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Published: October 29th 2014
I'm running late on writing the blogs...Saturday in Vancouver...we are Tuesday night and I'm ready to board a plane to Johannesburg...but still in Bangkok...and tomorrow afternoon, should be finally in Congo. Don't ask me the secrets to deal with jetlag...you simply have to deal with it!
The kids are happy to be home, they had some fun time in Saigon, but now it's back to school till Christmas. For me it's back to work...and hit the small white ball too in Congo, even if you will still ready 2 more blogs on my Canadian adventures...more to come.
But first, the polar bear! I'm fortunate to have enjoyed an amazing trip to Antarctica back in 2008...than few years later, I went on a multi-days adventure dog sledging with a good friend in Greenland. My last adventure still missing...get really close to these cute, but very lethal animals...at least as long as we can see them! And the best place to see polar bears, is between early October till around the 20th of November in Churchill...or actually next to it, in Manitoba.
Reaching Churchill, I had to deal with a personal frustration. More than
the polar bear, I would dream to dive with the narwhals. If you don't know what a narwhal is, it's look like a small whale, with a unicorn sword. These are just super rare...and a dream to dive with. Back few years ago, I saw on French television Nicolas Hulot diving with those...I knew the adventure started from Churchill...but I couldn't find more info.
Well, first, there is no diving center in Churchill....second...they don't see Narwhals out of Churchill. Thousands of Beluga whales in July, but no narwhals. The local communities hunt the narwhals around Repulse Bay...that's a good 600-700km north from Churchill, on the other side of the Hudson Bay. It looks like one outfitter based in Toronto do propose those trips way North in the Artic...and there may be another company based in London too. But put it simply, it looks like diving under the North pole could be easier and cheaper than diving with the narwhals. Because first, you need to find them! This would simply involve chartering a place to deep North...bringing everything with you...forget about it...at least as long as I have to provide schooling (and diving) to my kids.
So back to the polar bears...may be not as insane price wise as diving with the narwhals....but we are still in par with a basic trip to Antarctica. So yes, one in a life time experience, and what an experience it was!
You could fly from Churchill...stay in town, and spend one or two days into the conservation area...it would be seriously expensive...so to do it well, there is another choice...sleeping into the reserve...in one of the two "lodges" built into trucks and who stay here for the main season. Ours could sleep 40 guests into two trucks, plus a dining truck and a recreation truck. Here, you simply don't walk on the ground un-armed...polar bears have an amazing sense of smell...and they are starving...let say walking next to a lion seems to be way less risker than walking next to a polar bear!
Our group of 37 had 12 Americans, 9 Germans and 7 Australians, plus 9 internationals...with an average age well over 50 years old. Happily for me, a good third of the group was a great laugh, and we had a pretty fun time.
Few things about
the polar bears. The don't like the wind...when it's windy, they lay down and don't move...good, we had no wind. Polar bear spend most of their year on the ice of the Hudson Bay. The ice disappear around July, so they are back to land. The ice is only forming back in November, when they disappear again to hunt the seals. So yes, we had no ice, and it was actually not even freezing. A week later, the temperature could easily drop way below -10 Celsius...making it a very different experience.
No ice means the bears try to avoid to walk in the little ponds...those are something like 50cm deep...but they love to drink that water, and this can give some pretty cool reflection pictures. We saw between 10 to 15 bears per day....going out on the buggy each day between 8am and 4.30pm. We didn't see bears fighting...as they are keeping all their energy for now. The only food they can find is kelps...not really nutritious...and it's way to warm for them to run around.
So we didn't see any polar bear fight....but we saw a pretty rare moment, a Mum nursing her
two cubs, pretty amazing. Another pretty impressive moment was the time a young bear approached the Mum and her little ones...panic in the air, and big run by the little family. The mother would not take the risk of a fight...getting hurt would simply compromise her ability to feed her cubs.
I asked our guide, Bob, one morning if they had issues with fog. Well, from time to time, they have serious snow, or heavy fog, and than it's a lost day...not something you want to experience here. The third day, we had some fog around the camp...was still pretty nice. The airport is around 15km from here, and there it was heavy fog, and not a single flight for the all day. So we ended up staying one bonus night in the lodge...not a bad thing when you know the price of a single day here. Well, it would lead to some creative experience for me, but that's in the next blog.
Finally publishing this blog, from Congo. As always...could have spent way more time writing it...so excuse the poor writing quality....but I've got a pretty busy schedule ahead of me...and few more
continents to cover over the coming weeks...it's a small world!
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