting data as part of a long-term study contributing to our knowledge of these magnificent animals. Each evening, in-depth presentations by bear biologists explore this remarkable animal and the challenges they are facing in a warming climate. And if that were not enough, this program also includes a 45 minute helitour along the rugged coastline of Hudson Bay, a dog sledding tour, and a tour of the community, including the world-famous Itsanitaq Museum and its renowned collection of historic and contemporary Inuit art and artifacts. This is our most popular program and all proceeds support scientific research in Churchill. Book early, this program is known to sell out fast!
COVID-19 Note: All courses are currently being offered, pending travel restrictions due to COVID-19 being lifted. It is the participants’ responsibility to ensure they are able to travel safely to Churchill, as the travel restrictions vary with the participants’ location (from within Manitoba, within Canada, or outside Canada). The CNSC is taking safety precautions according to local, provincial, and federal guidelines. In the event of the course being postponed or cancelled, or if you are unable to travel to Churchill due to COVID-19 or other reasons, the course deposit, which is non-refundable, can be applied to a later course.
As you arrive in Churchill, you will be greeted by a staff member from the CNSC at the airport or train station. If you’ve arrived early in Churchill to get a head start on exploring we will meet you at your accommodations. During your approximate 30-minute transfer to the CNSC, watch for your first sight of Arctic wildlife – you might be able to catch sight of an Arctic fox or perhaps even your first polar bear!
After arriving at the CNSC, you will be welcomed and checked in. Settle into the space with an orientation to the building and time to check out any cold weather rental gear you might need. Lunch will be provided onsite at our wonderful and spacious cafeteria, where there is always something good cooking! The rest of your day will be spent with a walk around the grounds, which are located on the national historic site of the former Churchill Research Rocket Range. For those who are interested in a drive or the chance to pick up any last-minute items, a shuttle will be available to town. Round out the day with dinner in our beautiful cafeteria, followed by a lecture on polar bear biology from a renowned bear researcher. Whenever possible, don’t forget to watch out the window for a spectacular view of the tundra landscape – wildlife walk and fly by on a regular basis, so it’s worth being vigilant!
Today we will start our day early with a full breakfast at the CNSC. We then head out for our full day on the tundra! We will be transferring to a custom-built Tundra Buggy; these machines are built to keep guests (and bears) safe and comfortable and to navigate the tundra trail network with ease. As Tundra Buggy is one of the few companies with a permit to operate in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, there are plenty of opportunities for incredible bear viewing experiences with lots of space for everyone. We might see young curious bears, old sleepy males, moms with cubs, or perhaps young males sparring as we make our way around the tundra trail network. We will eat a picnic-style bagged lunch in the Buggy and enjoy hot beverages. As the sun gets low we will return to the CNSC for our evening meal and a lecture on the Hudson Bay ecosystem.
This morning we get to know the CNSC a bit better – learning how a LEED-certified facility came to be on the edge of the Arctic. We will also learn about the research projects that our visit support as we hear about current research projects happening at the CNSC, followed by lunch. After lunch we will depart for our dogsledding adventure. Not only will you learn about the history and philosophy of dogsledding in Churchill from a local musher, you’ll get to experience it yourself as you go for a ride through the forest – don’t forget to thank your dog team when you’re all done! We will then transfer back to the CNSC (keep watching for wildlife!); following supper we will learn more about seals and their relationship to polar bears.
It’s helicopter day! After breakfast today we’ll get a look at the landscape from the unique perspective of a helicopter. Keep your eyes peeled as the helicopter searches for wildlife from the air during our 45-minute tour – bears are very commonly spotted in their aggregates along the coast, and sometimes moose, caribou, seals, or wolves are even seen. Lunch will be provided at the Centre, followed by an exploration of climate change through the eyes of documentary film makers. After dinner tonight we’ll again increase our bear knowledge with a lecture on polar bear citizen science.
Today is another full day on the tundra searching for wildlife from the comfort and safety of a Tundra Buggy. At the end of the day, we will again do our short transfer back to the CNSC for dinner, followed by a lecture on the marine environment where polar bears make their living.
We start the morning with our hot breakfast followed by a transfer to the town of Churchill itself. A remote community of approximately 900 people, Churchill has a remarkable variety of services and points of interest for such a small town. This morning we will be visiting the Cape Merry Battery, which is part of the Prince of Wales historic site and managed by Parks Canada. Lunch will be in town at a local restaurant. After lunch we will explore down Goose Creek Road towards the Churchill River – as we head south, the tundra falls away behind us and we enter the boreal forest. Watch for red fox, snowshoe hare, resident songbirds, and perhaps even a wolverine or a wolf as we head to the local lookout. The afternoon and evening we will continue our learning as we take part in a research seminar and educational lecture.
Today we dedicate to the town of Churchill. After breakfast we will transfer to Churchill for a town and area tour, followed by lunch (at your own expense). After lunch we will visit the Itsanitaq Museum, known for its collection of Inuit art and artifacts, and the Parks Canada Interpretive Centre. You will also have free time to explore the town of Churchill on your own before we return to the CNSC. Dinner tonight will be followed by a cultural talk by a local member of the Dene or Cree community, and a farewell gathering with some local tasty foods.
As our trip winds to its conclusion, we will check out of the CNSC for transfer to train, plane, or other accommodations. It isn’t over until it’s over, though – no matter how you depart, keep your eyes peeled for one last sighting of the great Lord of the Arctic.
Please note that this is a sample itinerary only. All inclusions listed will be offered but may happen on different days than listed and may be slightly different than described. Lecture topics will vary depending on the guide and their area of research. Occasionally due to events beyond our control certain activities may need to be delayed or cancelled for safety reasons.
Please note that in 2020, we are making all efforts to work with our local providers to offer the itinerary in a safe and respectful fashion. Maximum gathering limits and/or service disruptions may be in force at local museums, gift shops and restaurants. We welcome our guests to the CNSC and ask that all guests be respectful of local requests and needs during this time.
Meals: all (except 1 lunch); two meals on arrival day and one meal on departure day are included
Accommodation: all, 7 nights
Travel to Churchill: no