Manitoba Polar Bear Adventure
October 21 - 29, 2019
B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner
Monday, October 21 - Arrive Winnipeg
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel. One of Canada's historic luxury railway hotels, the Fort Garry was built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and is designated a National Historic Site of Canada. A symbol of Winnipeg's importance as a transportation hub, this hospitality icon is located just one block from Union Station and is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, defining the skyline for more than 100 years.
Dinner is on your own this evening to discover one of the city's many fine restaurants. With more dining establishments per capita than any other Canadian city, the choices are wide-ranging, and many feature distinctly Manitoban fare, from bison steaks to pickerel (elsewhere known as walleye) and wild berries. Plenty of appealing options are within walking distance in the Exchange District, a 20-block section of well-preserved turn-of-the-20th-century buildings that has become Winnipeg's center for dining, art and nightlife.
Tuesday, October 22: Exploring Historic Winnipeg; Manitoba Museum; Welcome Dinner (B, L, D)
Winnipeg, Canada’s fourth-largest city, has a rich and colorful history. Located where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet, its name comes from the Cree word for “muddy water,” referencing nearby Lake Winnipeg. The region was a trading center for aboriginal peoples long before the arrival of Europeans who established a presence here in 1738 with the building of Fort Rouge by French traders. In the early 1800s, Lord Selkirk, who controlled the Hudson Bay Company and operated much of its trading activities from the area, imported settlers from Scotland to farm the fertile land in the Red River Valley around Winnipeg. The nucleus of the Red River Colony was later incorporated as the City of Winnipeg in 1873, ushering in an influential future as a railway and business hub and “Gateway to the West.” Today, Winnipeg is a thriving multicultural city, and the cultural and commercial center of Canada’s prairie region.
Our introduction to the city includes a guided tour of the acclaimed Manitoba Museum. In preparation for our northern lights encounters, we'll attend a planetarium program at the museum that focuses on the science of the aurora borealis. We'll also tour exhibits reflecting the natural and human heritage of the province, including a 17th-century sailing ship, and the history of Canada's northern indigenous cultures.
This afternoon, visit FortWhyte Alive, a 640-acre nature reserve located just outside the city. Our adventure begins with an up-close encounter with North America's largest land mammal, the bison. Aboard the park's new mini bus, join an interpreter to explore the bison prairie, learning how this magnificent animal has shaped Manitoba's history. Our tour continues with a gentle walk through wetlands and forest to spot a wide variety of waterfowl, songbirds and birds of prey that are at home in the area. Learn the difference between "dabblers" and "divers" from the comfort of a sheltered birding hut. We'll also see endangered burrowing owls, a charming species that has flourished in the park's highly successful breeding program.
Following our full day in and around Winnipeg, return to the Fort Garry Hotel with time to get ready for this evening's welcome dinner—your first chance to meet your Expedition Leader for your polar bear adventure.
Wednesday, October 23: Winnipeg / Churchill; Polar Bear Presentation (B, L, D)
Fly by chartered plane to Churchill this morning. This hospitable frontier town, originally a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post, is our base for adventure. Enjoy an evening presentation on polar bears and the northern environment by professional naturalist staff.
Thursday & Friday, October 24-25: Polar Bear Viewing (B, L, D)
Custom-built Polar Rovers are our mobile means for spending time among the bears.Our small group size ensures everyone a window seat and plenty of space. Expedition Leaders know the best places to observe polar bears, which congregate each fall in the region as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze, signaling the start of the winter seal-hunting season. As we watch them interact, we're delighted by their antics and rugged beauty. From the warmth of our big vehicle, we may see mothers with cubs, young males play-fighting, or a lone bear ambling over the tundra in solitary majesty. Your Expedition Leader interprets all we observe, explaining the bears’ behavior and how they thrive in such a harsh environment. In the evenings, we meet for dinner and presentations on wildlife and local cultures.
Saturday, October 26: Explore Around Churchill / Evening on the Tundra (B, L, D)
Today we tour historic Churchill, then head out to the tundra for evening bear viewing and dinner aboard the Rover. During the day we may explore the coast road on a drive to Cape Merry, often spying Arctic fox and Arctic hare. Keep a close eye out for them, as their winter-white coats offer excellent camouflage later in the season when the ground is white. If the skies are clear, our nighttime tundra excursion might reveal one of nature’s most exhilarating experiences—a chance to view the northern lights away from the glare of town. Though never predictable or promised, the auroral display often starts as a pale glow in the northern sky, then the lights begin to flicker and dance in shimmering curtains of color, most typically green but occasionally red or violet.
Sunday, October 27: Churchill—Dog Sledding / Winnipeg (B, L)
Our return flight to Winnipeg is scheduled to depart mid- to late afternoon, offering as much time as possible for exploring Churchill today. A highlight this morning is an authentic dog sled ride. We meet a local musher and his team, spending time with the lively and affectionate dogs before taking turns riding behind them on an exhilarating trot through the boreal forest. If time permits, you may be able to pick up last-minute locally made handicrafts or take an optional helicopter tour over the tundra before we depart. We'll have a farewell lunch together before flying back to Winnipeg, where a final reception concludes our adventure together.
Monday, October 28: Winnipeg / Depart (B)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flights home.