Trip Highlights

Trip Highlights

  • Track polar bears from our base at an Arctic research facility and head out on all-terrain vehicle expeditions in the tundra.
  • Seek out the smaller species of the tundra and document your discoveries in a photo-essay.
  • Kayak with beluga whales and listen to them “sing” as you learn about scientific efforts to decipher their communications.
  • Use your camera to capture shooting stars and the spectacular swirl of the northern lights.
The Arctic is a place of stark beauty and true wilderness. It is mesmerizing and alluring.
Matthias Breiter, National Geographic Expert

Itinerary

Itinerary

The Arctic tundra is one of our planet’s most surprising wildlife habitats: an endless snowscape in the winter that bursts with life when summer arrives, drawing migrating species such as caribou, beluga whales, and—most famously—polar bears. Set out from Churchill, tracking the intriguing wildlife that has adapted to extreme Arctic conditions.

Days 1-3: CHURCHILL, CANADA

Our Arctic adventure begins in the remote town of Churchill, nicknamed the “polar bear capital of the world.” Take a walk in this former fur-trading outpost—home to fewer than a thousand people—and learn about everyday life on the icy edge of the Hudson Bay. Chat with locals who live among the resident bears, and meet with native elders to hear stories about their relationship with their unique environment and learn about local traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Then trace the history of the region’s earliest European fur traders as we hike from the Prince of Wales Fort to the harbor at Sloop Cove. Along the way, look for 18th-century graffiti left by these early trappers; then meet their modern-day counterparts to discuss the challenges involved with teaching fur-trapping to the next generation, and learn how changing laws have impacted their work.

Photograph the wilderness that surrounds the town during a hike along the rugged shores of Hudson Bay. Learn about Polar Bears International’s educational outreach initiatives and their studies on bear behavior, biology, and population distribution. Visit the Itsanitaq Museum for a look at life on the tundra through the ages, and check out the exhibits on narwhals, sometimes called the “unicorns of the sea.” Explore the role of first responders for Churchill’s Polar Bear Holding Facility—locally known as “polar bear jail”—who work to prevent human-wildlife conflict by detaining and relocating curious polar bears that wander into town, and discuss the pros and cons of this practice.

Days 4-11: CHURCHILL NORTHERN STUDIES CENTRE

Our next stop is the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, a research facility at the edge of the tundra that has hosted National Geographic–funded scientists and conservationists. Learn about the behavior of polar bears, arctic foxes, and other wildlife from the resident researchers, and get a firsthand look at how rising temperatures have affected the surrounding ecosystems here.

Venture out onto the tundra on foot and in our all-terrain vehicle in search of polar bears, which arrive each summer with their cubs to roam the wilds surrounding Churchill, waiting for the Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can hunt seals and other marine life on the pack ice. Observe these majestic creatures from a safe range, and photograph their white coats against the magenta fireweed that blankets the tundra each summer.

Encounter and photograph other intriguing wildlife of the far north, including caribou, red foxes, and a host of migratory birds. Kayak in waterways that teem with friendly beluga whales, which migrate here in the thousands during the summer months to feed and give birth to their young. These curious mammals are known as the “canaries of the sea” for the singing noises they make. Watch them play at the water’s surface, and listen to their clicks and whistles as we learn how scientists are working to decipher their communications. With the help of our host biologists, investigate the ecological health of an estuary that serves as a temporary habitat for calving belugas. Present your On Assignment project and celebrate our time together in Canada’s wild north before catching your flight home.