Wildlife and Nature

Wild Encounters: Watching polar bears in Manitoba

Ben Westwood

24th May 2024

Polar bears

Churchill on Hudson Bay is a truly unique place. This town in Manitoba has roughly the same amount of polar bears as people – about 900 – so locals like to say there’s a bear for every resident.

On holidays to Manitoba, visitors can enjoy one of nature’s most incredible spectacles. Churchill is one of the best places in the world to watch polar bears in safety from boats and specialist tundra vehicles. In Hudson Bay, these amazing but fierce creatures can be seen swimming and cooling off on the rocks in summer, while autumn is peak viewing time when the world’s largest carnivores gather on the shores to wait for the ice pack to form to begin hunting seals.

Here is our guide to watching polar bears in Manitoba, whether visiting in summer or autumn, with advice on where to stay:

Summer in Manitoba

The advantages of visiting Churchill in summer are more comfortable temperatures (typically 11-18°C from June to September), and visitors can not only watch polar bears but also beluga whales.

Summer is a great time for exploring Hudson Bay by boat on Arctic cruising vessels with underwater viewing windows. A highlight is getting close to polar bears swimming, playing with their cubs, sunning themselves on the rocks and prowling the coastline and river estuaries. The bears’ diet is more varied in summer, and they feast on carcasses, hunt rodents and rabbits, and forage on berries and vegetation.

As well as resident polar bears, Hudson Bay has a population of more than 50,000 beluga whales, and in summer many make their way to the Churchill River to feed and give birth. Pods of these playful creatures can be viewed on unforgettable boat and kayaking trips.

Find out more about Journeyscape’s seven-day Polar Bears and Beluga Whales holiday.

Autumn in Manitoba

Autumn is overall the best time to watch polar bears in Manitoba. As the ice pack starts to form in October, the bears gather on the shoreline ready to cross the ice and begin hunting seals, their main source of food in autumn and winter.

Viewing is best on custom-built Arctic Crawler all-terrain vehicles with external viewing platforms. Curious and far from shy, the polar bears will sometimes come right alongside the vehicles to sneak a peek at their visitors.

The vehicles go deep into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, a wilderness that is also home to arctic foxes, ptarmigan and other unique arctic wildlife.

Autumn is also an excellent time to view the spectacular Northern Lights over Hudson Bay.

Where to stay in Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill offers a range of ways to watch polar bears while staying at specialist lodges. If you prefer to stay in Churchill town itself, a great option is Lazy Bear Lodge, a welcoming, handcrafted hotel made mainly from recycled logs, convenient for exploring Churchill’s museums. For a more immersive experience in the wilderness, stay at the unique Tundra Buggy Lodge at Polar Bear Point, 35km east of Churchill, reminiscent of a space station on the tundra.

Both options offer unparalleled viewing of polar bears on excursions with specialist guides and delicious freshly-cooked food to keep you warm after a busy day of Arctic exploration.

Find out more about Journeyscape’s six-day autumn holidays in Manitoba: Churchill Polar Bear Adventure and Polar Bears at Tundra Buggy Lodge.


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