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

Step into the magical realm of Churchill, Manitoba, where the extraordinary experience of walking among polar bears awaits, inviting you to immerse yourself in the vast Arctic wilderness. Forge a unique and profound connection with these majestic bears as you observe their captivating behavior in their natural habitat, surrounded by the frozen landscapes that also promise enchanting encounters with red foxes and, with a stroke of luck, the breathtaking display of the Northern Lights.

Beyond the wild encounters, Churchill warmly embraces you with its cozy charm, offering more than just a physical journey. Indulge in hearty meals, engage in lively conversations with fellow adventurers, and bask in the genuine warmth of local hospitality. Having explored Churchill for numerous years, our passion for this unique destination runs deep. Our connection with polar bears extends beyond mere biology; it’s a shared heartbeat with nature itself. These remarkable creatures embody the very soul of the Arctic, and as conscientious stewards of our planet, we hold the power to ensure their future. Join us on this extraordinary journey, and witness firsthand the majestic presence of polar bears!

Tour Highlights: Best land-based polar bear photography

Tour Dates:

* Nov 1-6, 2024 (full)

* Nov 6-13, 2024 (full)

* Nov 1-6, 2025 (full)

* Nov 6-13, 2025 ($7,495 CDN + tax + air)

Tour Leader: Zac Mills

Group Size: 6

Price includes: Guiding, accommodation, photo instruction

Accommodation: Single

Start/End: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Fitness Level: Easy

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REASONS TO CHOOSE THIS TOUR

Extensive experience: With five years of dedicated guiding for polar bears in Churchill, we will put you in the best position to capture amazing moments.

Ground level: Being on foot with polar bears provides a unique and intimate wildlife experience, and enables a deeper connection with these amazing animals.

Aurora borealis: Churchill, strategically positioned beneath the auroral oval, offers an ideal vantage point for experiencing the captivating Northern Lights.

Foxes: While your initial attraction may be the polar bears, you will be charmed by the resident foxes. With an abundance of these delightful creatures in the area, you’ll find numerous opportunities to capture their beauty through photography.

Conservation donation: As part of this tour, we make a donation to polar bear conservation.

ITINERARY

The tour departs from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. You should plan to arrive in Winnipeg the day before your tour. If you need any help making your flight arrangements, please let us know.

Day 0 • Arrive in Winnipeg, Manitoba

To ensure a smooth start to your tour, we strongly recommend arriving in Winnipeg at least one day prior to the tour’s commencement. Please note that accommodation is not included in the tour package. For your convenience, we recommend considering the Courtyard Winnipeg Airport or the Lakeview Signature, Trademark Collection by Wyndham as excellent lodging options within walking distance to the airport.

Day 1 • Flight to Churchill

Your flight schedule will be provided once CalmAir releases their spring 2024 schedule. Upon your arrival in Churchill, our team will greet you at the airport and arrange for your transfer to your cozy room at our Bed & Breakfast. After a swift check-in process, we’ll embark on an afternoon expedition to search for polar bears, continuing until sunset. For those seeking a more immersive and leisurely journey, there is also the option of a train ride from Winnipeg to Churchill, a unique experience that spans approximately 48 hours and allows for a deeper connection with the landscape.

Day 2-5 • Polar Bears

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.

* Please note that two more days added here for the Nov 6-13 tour.

Day 6 • Tour Ends

On our final day, we’ll have one last opportunity to search for polar bears. Details regarding your departure flight to Winnipeg will be provided once the schedule is available. We kindly ask that you make arrangements to stay overnight in Winnipeg, and plan your return flight for the following day. Please be aware that accommodation in Winnipeg is not included in the tour price.

* Please note that this will be Day 8 for the Nov 6-13 tour.

Churchill

WHAT’s INCLUDED?

• Photography instruction
• Accommodation
• Return airfare from Winnipeg to Churchill
• Complimentary breakfast

WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?

• Flight to Winnipeg
• Lunch and dinner
• Tips for guides
• Travel medical insurance (required)

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY?

6:30am: wake up

7am: breakfast

8am: polar bear safari starts

5pm: polar bear safari ends

6:30pm: dinner

8pm: optional photo review

 

* Actual times may vary and depend on weather conditions. 

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 shoot 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.

More Questions?

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.

PREVIOUS TRIP REPORTS

AURORA BOREALIS

Seeing the aurora, commonly known as the Northern Lights, is an enchanting experience that truly captivates the senses. We fully understand the awe and wonder that this mesmerizing phenomenon can evoke. With clear skies, the chances of witnessing this ethereal display are promising. However, due to the rapid freezing temperatures, there is often a significant amount of moisture in the air, which means we can only expect to see the aurora about once per week. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and stay hopeful.

We are on aurora watch every night, ready to venture out between 8-10 pm if the conditions look promising. It is during these magical hours that you can fully immerse yourself in the sheer beauty of the Northern Lights. Don’t forget to bring your trusty tripod to ensure you capture the lights in all their glory. Our experienced team will be there to assist you with all your camera settings, ensuring that you don’t miss a single moment of this breathtaking spectacle. Embrace the dance of colors and let the Northern Lights weave their enchanting tales in the night sky. The serenity of the Arctic night adds to the overall enchantment, creating an unforgettable experience for every observer.

POLAR BEAR FACTS

Large Carnivores: Polar bears are the largest land carnivores, with males weighing between 900 to 1,600 pounds (410 to 720 kilograms), and standing about 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 meters) tall when on their hind legs.

Marine Mammals: Despite being land mammals, polar bears are considered marine mammals because a significant portion of their life is spent on sea ice and they depend on marine resources, mainly seals, for their diet.

Excellent Swimmers: These bears are powerful swimmers and can cover long distances in the water. They use their front paws for paddling and their hind legs for propulsion, capable of reaching speeds of up to 6 miles per hour (9.7 kilometers per hour).

Incredible Sense of Smell: Polar bears have an exceptional sense of smell, which they use to detect prey from great distances, even up to 20 miles away. 

Unique Fur: Polar bears have a dense, water-resistant fur coat that appears white, helping them blend in with their icy surroundings. However, their skin beneath the fur is actually black, which aids in absorbing and retaining heat from the sun.

Ice Dependent: Polar bears are highly dependent on sea ice for hunting and travel. The reduction of sea ice due to climate change poses a severe threat to their way of life.

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH POLAR BEARS

Read our bear photography guide, which covers practical advice on camera gear and settings, and composition tips that cater to photographers of all levels.

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 provide optional 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!

PHOTO GALLERY

EXTEND YOUR STAY

Things to do in Winnipeg

  • Cultural Diversity: Winnipeg is known for its rich cultural diversity, with a mix of Indigenous, European, and other ethnic influences. Explore cultural institutions like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Manitoba Museum, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
  • The Forks National Historic Site: The Forks is a historic meeting place where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge. It serves as a social, historical, and recreational hub. Visitors can enjoy the market, restaurants, shops, and outdoor activities, including skating on the river in winter. 

Riding Mountain National Park

  • Winter Wildlife Watching: Despite the cold temperatures, winter offers a unique opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to observe resilient animals adapted to the season. Look for tracks in the snow, spot winter birds, and, with a bit of luck, catch a glimpse of the rare lynx and other wildlife.
  • Ice Skating on Clear Lake: Clear Lake often freezes in winter, providing a natural ice skating rink. Strap on your skates and glide across the frozen lake, surrounded by the park’s serene winter beauty. It’s a picturesque and enjoyable way to experience the season.

Meet Your Guide: Zac Mills

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. 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.

JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!

Why Our Photo Tours Are Different

Experience

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.

Conservation

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.

Locations

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.

Photography Focus

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!

Small Groups

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.

Best Guides

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.