5 Po­lar Bear

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Wildlife -

RANGE: As few as 22,000 po­lar bears live across Arc­tic and sub-arc­tic re­gions.

THE EX­PE­RI­ENCE: Zip­ping amid crazy-paving pack ice in a tiny Zo­diac is how most peo­ple are in­tro­duced to one of the most jaw-drop­ping sights in the frozen north. Here, po­lar bears linger on float­ing is­lands, hot-step­ping ice floes as they hunt seals. A re­mark­able sight.

NEED TO KNOW: Tak­ing an ex­pe­di­tion cruise is the best way to see po­lar bears, with a small ship (no more than 100 pas­sen­gers) max­imis­ing the num­ber of Zo­diac/shore ex­cur­sions you can take. These are also more ma­noeu­vrable and use­ful for re­act­ing quickly to wildlife sight­ings. Look for on-board ex­pert nat­u­ral­ists and a 24-hour bridge, so you can es­cape from the cold when wildlife-view­ing at mid­night.

BEST PLACE TO SEE… Nor­way’s Sval­bard archipelago is one of the best lo­ca­tions around to spy po­lar bears in the wild, with abun­dant sight­ings in its less ac­ces­si­ble north­ern and west­ern parts. For that, you’ll need a cruise ship (Jun–aug), though sight­ings can be had on land-based snow-mo­bile trips around Spits­ber­gen (Feb–mar), or even on dog-sled trips to the east.

If you’d pre­fer to stick to dry land, Churchill in Man­i­toba, Canada, is the self-pro­claimed ‘Po­lar Bear Cap­i­tal of the World’, with bears mooching across the frozen Hud­son Bay around Oc­to­ber- and Novem­ber-time, while or­gan­ised Tun­dra Buggy trips (look for 18-per­son ve­hi­cles to en­sure you get a win­dow seat) too­tle out to meet them.

Liv­ing on the edge A po­lar bear in­ves­ti­gates the water at the base of its ’berg in Sval­bard, Nor­way

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