Polar Bear Photo Tour
Get eye to eye with a polar bear
Support polar bear conservation
- Eye level polar bear photography
- Exclusive events with Polar Bears International
- 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: Land based polar bear photography
Oct 23-28, 2022
Oct 28- Nov 2, 2022
Nov 2-7, 2022
Nov 7-12, 2022
Tour Leaders: Zac Mills & Johnny Hayward
Group Size: 6
Price: $5,895 + 5% tax (Canadian dollars)
Price includes: Guiding, accommodation, most meals
Location: Churchill, Manitoba
Fitness Level: Easy
WATCH OUR POLAR BEAR VIDEO
PHOTOS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS
POLAR BEAR CONSERVATION
As the Arctic warms, the sea ice is melting earlier and forming later. No sea ice means no platform for polar bears to catch their main food source, ringed seals, which almost never come onto land.
Polar Bears International is dedicated to securing a future for polar bears across the Arctic. As part of this tour, we are excited to be donating to their important conservation work. In addition, you will receive several exclusive Polar Bears International presentations to learn first-hand about the latest polar bear trends, research, and conservation challenges.
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 in a SUV from your hotel. Next, it’s time to find some polar bears. All day, with the exception of a quick lunch break, we are in polar bear photography mode.
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 around 10pm to photograph the Northern Lights.
We want help you to become a better photographer. And to do so, we’re going to go the extra mile. Before the tour, we will have 3 hour long one-on-one sessions with you to understand your shooting style, discuss topics of interest (such as field techniques, composition, post-processing), and provide guidance to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller.
During the tour, we will have optional image review sessions so that we critique our images and thereby make necessary adjustments while we’re in the field.
After the tour, there will be 3 more hour long one-on-one sessions to help you choose and edit your favorite images from the tour, and discuss other topics of interest. We will also organize a Zoom group event so each of us can present our favorite images and share stories.
Our policy is simple: ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you!
MEET YOUR GUIDES
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.
Johnny is a wildlife photographer and a Canadian national photojournalist with more than 28 years of experience. As a photographer and a certified guide his approach to wildlife photography is similar to how he covers major news or sporting events—waiting and watching for the subtle moments that tell the story behind the story. Johnny has travelled to the farthest reaches of North America to reveal the humanity in nature, and the nature of our humanity. His aim is simply to bear witness and bring you nature’s most captivating stories as they unfold. Johnny has become familiar with the polar bears of Churchill having had his first trip in 1999 with several visits through the years logging a lot of travel time in the polar bear capital of the world.
The tour departs from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. This year we are not including the cost of the return airfare in the tour price, which gives the option to either fly or take the train to Churchill. We can help you to make the travel arrangement of your choice!
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 the Bluesky Bed & Sled. 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.
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 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. Two years ago, we saw 15 different polar bears in one day. Last year, the most we saw in a day was 8 different polar bears. Typically, we average around 4-6 polar bears per day. 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.
What other wildlife can we 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 definitely times when you can shot a lot wider.
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?
You will be well fed and begin each day with a hearty breakfast. We will pack a lunch for you so we can be in the field all day. For dinner, we will eat in 3 of the 5 nights, (included in the tour price) and 2 of the 5 nights we will all go to our favorite local restaurant (not included in the tour price). There’s also a grocery store and liquor store in town, and it’s a good idea to bring your favorite snacks from home.
What's the cell coverage like?
In Churchill town, it’s solid. We tend to lose connection as we venture out for the day. There will also be wifi at your hotel.
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
• Breakfast, lunch, most dinners
WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?
• Transportation to Churchill
• Insurance (required)
JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!
Why Our Photo Tours Are Different
We value our guests, so everyone who travels with the Wildlife Collective will automatically receive a 5 percent discount on all subsequent tours. It’s our way of saying thank you for your support!
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, which were chosen based on our ability to offer our guests the ultimate wildlife photography experience.
Every tour includes photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tours as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!
We will never exceed 6 clients per instructor, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve on our tours.
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 create a compelling image.