Polar Bears, Where to See Them Before its Too Late
If you've watched any documentary on climate change chances are you've seen some heartbreaking footage of polar bears living on the very edge of survival. Dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice have left whole populations of these beloved giants without a home, or even a place to stand above water. Polar bears as a species are being forced further south from their northernmost wilderness and the relative protection of their isolated sanctuary at the top of the world. This exodus has led to increased conflict with human populations and additional obstacles which would face any species abruptly forced from its natural habitat.
Over the last century, as the industry of tourism has grown to demonstrate its true potential of influence, eco-tourism has proven itself as a significant driver of conservation. Endangered populations of lions, rhinos, gorillas, and elephants all benefit from the mighty dollar eager nature lovers bring to Africa to celebrate the wonders of these creatures in the wild. While well-known destinations like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa present relatively easy access to these iconic animals, the remoteness of the Arctic presents a perceived challenge of ever seeing the believed unattainable sight of polar bears. This is false, and you should be aware you are not limited to seeing these mighty bears only in Coco-Cola commercials, and you should book your Arctic expedition before you are potentially left with only history books to appreciate Ursus Maritimus.
Here are are your top two places to witness these bears:
Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill provides the intrepid explorer with a front seat to the Arctic at the upper reaches of Manitoba at the edge of Hudson Bay. Considered a sub-arctic region, Churchill still requires your warmest jacket, but this small town is sure to provide you with stories to last a lifetime. Getting there is an adventure alone. Flying into Winnipeg is your best option. From there you can fly directly into Churchill, but due to limited daily flights and the premium of convenience, this option might just break the budget. Embrace the experience and take the train. Two days ride due north will take you deep into the wilderness before bringing you to one of the best spots to see wild beluga whales, and polar bear central.
One of the northernmost inhabited points in the world, Svalbard is an archipelago of Norwegian islands almost halfway between mainland Europe and the North Pole. This is the true Arctic. Svalbard and the nearby Russian Franz Josef Land share a population of 3,000 polar bears making the region one of the most premier locations to see them in their natural habitat. Being an actual arctic location does present some unique challenges, like navigating a real sea ice pact. Flight is going to be your best bet and can be booked flying out of Oslo to Longyearbyen. Just to give you an idea of how north you'll be traveling, the flight from Oslo to Svalbard is three hours. This is longer than a trip from Boston to Miami, but when you arrive and witness what magic calls it home, you'll know immediately its worth every hour and every dollar.
Polar bears, like the Arctic itself, are facing a ticking clock. Natural evolution is measured in epochs, but today as a species these beautiful bears are being forced to adapt in a matter of years. These bears require our attention, our care, our curiosity. They must be seen and celebrated by you and in your stories upon your return. Your stories will inspire collective care to take action. Witness the Arctic before it is gone, it's not as far away as you would think. With the average cost of a ten-day African safari costing between $8,000 and $10,000, you'll quickly discover a trip north to this vanishing wonderland is more accessible than you would think. When you plot your next adventure look north, see it while you still can, see the bears as they were meant to be seen.
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