Back in 2000, after I went on the life-changing trip to South Africa’s Kruger National Park that taught me about the principals of ecotourism and inspired the central concept behind Green Global Travel, I began fantasizing about all the dream destinations I would one day visit. From Kenya/Tanzania and the Amazon to Antarctica and Belize, the one thing these places all had in common was their emphasis on nature and wildlife.
But there was one particular dream trip that really fired my imagination. I’ve been obsessed with bears for more than 20 years now, ever since I started learning about Native American culture (my family has a small percentage of native blood). Though I’ve never admitted it publicly, in private I’ve always considered the bear to be my spirit animal. I have three bear tattoos, have read numerous books and watched many documentaries about them, and traveled to Alaska’s Denali National Park in 1999 primarily to see grizzly bears in the wild.
So when I read about a WWF-affiliated company called Natural Habitat Adventures, which offered a trip into the heart of polar bear country in the Canadian Arctic, it immediately went to the top of my world travel bucket list. And though life soon got in the way, I’ve been dreaming about that trip ever since.
Earlier this year, an associate we’d worked with during our time blogging for Sustainable Travel International reached out to us on behalf on Natural Habitat and a few other adventure travel companies he represented. As we discussed various partnership opportunities, I mentioned my longtime dream of going on NatHab’s Tundra Lodge Adventure in Churchill, Manitoba (which bills itself as polar bear capitol of the world). Next thing you know, we’re chatting with company founder Ben Bressler, and booking tickets for our October 14 trip!
As you can see from the photo above, the Tundra Lodge is essentially a rolling hotel designed to traverse the rugged terrain of the Canadian Arctic’s tundra, allowing guests to sleep out on the ice where polar bears tend to congregate at this time of year. Twice-daily excursions in all-terrain vehicles will give us a chance for close encounters with the myriad wildlife species that call this barren ecosystem home, including caribou, Arctic fox and the snowy owl. And the Tundra Lodge itself is surrounded by windows and viewing platforms set at the perfect height for viewing one of the world’s most remarkable predators from a safe, but remarkably close proximity.
But we won’t just be watching the wildlife: With daily lectures on the area’s ecosystem and a great guide-guest ratio, we’ll also be learning a lot about the challenges these animals are facing as Arctic sea ice continues to melt at a record pace. We’ll be talking with biologists about how these Global Warming is impacting the polar bears, and how the fluctuating polar bear population impacts every other species in the Arctic food chain.
Back when I performed improv comedy professionally, I had a friend named Tom Stoltenberg who had the greatest attitude about life. Whenever I’d see him and ask how he was doing, he’d grin and say, “Living the dream!” Though it’s been years since he left Atlanta to perform improv in Chicago, I’ve never forgotten those words.
After years of scraping and scrounging to establish a career as a freelance travel writer, it seems difficult to believe that my 12-year-old dream of seeing polar bears in the wild is finally coming true. It’s even more difficult to believe that Green Global Travel– this labor of love Mary and I started out of frustration with our complete lack of control over own destiny– is the vehicle that made it happen!
Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this site would take off in the way that it has. We owe a great debt of gratitude to every single person who’s ever read and “Liked” one of our stories, or shared them on social media. We owe much of Green Global Travel’s success to you, and we are truly grateful that you’re joining us for the adventure as we continue making our wildest dreams come true. Though we never know exactly where this grand adventure of ours will lead, it’s definitely proven to be one helluva ride! –Bret Love; photos provided by Natural Habitat Adventures