Polar Bear Photo Tour
Get eye to eye with a polar bear
- Eye level polar bear photography
- Up to 10 polar bears per day
- Arctic foxes, red foxes, ptarmigans, and if we’re lucky wolves, caribou, wolverine
- 50 percent chance to see the aurora
- 6 Days / 5 Nights, with 4 full days + 2 half days of photography
There are few animals as iconic as the polar bear. The world’s largest non-aquatic predator, they are as a majestic to behold as they are to photograph. As the temperatures drop, they congregate along the shorelines near Churchill in anticipation of Hudson Bay freezing over, which is necessary for them to hunt. This is the best time of year to see the most polar bears.
We have been traveling to Churchill for many years and we love it. The town itself has its own unique charm and the polar bear viewing is world class. We are excited to share this experience with you.
Tour Highlights: Best land-based polar bear photography
2024 Tour Dates:
*Nov 1-6 (full)
*Nov 6-13 (full)
2025 Tour Dates:
*Nov 1-6 (full)
*Nov 6-13 ($7,495 CDN + tax + air)
Tour Leader: Zac Mills
Group Size: 6
Price includes: Guiding, accommodation, photo instruction
Location: Churchill, Manitoba
Fitness Level: Easy
WATCH OUR POLAR BEAR VIDEO
PHOTOS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS
POLAR BEAR. ICE BEAR. NANUK.
This tour is all about polar bears. You’ll photograph polar bears walking along the shoreline, testing the sea ice, cubs playing with one another, and if we are lucky adults wrestling and sparring with another. There are endless photography possibilities, including every pose and portrait you can imagine.
Seeing polar bears in the wild is special. But photographing wild polar bears on foot, while learning about polar bear conservation, is an experience unlike any other.
From mid-October to mid-November, polar bears congregate near Churchill to test the newly formed sea ice. It’s been months since they’ve consumed a seal, their primary source of food, and they are eager for to disperse out onto the sea ice as it’s solid. Unlike most other popular bear populations, these bears are tolerant of human activity, which allows for close encounters and amazing photographic opportunities.
Our typical day starts shortly before sunrise, when you will be picked up from your hotel. Next, it’s time to find some polar bears. We are out all day looking for these amazing bears and other wildlife.
We rely on expert guides to get us in the best possible positions. Often times, this means leaving a good position to go to a better one. When we do find a polar bear, we are usually able to get out of the vehicle and photograph polar bears while on foot. This gives us many more compositional options and some times we’ll even get right down to ground level to create a more intimate perspective.
Our polar bear viewing ends at sunset, usually around 5pm. After a group dinner, we will head back to our hotel. If it’s a clear sky, chances are good that we will see the aurora, and if so, we will head back out to photograph the Northern Lights.
POLAR BEAR PHOTOGRAPHY
Lenses: A lens in the 400-600mm range or longer is recommended to maximize your photography experience. A wide angle lens is also recommended for aurora photography.
Shutter speed: If a polar bear is moving, a shutter speed of 1/1,000th of a second or more is recommended to freeze action and get a sharp image.
Composition: There are so many possibilities, including tight portraits, as well as more environmental shots. We will prompt you on different compositional suggestions during the tour.
Storytelling: Yes, polar bears are our main focus, but we will also photograph landscapes, parts of the town, and other elements that help to tell the story of these polar bears.
1:1 Sessions: We will have organize 1:1 sessions with you before the tour to help prepare you and after the tour to help you with post-processing.
Ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller!
MEET YOUR GUIDE
As a wildlife photographer, traveler, and former World Bank economist, Zac brings a different perspective to wildlife conservation. He founded the Wildlife Collective to help others become better wildlife photographers and to use their voice for conservation. With leadership roles in several conservation organizations, Zac knows first hand that working together with like-minded individuals can make a difference. A certified guide and bear lover, Zac hopes to entertain you with stories from the wild, inspire you to get involved in conservation, and to become the best wildlife photographer you can be.
The tour departs from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. You should plan to arrive in Winnipeg the day before your tour.
Arrive in Churchill
Our tour starts midday when the Calm Air flight from Winnipeg arrives. For the guests arriving by plane, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your room at our Bed & Breakfast. After a quick check in, we will head out in the afternoon to search for polar bears until sunset.
For each of the next four days, we will have an early breakfast and then we will search for polar bears all day until sunset. When it is safe to do so, we will be able to get out of our vehicle to photograph polar bears. At night, we will be monitoring the aurora and if conditions present themselves we will go out to photograph the incredible Northern Lights. For our 8 day tour, there will be two more days added on here.
We will have one last morning to search for polar bears. Your tour will end around midday to coincide with the return flight to Winnipeg.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How many polar bears will I see?
Wildlife is unpredictable, BUT we are going at the absolute best time of year to maximize our chances of seeing polar bears. In 2023, we saw 10+ different polar bears for 5 days in a row, but typically we average around 2-4 polar bears per day in November. The good news is that a sighting can last for a long time. We’re likely to see mom and cubs, sub-adults, and fully grown males and females.
How much is airfare?
The round-trip airfare between Winnipeg and Churchill is an extra expense and is not covered by the tour price. Upon confirming your reservation, we will include this expense in your invoice. With our group rate, we are able to secure a discounted price compared to booking on your own. In 2023, the supplementary charge amounted to $1,650 Canadian dollars and included 2 complimentary checked bags.
What other wildlife will I see?
In each of the past two years, we saw 4 different foxes: the arctic fox, the red fox, the cross fox and the silver fox (the latter are variants of the red fox), although we have to be a bit lucky for a close sighting. We are also likely to see ptarmigans, arctic hares, and if we’re really luck, wolves and wolverines (there’s usually 1-2 sightings per polar bear season).
How cold will it be?
It can be bone chilling cold or more temperate. It depends on the year. Temperatures will typically range from -5 to -35 degrees Celsius with the windchill (that’s 23 to -31 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s crucial to bring layers to stay warm, starting with a foundational base layer and a series of successive layers to keep warm. I recommend very warm socks, insulated winter boots that go to your shin (since we may walk through snow drifts), and two pairs of gloves. One base layer that allows you to operate your camera and one larger set up of gloves or mittens that you can slide on top. I use heated glove liners, which helps a lot because camera gear is metallic and our fingers are the most at risk from the cold. If you can come with heated gloves or glove liners, you won’t regret it!
What focal range do you recommend?
Churchill is a destination where the more focal reach you have, the better. I advise a focal reach of at least 400mm, though there are times when you can shot a bit wider. If you have teleconverters, please bring them to extend your reach.
Can I bring a tripod?
Absolutely, there’s lots of space in the back of the vehicles for tripods and monopods.
What's the bathroom situation?
It’s good. There are several places, including the airport and research center, where we can stop to use the washroom when we’re out in the field.
What's the food situation?
We begin each day with a continental breakfast. We will plan to pack a lunch so we can be in the field all day. For dinner, we will either stay in and have a group dinner, or we will venture to one of the local restaurants in town. There’s also a grocery store and liquor store, and it’s a good idea to bring your favorite snacks from home.
Will there be cell service or WiFi at the lodge?
In the town of Churchill, it’s solid. However, we tend to lose connection as we venture out for the day. There will also be WiFi at your bed and breakfast.
Send us an email and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat through everything with you and answer any questions you may have.
• All guiding
• Photography instruction
• Return airfare Winnipeg to Churchill
• Complimentary breakfast
WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?
• Lunch and dinner
• Insurance (required)
JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!
Why Our Photo Tours Are Different
The essence of life lies in its experiences, and it is our unwavering mission to gift you the very best of them. We strive to craft our tours with care and authenticity, making each adventure a vibrant chapter in the story of your life.
All of our tours have a conservation focus. We will learn about the challenges facing our primary subject and ongoing conservation work. Plus, every tour makes a donation to a conservation partner.
We take you to the world’s most amazing wilderness destinations, carefully selected for their unparalleled beauty and chosen based on our commitment to providing guests with the very best wildlife experiences.
We welcome all levels of photography and provide optional photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tour as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!
We believe that small groups give the best wildlife expereinces. We do not exceed 6 clients per guide, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve.
We work with the world’s best wildlife guides, who also happen to be our good friends. They are experienced, keep us safe, and put us in the best possible position to have the best wildlife experience.