Po­lar bear watch­ing in Canada

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG RU in Beijing wan­gru@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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 spe­cialde­signed 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.

MATHIEU BELANGER / REUTERS

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

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