Did I mention that every day out on the tundra round Churchill is different? Today we checked out a few of the normal hot-spots of bear activity to no avail. Sometimes there’s just no saying where the polar bears are going to be, and so we search. Around 10:30am we decided to head out to one of the most beautiful headlands in the Wildlife Management Area for our coffee break. I’m a bit of a geology nerd and the Precambrian rock visible here is just amazing, so I’m always excited to take a trip here regardless of the wildlife situations!
As we approached our normal view point, I spotted a slight movement out the front of the machine. A fleeting, rapid glimpse of snow-white fur moving at a furious and intense pace. Certainly not a polar bear, but there was a beautiful Arctic Fox going about his morning business and giving us some fantastic photography ops.
Driving on, we reached our destination and gasped to see how the sea-ice had moved in overnight (more on that later!). Far off we spotted a lone polar bear making his way across the ice towards us, and we set up the spotting scope for better viewing. He was over a mile away, but as we watched he got into the frigid water (a swimming bear! Wow!) and continued towards us. Well, this was as good a time as any to be patient and see what would happen next. A snowy owl perched on a nearby rock gave us our third wildlife excitement of the day, and we chatted about the hunting strategies of polar bears as we watched the streamlined, capable swimmer heading our way.
Before we knew it, our coffee and cake break was interrupted by gasps as the bear made land on the narrow headland before us and shook majestically. Calling for hush in the vehicle we waited in awe as a 100% wild polar bear, of his own free will, made his way right up to our machine and strolled nonchalantly around us, sniffing occasionally to work out what we were all about.
To see this beautiful, natural creature approaching us voluntarily, totally unperturbed by our presence in his home, is an experience that certainly never gets old and just goes to show, good things come to those who wait.