by Liz Fleming

Like enormous white clouds, they rose from the blackness of Hudson Bay, their eyes searching for ours, hidden behind our swimming goggles. Stunned, we paddled and clung to the Zodiac’s ropes, six shivering, wet-suited nature lovers making up-close and personal contact with a pod of 30 Beluga whales.

Beluga WhaleBy (Greg5030) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16984093

“They’re as curious about us as we are about them,” breathed our awe-struck guide. 

It was a moment that erased the normal barriers between species – a moment when we felt as wild as the whales themselves. One that is unforgettable.

Northern LightsPhoto Credit: Northern Frontiers

That’s what Churchill, Manitoba – that remote outpost of small lodges and outfitting companies in the wildest part of the province – does for nature fanatics. It nestles you deeply into the heart of the natural world.

Polar BearsGudkov Andrey/Shutterstock

Windswept and rugged, Churchill’s desolate landscape is more than compensated for by its wildlife viewing. In summer, whale lovers snorkel or kayak with belugas that swim up under the boats to blow bubbles like toddlers in the bath. In winter, polar bear seekers arrive to see the world’s most beautiful and most dangerous bears. The largest of all varieties, polar bears are the only ones who actively hunt people. Though most guests choose to do their viewing and photographing from the windows of large, enclosed all-terrain vehicles called tundra buggies, it is possible to do hiking tours. If you do, you’ll learn the ‘tundra-turn’, a 360-degree spin done regularly to help you spy clever, lurking polar bears before they see you!

Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Winter/Spring 2017 issue.

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