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Churchill Wild Helps Customers With Their Bucket Lists

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5  Courtesy Of Churchill Wild Photo By Richard Voliva
A close encounter with a polar bear in the Canadian Arctic Churchill Wild

Rarely do we associate adventure, beauty, and wildlife safaris with Manitoba. Tourists from around the world would disagree. Every summer and fall, hundreds of people from Europe, Asia, Australia, and America make Churchill their vacation destination—and for good reason.

The owners of Churchill Wild, members of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World program, know firsthand the panoramic views and exotic wildlife that is unique to the Canadian North, and they make it their business to share it.

“We see a lot of people who are checking off bucket lists,” says Melanie Swenarchuk, senior business director of Churchill Wild. “They’ve done an African safari, they’ve done Galapagos, and they’ve seen different parts of the world and this is just another item on their bucket list.”

From their office in the TransCanada Centre in Île-des-Chênes, the staff of Churchill Wild are busy year-round booking vacation packages to one of their luxury lodges nestled along the Hudson Bay coast just north of Churchill. 

Owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer of Kleefeld have been hosting guests at their northern lodges for over 25 years. They characterize their business as the only company on the planet that specializes in walking safaris through the polar-bear-inhabited regions of Canada’s Arctic. They offer exclusive access to unique polar bear viewing sites and claim to have an unparalleled 100 percent success rate in summer polar bear sightings. 

“You’re encountering the world’s largest carnivore in its natural habitat,” says Swenarchuk. “Moms and cubs. You’re up close, 50 to 100 meters from the bear, and you’re quietly observing.”

Swenarchuk adds that trained guides accompany every safari team. Though they are armed, they’ve never had to take aggressive action in all the years Churchill Wild has been in business.

While most tourists are there to see polar bears, the area is teeming with life. A trip to Churchill Wild’s lodges might also include Beluga whale-watching, caribou and wolf tours, and professionally led instructional photo safaris. 

“Snorkeling with the Belugas is one of the highlights as well, where you’re in the water [with the Belugas]. They swim around you and underneath you. They’re very curious.” Swenarchuk also notes that, on clear nights, the skies in the area come alive with northern lights. 

Because the Reimers take great pride in their family-owned business, much care is given to ensure that the landscape and wildlife aren’t harmed by their impact. All of the lodges are ecologically friendly, running on solar power and sustainable practices. The safaris also take place on foot, avoiding the impact of tundra busses and motorized vehicles. 

While the Reimers spend their winters in Kleefeld, their summers and falls require the hands-on work of ensuring their guests have unforgettable experiences at each of their remote lodges. Their background lends well to the business. Jeanne grew up in the Churchill area while Mike spent years working as a wilderness guide in the region. Their grown daughters work in the lodges as chefs. 

“The cuisine is amazing,” says Swenarchuk. “Jeanne’s family have written award-winning cookbooks and we use their local recipes. It’s a fine-dining experience that is completely unexpected in such a remote destination.”

The safari season runs from June through November. Packages include an orientation dinner in Winnipeg, chartered flights to and from the lodges, and all meals.

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