This tiny town in northern Canada is known as the polar bear capital of the world. 

By Lauren Phillips
February 24, 2017

Churchill, a small town with less than one thousand residents, is located in a remote corner of Canada’s Manitoba province, on the shores of Hudson Bay. For much of the year, it’s a quiet community. But in the late summer and fall, nearly one thousand polar bears congregate in the area to wait until winter, when the bay freezes and they can begin hunting for seals. As a result, Churchill has become known as the polar bear capital of the world. 

They look cute and cuddly, but polar bears are wild and carnivorous—which is why approaching them on your own is not a good idea. But there is way to get close enough to photograph and capture memories of a lifetime: Natural Habitat Adventures, a conservation-focused wildlife tour company, runs several polar bear tours out of Churchill in October and November. These six- or seven-day adventures take small groups out onto the snow and ice in specially made Polar Rovers, which allow visitors to safely get close to the bears. Some, like the Classic Polar Bear Photo Adventure, are led by expert nature photographers who can help you snag that perfect shot.

All of the tours Natural Habitat Adventures offers put the environment first: As a travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the company has helped develop a set of guiding principles for Arctic tourism that ensures the environment and its inhabitants (animal and human) aren't negatively impacted by tourism activities. Natural Habitat Adventures also invites WWF scientists on many of its expeditions, allowing these experts to both train expedition leaders and educate guests on recent research. Polar bear tours with Natural Habitat Adventures start at $6,195.

If the appeal of spotting the planet’s largest land carnivores isn’t enough, consider seeking out the other non-human residents around Churchill: caribou, Arctic foxes, and thousands of beluga whales that fill Hudson Bay each summer. Churchill is also an excellent home base for spotting the elusive Northern Lights.

Save the Polar Bears!

Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Contributor/Getty Images
Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Contributor/Getty Images

Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Contributor/Getty Images

Spotting a live polar bear in the wild may be at the top of your bucket list, but with their hunting grounds disappearing, the bears face a risk of extinction: Scientists predict that wild polar bears could disappear by 2100, with two-thirds of the current population gone by 2050.

How can you help? Reduce your energy consumption, which lowers your carbon emissions and slows climate change—the greatest threat to polar bear habitat. For eight ways to reduce your energy consumption, from changing the thermostat at home to shopping differently at the market, go here. Looking for more ways to help? Visit the website of Polar Bears International, a group of conservationists, scientists, and volunteers focused on saving Arctic polar bears and their sea ice habitat.