- Photo Essays
There are no words to describe the feeling you have when your face is only a couple of feet away from a polar bear: so close that you can imagine the heat of their breath.
Of course, if this happened away from the safety of the hulking polar rover, there would be no imagining necessary. These polar bears have been living on a diet of berries for months now. They are carnivores. They are starving. I rest my case.
As difficult as it was, I occasionally lowered my camera and just enjoyed these closer encounters. I felt simultaneously privileged and humbled to be in such close proximity to these graceful, lumbering creatures.
This is something most people only experience courtesy of a David Attenborough documentary. I felt like we were the luckiest people in the world in these moments.
What does a polar bear look like that close?
Then came the waiting.
Our second day on the tundra was relatively slow: the bears were sleepy and so were we. Our Natural Habitat Adventures guide and wildlife photographer, Eric Rock, was superb at keeping morale high and ensuring we were always entertained: be it with crazy stories, environmental and photography discussions or just general banter.
But day three brought more polar bear action and this time, on the ice: a spectacular finale to our Arctic adventure.
The week that I spent in this in this magical, faraway-place was one of my most rewarding travel experiences. Travelling to Canada to spend time photographing the Western Hudson Bay population of polar bears near Churchill has been my dream for many years.
And if I had the opportunity to return, I would be there in a second!
* * * *
Although I enjoy all kinds of travel, off-the-beaten-path destinations seem to be the ones I love the most. They are the ones that have that real wow factor and I always walk away a feeling little richer for having been there. They are also usually the least accessible: financially and geographically.
I was by asked by a new friend from this tour what my next dream trip would be. My wish is for a photography trip to Antarctica or Botswana but realistically they are both a long way off.
So my answer was Kamchatka in Far-Eastern Russia. My friend was impressed that I had such an interesting place on my wish list: I was impressed that someone I know had even heard of it!
But even Russia will have to wait a little while longer…
For now I will be travelling to Vancouver to visit some old friends before returning home to Australia.
Ah, the North! I think I have a bit of a thing for cold places….
Oh, and just in case you missed Part 1: Arctic Dreams: The Polar Bears of Churchill. Part 1
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