Our trip to the Canadian tundra was with Natural Habitat Adventures. We chose them for two reasons – they came recommended and they offered a photo trip. NatHab, as it is affectionately called, offers trips over a four-week period, running from about the third week in October to the third week in November. At this time of year, polar bears are gathering at the southern shore of Hudson Bay, waiting for the water to freeze so they can head out over the frozen bay to hunt for their primary food source, seals.
Churchill, a port along the coastline, is right in their path. Hundreds of bears pass by Churchill on their journey along the coastline and our job was to get out onto the tundra to photograph them.
NatHab runs a first class operation. My travel agent, Ellen, who worked with their back office, said that they were a pleasure to work with – extremely professional. The pre-trip literature was excellent, including a spiral bound book about the trip, Arctic wildlife, history and the Inuits. Also included, of course, was information specific to our trip.
In addition to the photo trip to Churchill, we elected to take advantage of NatHab’s Extra Day in Winnipeg. Since our arrival was in October, this included a trip to the Oak Hammock Marsh and the Manitoba Museum. (More on both later.) Our meet and greet at the airport went perfectly. Our hotel room was ready. In the hotel lobby, we were met by another NatHab staff member who gave us up to date information regarding our trip and who informed us that Internet access was available to NatHab guests at a special rate of $3/day (as compared to the regular charge of $15/day). Those without a computer could use the free computers in the lobby for email check, etc.
NatHab provides boots and parkas for its trip to Churchill. The company has a room on the 9th floor of the hotel where travelers could stop in at their convenience to try on and pick up the clothing. The boots are waterproof and have warm linings. The parkas are heavy and warm, with big hoods. On this particular trip, with the weather warmer than typical, we did not need the boots but we used the parkas when we went out in the evening.
Flights to and from Churchill were on a charter, meaning we didn’t have to worry about going through security. It made packing liquids and gels a lot easier. The overhead bins were open so only soft items like jackets could go there. If it wouldn’t fit under the seat in front of us, it had to be either checked or tagged ‘Valet’ to go inside the plane. Camera bags had a ‘Valet’ and ‘Fragile’ tag. No worries. The NatHab and airline personnel all have a lot of experience handling fragile and expensive camera equipment.
All of our meals were included except for dinner on the Extra Day and dinner on the last day when we returned from Churchill. I had done some pre-trip research and for our first night we ate at Ivory, an Indian restaurant within easy walking distance of the hotel. We elected to go with the buffet and had an excellent dinner ($19.95 per person). The last night was a going away cocktail party. There was a table with rolls and bread, deli cuts, olives and pickles, and fresh fruit. It was more than enough to make a small sandwich or two and did just fine for us for our last dinner in Winnipeg.
I’ll be writing more posts about specific parts of the trip but, in general, NatHab delivered. I would not hesitate to recommend them or to take another trip with them.