Dine beneath the northern lights, sing alongside beluga whales and lock eyes with wild polar bears.
Every autumn, polar bears begin to gather on the tundra near the remote Canadian town of Churchill, waiting for sea ice to form so they can roam the frozen Hudson Bay in search of food. It is an annual occurrence that has long drawn curious travelers eager to see one of the world’s most majestic animals in the wild.
Since 1987, Frontiers North Adventures has provided excited guests the opportunity to have truly unforgettable encounters with wild polar bears and other wonders of the subarctic region. Frontiers North uses its large, rugged all-terrain vehicles, the Tundra Buggies®, to lead visitors into the heart of what the area’s natural world has to offer, creating adventures that celebrate and protect the wilderness of the Canadian subarctic.
In addition to polar bears in the autumn months, Churchill offers diverse wildlife viewing year round, including thousands of beluga whales that end their migration in Churchill during the months of July and August. During the winter season, the frozen bodies of water minimize precipitation and cloud coverage, opening up beautiful clear skies for guests to bask in the glow of the northern lights.
Frontiers North has recently added Montreal and Calgary to its list of departure cities – alongside Winnipeg – making tours more accessible to aspiring explorers from the northeastern United States. Direct flights from Boston to Montreal take less than an hour and a half, and several airlines offer flights daily.
The first polar bear tour departing from Montreal is scheduled for October 2022, and offerings for every season departing from Montreal will be available to book by 2023.
Experiences and explorations
The Subarctic Discovery: Churchill Polar Bears tour, which runs in October and November each year, has become a staple for Frontiers North and is designed to remove the hassle of travel-planning from guests. A carefully curated itinerary offers visitors a rich line-up of experiences, without the need for extensive research or individual bookings, starting with hotel accommodations the night before you leave for Churchill.
The following morning, Frontiers North interpretive guides greet guests in their departure city, and accompany them on a charter flight to Churchill. The first full day of the tour is spent exploring the quaint and sometimes quirky town on the shores of Hudson Bay, eating local cuisine in a warm and welcoming restaurant, learning about the human and natural history of the area, and visiting the Polar Bears International House to learn more about the remarkable animals they have come to encounter.
On each of the next two days, guests embark on to a Tundra Buggy and head out on a bumpy but exhilarating ride into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area to watch for polar bears. Each polar bear has its own personality, so some pay no attention to their visitors, while others amble over to investigate. From the safety of the Tundra Buggy, visitors can get thrillingly close-up views – and photos – of the magnificent animals.
Frontiers North’s explorations are not limited to autumn. Summer tours in July and August allow visitors to be immersed with thousands of beluga whales that flock to the warmer waters of the Churchill River to feed and give birth. The opportunity to witness hundreds of species of birds, bright blooming flowers that blanket the tundra and sunlight, which lasts well into the late evening, will take your breath away. Come winter, the tours focus on the northern lights, local cuisine, and the wonders of winter on the tundra. These tours include awe-inspiring experiences that include dog sledding, snowshoeing, and an exquisitely prepared meal of regional cuisine at Dan’s Diner, a pop-up restaurant out on the remote banks of the frozen Churchill River.
Stewards of the environment
As an integral part of its mission, Frontiers North is committed to sharing in the stewardship of the communities and natural environment that allow it to thrive. In fact, the company is Canada’s only B Corp® certified adventure tour operator, a designation that requires businesses to prove they meet high standards of environmental and social responsibility. The company has made a commitment to providing guests with a meaningful travel experience in Churchill, Canada that will allow people from all around the world to view wild polar bears, beluga whales and northern lights for years to come.
In November 2021, Frontiers North launched the first electric vehicle of their Tundra Buggy fleet, the EV Tundra Buggy. Moving forward, they have pledged to convert the entire fleet from diesel to battery power before the end of the decade. The switch to electric power means the vehicles will have zero-emission propulsion and run silently, making their presence less intrusive in the sensitive ecosystem of the tundra.
The tours stick to established trails within the wildlife management area, limiting the impact the vehicles have on the landscape. This practice means that tours do not follow the polar bears off trail, allowing the animals to wander, play, and interact as they choose. Guests are bystanders to the unfolding of the bears’ behaviors, at times settling in for a long period to watch these incredible animals in their natural environment and sometimes catching just a glimpse of a distant bear padding along the tundra.
Frontiers North is also proud of their unique alliance with Polar Bears International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to solely researching and protecting polar bears. Autumn travelers with Frontiers North visit the organization’s Churchill facility, PBI House, to meet with the scientists and conservationists doing this work, learning more about the bears, their habitat and the challenges they face. Frontiers North has also provided the group with a Tundra Buggy, known as Tundra Buggy One, that has been specially outfitted to carry research equipment and broadcast live from the field, allowing audiences around the world to check in on polar bears online.
Find your true north
Discover all that subarctic Canada has to offer with Frontiers North Adventures. With trips departing from Montreal, Calgary and Winnipeg, wild polar bears have never been so close.
Learn more about Frontiers North and their Subarctic Discovery tours at adventure.frontiersnorth.com/subarctic-discovery-polar-bears.