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Trip Report Polar Bear - Churchill- Winnipeg trip reoprt

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My wife and I went on a trip to Churchill, Manitoba to see the polar bears. This is a report with some tips and advice that I hope may help someone.

We booked a 6 day tour through Natural Habitat Adventures, which coordinates tours of the Smithsonian and American Museum, whose itineraries and prices are very similar. There are many others ways of doing the same thing, but we like an organized tour, because of the less problem with logistics, and having someone with knowledge.

We left Allentown, PA on United on Oct.22, changed planes in Ohare,and stayed in Winnipeg for two nights at Fort Garry Hotel. One night was included, and one night we reserved on our own, at about $100. The hotel was very good, but the rooms were getting old, although comfortable. The first night we went to Bombolini restaurant, a few blocks from the hotel, and it was a very good inexpensive Italian restaurant. Then we went to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which had the opening night of Mozart's "Magic Flute." We got there about 6:55PM, asked for tickets, and were willing to pay $50C. The clerk told us to wait on the side. At 7:00PM, the tickets which were unsold for the 7:30 performance were sold at $15C!!!!(special price for seniors and students.) And we had the best seats in the house - first row mezzanine, center. It was a beautiful, new theater, and the production was imaginative, clever, and well danced. With a good dinner and show, it was an excellent start.

Next day we walked to the Manitoba Museum, a 15 min brisk walk. It was well worth it, with good exhibits which went on forever. Had a good vegan lunch at Mondragon Bookstore. Then took a cab to the Asper Jewish Community Center, to see a small museum of Jewish history of that part of Canada. Joined the NatHab group at Fort Garry hotel for supper. 15 people from all over the US in the group, with one leader.

Winnipeg is a small city with unremarkable architecture and attractions, drab, and with surprisingly few people walking on the streets. We were disappointed in the "Forks" area.

Next day we flew on a charter (Calm Air, 2:40 hrs) to Chuchill, which is a town of 1000 people on the Hudson Bay. We stayed at the Polar Inn, a one-story motel, which was adequate. There ar several small hotels in town, most one story, but some with two. One couple stayed at the Seaport Hotel, which looked better. Churchill happens to be the place where most of the polar bears in the Hudson Bay congregate during late October and early November to wait for the ice to freeze so they can catch and eat seals for the winter. We settled down, then went on a Tundra Buggy for a few hours to see the bears. Saw 7, had supper, returned in the darkness, a good experience. But you don't go to churchill for the food.

Next day we spent 8 hours on the tundra, saw 11 bears, ptarmigan (looked like white chicken), an Arctic fox, and a snowy owl. The Tundra Buggy is a large bus with a wide body, set very high on hugh tires which enable it to go through the mud. Goes about 3 MPH. Next day saw 15 bears, a mother nursing a cub, young males sparring, etc. It was exciting to see them in the wild. Some of the bears stayed far, some walked around the bus, letting us take great pictures. Saw a pack of Canadian Eskimo dogs chained outside, unpleasant. We heard that the earlier and later scheduled tours of the season see less bears.

Last morning walked around Churchill, all of a main steet with a few side streets. Bought some souveniers. Churchill was and remains a collection center for grain from that area of Canada, with shipping of the grain to Europe. Saw the "Bear jail" where errant bears are kept until the ice frrezes, then the charter back to Winnipeg. Dinner at Bombolini again, with new friends, was very good again. Next morning, a visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, not interesting for me. Some shopping at the Hudson Bay store, then flight back to Allentown.

All in all, a very good trip for nature lovers.

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