Day 2 on our Churchill trip started with a 3 hour Beluga Whale Dream Tour. The sky was cloudy and it was 15’c but it was colder on the water as there is ice still out on Hudson’s Bay just out of view. There were 34 people on this tour so they used two zodiac boats and one aluminum one. I really wanted to go on the aluminum one (I called it the Beachcomber boat) as we have both used zodiac boats in the bush before….reminds us of work! Lucky us we got picked for the aluminum boat! Here we go!
Part of this tour includes a walking tour of the Fort Prince of Wales but due to a ‘safety’ issue the Parks Canada department closed the fort. We soon realized what the safety issue was, a whale carcass washed up on shore near the Fort and this attracts the bears! I was so excited! If any polar bears had made it to shore in this area they will be able to smell it. The polar bears main habitat is the sea ice as it is actually a marine mammal. They are very strong swimmers and can swim up to 100km a day. Their main source of food is seals which they hunt out on the ice and with the ice melting sooner and returning later the polar bears seal hunt time frame is shrinking and they are now going longer in the summers with little to no food while they are on the shore. Here is a informative article on this problem.
So while we are waiting for the beluga whales to come closer to the boat we notice something. Our first close polar bear sighting on shore so our cameras quickly turn from a few distant belugas to the two bears. This is how I looked most of the time!
They stay on a grassy patch behind the outcrop but peak up once in awhile so we can get a few shots!
We continue along the shoreline and go around Eskimo Point. We then see another polar bear napping in the seaweed along the shoreline trying to keep cool and conserve his energy. Our guide describes the bears right now as ‘hot and bothered’ as they have evolved to withstand –40 temperatures so +15’c is far too hot for them. They like to find low, cool spots to lay in.
I took about 20 pictures of him napping and then he finally notices our boat approaching. He is not too concerned and lays back down.
We hear a helicopter approach and that gets his attention and he sits up.
Another glance in our direction.
Up he goes for a walk.
Sniffing the air!
My favorite shot of this beautiful animal in the green landscape!
Our guide laughed and said “ He is taking a pee…they take really long pees!” She was right, he sat like that for a good minute or so peeing!
I think the smell of the whale carcass was calling to him and off he wandered.
Now remember I’m in a boat in choppy water and trying to get these pictures which was a real challenge for me but I was determined to get a few really good shots. I had to delete many but was so glad to get some in focus as we were a good distance from the bear. It had also started raining while we were watching this guy to add to the challenge. But I was dressed for the conditions and enjoying every moment of this adventure so far. I’m still smiling from ear to ear!
Next we traveled back into the Churchill River and saw the first pair of bears again. You can see how the colour of the outcrop as changed from the rain giving the landscape a different feel.
I think I’ll end this post here but that’s not the end to my polar bear sightings. The best is yet to come!
And we still haven’t gotten to the belugas either!