The polar bear is the world's largest carnivore, roaming the Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas. Find out more about these magnificent animals including the best places to see them, such as Churchill in Canada, and when to go.
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Canada & Alaska
We work closely with a selection of specialist operators in Northern and Arctic Canada that run trips to see polar bears in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Our most popular trips are small group adventures, travelling on land in tundra buggies around Churchill. Alternatively you can choose to spot polar bears on a guided walking safari or from the water, either from the deck of an Arctic cruise ship or exploring by zodiac as the bears swim amongst the ice floes.
Travelling this far north necessitates being prepared for weather extremes at any time of the year. For travel during October and November it is sensible to dress in plenty of layers including a fleece, wind-proof jacket, sturdy thermal high-leg boots, waterproofs, scarf, gloves and warm socks. Winter parkas and boots are usually provided. Summer visitors should also dress in layers and take waterproofs, comfortable boots and insect repellent.
Barrow is the only place in Alaska from where you are likely to see polar bears.
This small settlement is home to the Inupiat people and is normally reached by light aircraft from Fairbanks, about 500 miles away.
Best time to go: June to August.
Akpatok Island is an uninhabited island about 70 km from the mainland of northern Quebec. It is home to numerous birdlife including Arctic terns, puffins, razorbills and thick-billed murres. It is also a favourite summer hang-out for polar bears. While there is plenty of ice the bears stay out at sea and feast on seals. When the ice melts they come ashore; the males continue hunting around the seashore while the females den.
Cambridge Bay was called Ikaluktuutiak by the indigenous Inuit, which translates into "good fishing place". Archaeological sites were subsequently found with evidence of fishing. It is similar to Nain in population size.
Churchill, which lies on the edge Hudson Bay in Canada's Manitoba region is probably the best known place in the world for seeing polar bears. During the winter, when the bay freezes over, the bears live some 40 to 150 miles out on the ice, hunting seal along the leads. When the spring comes, large pieces of ice called “floes” are blown south and ground the bears on the bay’s southern shore. The bears ride the floating ice onto the beach, and by July, have dispersed inland along the coast.
By mid-October, some 600 to 1,000 bears are massed along a 100-mile-long stretch of coast between the Nelson and Churchill rivers, forming the largest concentration of polar bears in the world. Many of the bears, mostly males, cluster on headlands and capes, especially Cape Churchill. When the first hard freeze occurs, the bears disperse out once again over the frozen bay in search of seals
The unique Tundra Buggy, with its high ground clearance is as an ideal platform to view the bears close-up. With expert guides on board you will spend a whole day learning all about the polar bears, and hopefully getting to see them at close range. It is not uncommon for these curious bears to come right up to the vehicles, often standing up to get a better look inside. The vehicles are warm, equipped with lavatories, and lunch and drinks are served on board.
Resolute, or Resolute Bay as it's sometimes known, is a tiny Inuit community on Cornwallis Island in Nunavut. Its northerly location meant it became the final resting place of several of the crew from the ill-fated Franklin’s expedition of 1845. These days it is an ideal location for expeditions to the North Pole, and of course, for polar bear spotting.
Best time to go: July and August; October and November
Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The sovereign territory of Norway, it is one of the closer places to mainland Europe where you can go to see polar bears, although sightings are not as numerous as they would be if you were to visit Churchill in Canada.
The island and its surrounding waters are also inhabited by a range of other wildlife, including walrus, seals, whales, reindeer, Arctic fox as well as numerous seabird colonies.
Best time to go: May to August.
To find out more about incorporating polar bear watching into a tailor-made itinerary of Canada, please speak to one of our Canada specialists.
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