I’m a massive polar bear fan. It’s hard to give just one reason why. Perhaps it is their massive size or the exotic nature of their native regions. It may be their pension for making ridiculous looking faces. Or perhaps it’s because they serve as a powerful reminder of the cost and danger of climate change. Likely it’s all of the above. Regardless of the specific reason, seeing polar bears in their natural habitat has been on my list for a long, long time. When I made the decision to accept the University of Copenhagen’s invitation for my masters, I harbored the not-so-secret hope that I’d be able to partner with one of the Svalbard/Greenland tour groups based out of Denmark and leaving from Scandinavia to see the bears. Somehow that seemed like a more realistic way of seeing the bears than making the voyage from Arizona up to north/central Canada and into the heart of polar bear country. Which is odd, because the heart of Canada has been near the top of my travel list for a long time and makes far more sense for US-based travelers. Of course, with most cold and exotic climates the key challenge has been how to explore it on my limited budget and as a solo-traveler.
So imagine my excitement when I arrived at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Umbria, Italy and discovered that one of the sponsors – the Canadian Tourism Commission – was running a contest for two iPad 3s with the winner receiving an expense paid trip to Churchill, Manitoba along Hudson Bay to see the polar bears out on the ice and in their natural habitat. While rarely one to win a competition or prize I was, as you might imagine, pretty excited about the opportunity. It offered me the opportunity to knock out two birds with one incredible stone – a chance to see what I suspect to be some of the most beautiful natural beauty on earth while coming nose to nose with the great white bears of the north.
The rules were simple. We were all given a small bear and encouraged to tweet compelling photos of our bear with the hashtag #bearwatch. At the end of the second day a representative from the Canada team would review the bear shots and choose two favorites. The grand prize winner would then be invited to Canada to watch the bears.
My approach was to take a variety of shots as I went about my regular conference business. The shots covered a wide range of activities and moods – from fun and slightly inappropriate to classy and elegant. Ultimately, I’m not sure which bear shot sealed the deal (though it sounded like it was the sum effect of the series of shots) but I’m thrilled to say I won the grand prize. Which is to say that later this year (October or November depending on scheduling) I’ll be partnering with the Canadian Tourism Commission for a trip deep into the heart of Canada to explore some of the world’s most amazing territory while watching one of nature’s greatest predators amble across the frozen waters of Hudson Bay. An experience that I cannot wait to share with you all, and which I’ll be documenting (in part) via the brand new iPad 3 that came as a secondary prize.
There were a ton of great entries, and I encourage you all to head over to the Pinterest board that showcases them all. Canada has a lot to offer and has really made a strong effort over the last year or two to get the word out. Fellow TBU attendee and travel blogger Cherina of Quiet Wanderings recently did the same trip and took amazing shots. You can head over and check out her post here. I can’t wait to see more of the country and am counting the days until this fall when I’ll have the chance to explore a region I’ve previously only read and dreamed about.
Anyone have any exciting or odd facts about polar bears to share?