Polar bear watching in Canada

Updated: 2015-01-02 23:37

By Wang Ru in Beijing(China Daily Canada)

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Polar bear watching in Canada

A polar bear grabs a tree branch at the Quebec Aquarium in Quebec City in December 2013. Mathieu Belanger / REUTERS

Watching polar bears in Canada may become the next popular winter tourism activity for those Chinese tourists who demand unique tourism experiences all over the world.

The recent news about a special-designed hotel to watch polar bears in Churchill, a town on the west shore of Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba Province, was widely reported by Chinese media.

Tundra Lodge, a so-called rolling hotel that looks like a train, was actually developed from a unique modified all-terrain vehicle named Tundra Buggy, which was invented in 1979 for watching and researching polar bears in Churchill.

Enjoying the nickname "Polar Bear Capital of the World", Churchill is said to have more polar bears, even more than its human population, only 813 in 2011.

Local authorities even maintain a so-called "polar bear jail" where bears that persistently wander too close to town, are held after being tranquilized, pending release back into the wild when the bay freezes over.

Each September the Tundra Lodge is strategically placed on a small spit of land that juts out into Hudson Bay. This private location is where the ice first begins to form on the bay, attracting thousands of polar bears at the very start of the bear-viewing season.

The Tundra Buggy Lodge offers a unique, immersive experience where guests can fall asleep and wake up with polar bears right outside the window. The lodge consists of two accommodation units; a lounge with public computers and Internet; and dining unit where guests can share stories and enjoy home cooked meals.

Some Chinese travel agencies have already introduced the polar adventure in China. A travel agency in Beijing named BTG International Travel and Tours, put a tourism product named "nine-day polar bear photographing and eco-tourism in Churchill" on its website.

The tour includes three days living in the Tundra Lodge to watch polar bears and three days in Vancouver and Winnipeg, the capital and largest city of Manitoba.

The price given by the agency of the tour starts from 58,300 Chinese yuan or $9,390.

A telephone sales person at the agency said since it is an unconventional tourism product, customers need to book it one month in advance, better in summer.

"It is a niche and expensive, but has grown popular in the past two years among the clients who love photography and the North Pole," said the sales person who didn't give her name.

Chinese tourists are becoming a major draw in Antarctic and Arctic exploration. According to the International Antarctic Institute, between November 2013 and March 2014, the South Pole greeted 37,405 tourists, of which 3,367 were from China after the USA and Australia.