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“It's a rugid, extreme experience - that some wait a lifetime for” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Frontiers North Adventures' Tundra Buggy Lodge

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Frontiers North Adventures' Tundra Buggy Lodge
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124 Kelsey Boulevard, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada   |  
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Top Contributor
68 reviews 68 reviews
35 hotel reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
108 helpful votes 108 helpful votes
“It's a rugid, extreme experience - that some wait a lifetime for”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 30, 2010

Here is the bear truth. The Tundra Buggy Lodge is not the RItz Carlton..why would you even expect that given where you are headed? The experience from Winnipeg to Churchill via air is unremarkable. The bus transfers are standard as is the shopping in Churchill for Polar Bear themed purchases, but once you transfer to the Tundra Buggy heading out on to the frozen tundra trails (former US Military trails - a great form of sustainable tourism use!) you are on your way to the adventure of a lifetime. And I want you to know, as a profession I am a 30 year seasoned hotelier who has managed some upscale boutique hotels. When I travel, I am ultra picky about where I go and where I stay. As the member of a group of people who were looking to collaborate in a unique setting on an emerging business model, I was unsure as to what to expect. Recent reviews on trip advisor really didnt give me what I was looking for - so here is my best attempt at being honest with you. The Tundra Buggy's are big machines that bounch you around like you are in a fun house of sorts. The drivers are experienced and safety in everything that is done both for yourself and for the bears is foremost in the minds of the staff. So if, per chance you are going to be in a needy state of mind, versus, the mind of the explorer...change gears! Nothing and I mean nothing should prevent you from having a wonderful time with Tundra Buggy Tours...Once you arrive at the Lodge..you will find you are in a camp of sorts. Give up your need to be pampered and spolied at the local spa and realize you are in a social experience with other from around the globe - here to celebrate the beauty of the North and the majestic Polar Bear. You will bunk with others, 2 bathrooms per 16 per cabin, 2 bathrooms one common shower, you must use the water sparingly. For the first time in my adult life I didnt shower for 2 days! (only a sponge bath). I slept in the top bunk and that meant I had to climb up and down to use the bathroom a few times in the night. Big deal. The wind blew...yes, it blew so hard that on occasion our door blew open in the night...if people were cold they got an extra blanket. the bunks are comfortable but the space is cramped...but for the love of it all...you're in a different world..put away all your social norms on Hotel living and go back to your childhood...or maybe you are up for a real adventure...You will meet people from around the world...some young..some old..all with interesting reasons why they made it their life quest to come and see the Polar Bears! The meals were healthy and delicious. BYOB...and behave..you are in a special kind of living. Be quiet when you get up in the morning, others are sleeping, help out around the place and dont waste..this is an intimate chance to see one of the great wonders of the world. The Polar Bear - in its natural setting - playful, hopeful, watchful...on the move and in their glory...
So bring your biggest and best camera...be a great ambassador of the globe coming to the Tundra Buggy Lodge with your best attitude about the fact that while it may not be the Ritz it is more special in that you will walk away enriched, enlightened and blessed by the beauty of minimalistic living in the frozen arctic...

  • Stayed October 2010, traveled on business
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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33 reviews from our community

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  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
31 hotel reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
227 helpful votes 227 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 16, 2008

Well, as there are only 2 outdated reviews for the Tundra Buggy Lodge on TripAdvisor, I can see that it's high time for an update...

We just got back from a 5 night stay at the Tundra Buggy Lodge at "Polar Bear Point" near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. I will say at the outset that this is an adventure, more than a hotel stay. As far as the adventure end of it (and the setting) it's a 5-star experience. The actual accommodations are more of a 3-star rating. However, I thought the experience was excellent, and well worth any minor annoyances of staying in bunk beds, so I'm rating the whole experience as 4-stars.

We booked a 7-day "Nature Specialist" trip with Tundra Buggy. This consisted of 1 day of travel (from our US hometown to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where we stayed overnight in private rooms at the Sheraton Four Points). Once in Winnipeg, we had a get-acquainted dinner that with our 17 fellow Naturalists, as well as the 18 "Photo Specialists" (once you get out to the Lodge, the next day, each group stays in its own sleeping car at the lodge.) On day 2 we flew by private charter plane to Churchill, Manitoba (a 1 hour 40 minute flight), and spent a half day in Churchill. Then we caught a bus to the Tundra Buggy pick-up point, then transferred to an actual Tundra Buggy. Transit time from the small town of Churchill to the Tundra Buggy Lodge: 2 hours. We were at the Lodge for 5 nights (with 4 full days of seeing the bears, 8 hours per day). On day 6 we drove back to Churchill for 1/2 day, then flew back to Winnipeg. On day 7 we flew back to our home in the US (from Winnipeg, Manitoba).

The "Lodge" is really 6 mobile Tundra Buggy units that are strung together like a train (see photos). The living quarters remain stationary throughout your visit. Mobile units dock at the lodge, to pick up guests and take them out on the tundra to see the bears. The Lodge experience is very similar to being on an unmoving train, and the sleeping quarters are similar to a Pullman car. There are two dorm cars (sleeping cars with bunk-beds, 20 beds in each car), one lounge car, one dining car, a kitchen and staff sleeping quarters. The beds in the bunks are comfortable enough... better than those at the average summer camp. Each bunk is equipped with a small window, a set of curtains for privacy, and an overhead light for reading. Also, an outlet is provided in your bunk space (for charging camera batteries, running your laptop, etc.) Also, there is a shelf that runs the length of the bunk for storing essentials, and storage space for your luggage under the bunk. Each of the sleeping cars has 2 flush toilets and one shower with nice, hot water. Please note that the toilets on the Tundra Buggy sleeping quarters have been updated... they are no longer the "long-drop" (port-a-potty) style, but they are now flush toilets that are clean and have very little smell. (I did not notice any smells at all, and I was a bit worried about this after reading the 2 other [outdated] reviews on TripAdvisor). Guests are requested, for both eco- and sharing reasons, to take short showers. All the train cars are warm and cozy, and we were certainly never cold inside the Lodge. In fact, at night on the first night, I was actually a little too warm!

There is no Internet service at the Lodge, and in fact, no phone service either. They do have communication with Churchill via satellite phone. There is a hospital in Churchill in case of emergencies.

After you return from the Tundra touring each day (at about 4pm) red and white wine and hors d'oeuvres are served in the Lounge Car. There is also plenty of bottled water on hand, and the water in the taps at the Lodge was great... sparkling clear spring water.

The food at the Tundra Buggy lodge was quite decent, especially considering that all food has to be flown in from Winnipeg, then driven out to the Lodge by Tundra Buggy, and the Lodge is a 2-hour drive from Churchill. (Add to that, that both the Tundra Buggy Lodge and the town of Churchill either fly out or ship by train all of their garbage and recycling.)

Dinner entrees at the Lodge included bison bolognaise, baked fish, elk kabobs and chicken Kiev. Dessert is also served -- the carrot cake was superb! Breakfast is usually around 7am, and is hearty and filling (toast, eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc). Mid-morning coffee, tea or hot chocolate is served on the (mobile) Tundra Buggy, and is repeated in the mid-afternoon, usually along with delicious fresh-baked cookies. Lunch is also served on the mobile unit, and is usually a piping hot (and delicious) soup, followed by a make-your-own sandwich. To be honest, the biggest concern at the Tundra Buggy Lodge is eating too much!

After dinner each evening there is a lecture/presentation. For example, one night the Photographic Specialist in residence (National Geographic freelancer Daniel J. Cox) gave us a presentation on nature photography, and one night a man from the World Wildlife Fund came to educate us about the plight of polar bears in Canada.

The deal at the Lodge is that you are staying here so that you can maximize your time seeing and photographing bears. Tours are arranged so that you are on the mobile Tundra Buggy (tdriving all around the area near by the Lodge... roughly a 2-mile radius) for around 8 hours a day, from 8am to 4pm. Also, there are polar bears wandering around the Lodge itself 24/7. Once you get into the Tundra Buggy (a 1/2 hour bus-ride from Churchill) you never set foot on the ground till you come back to Churchill. Be aware that yes, you will likely be a bit more comfortable for sleeping arrangements in Churchill proper, but then you have to drive 2 hours each day TO the tundra (and the bears) and then 2 hours BACK to Churchill to get back to your hotel. So, instead of seeing bears for 8+ hours a day (at the Lodge), you would see bears for a maximum of 4 hours a day & you'll spend 4 hours a day in transit (if you stay in Churchill at a hotel). Also, be aware that if you are interested in photography, you will not get any of the early morning or late afternoon good lighting for photos if you stay in town.

The whole point of being at the Tundra Buggy Lodge is NOT to revel in posh accommodations... it is the rare and wonderful opportunity to see polar bears, arctic foxes, arctic hares, ptarmigans and snowy owls up close and personal. There is probably no where else on earth that you can get this same experience. Yes, you can see polar bears at Svalbard (Norway), but you cannot get very close to them. We had polar bears, at times, only a few feet away from us, but we were never in any danger, as the Tundra Buggy is higher than a polar bear can reach.

During the day you are out on the mobile Tundra Buggy seeing and photographing the bears. I found this to be a very comfortable experience. The mobile Tundra Buggy is much wider than a regular bus, with seats and windows on each side. A toasty heater is fired up in the back (which looks like a gas fireplace), and keeps the vehicle plenty warm. There is a toilet on board, with a plastic bag attached to collect waste. Yes, it is similar to a port-a-potty, and I noticed that the staff worked very hard to keep this room smell-free (they refreshed the toilet several times a day a liquid deodorizer.) I never noticed any bad smells from the toilet in the mobile unit. At the back of the mobile tundra buggy is a sort of unroofed (open air) viewing deck for getting a different view of the tundra and the animals (see photos). If you are on the Naturalist tour, you will have a Naturalist guide on board to answer questions about the animals, their behaviors, and to provide some informative short lectures. If you are on the Photographic tour, you will have a Photo Specialist on-board to answer your questions about photography, and provide tips and tricks for white-on-white photography and photo composition.

There are 2 different tour companies that do a Lodge experience at Churchill: Tundra Buggy and Great White Bear Tours. Tundra Buggy was there first, and therefore has the prime Lodge spot at Polar Bear Point (further out on the Tundra, and better potential to have more bears around you.) Be aware that polar bears are heavily discouraged in Churchill, so if you are staying in Churchill, odds are you will almost certainly not see a bear there. If a bear is caught near the town, it is rounded up and placed in the "polar bear jail" -- an old military bunker. Bears are kept here until they can be flown out of the area. This action is taken to discourage bears from coming into town, and thereby minimizing bear/human contact. If a bear attacks a human, it must be killed. Obviously, Churchill wants to minimize anything like that, and they have worked hard to find a balance.

We booked a helicopter tour through Tundra Buggy Lodge, and that was a terrific experience. We had a 1 hour tour out over the tundra, the ice forming on the Hudson Bay, and a short way inland, where we saw a silver fox and a number of moose.

Our Tundra Buggy driver was excellent (thanks, Trevor), as was our Naturalist Guide (fantastic job, Angele). The 2 women who run the kitchen did a super job in a tight spot (awesome job, Julie and Bree!)

If you are interested in seeing polar bears in their natural environment, the Tundra Buggy Lodge is the place to do it. Estimates are that polar bears will no longer exist in Churchill in 30 years, probably much less than that. We purchased our spots 1 year in advance (on the day tickets were available), and with only limited spots, the Tundra Buggy is always sold out far in advance.

Yes, it is expensive, but it's a trip of a lifetime.

(Please do not use the attached photos without my permission.)

  • Liked — Outstanding experience, many polar bears, decent food, well organized.
  • Disliked — Could have spent less time in Churchill.
  • Stayed November 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed October 29, 2006

We booked this polar bear trip a year in advance and couldn't wait. We decided to deviate from the 'program' and took the train from Winnipeg to Churchill. We didn't receive the promised itenary beforehand, and upon arrival in Churchill; with the max temp being -11 degr C and the wind howling at 70-90 km/h, there was no one to meet us. I managed to get hold of a Tundra Buggy Guide about half an hour later and he abrubtly informed us that our group was supposed to meet at the gift shop at 4pm. We had no idea where the gift shop was....

Anyway, we eventually met up with the rest of the group and off we went. The first night on the buggy we were served spagetti bolonaise, which, according to the Canadians on the trip, was from a tin! OK! Now for the sleeping arrangements: there were 2 'dorms', each with 10 bunkbeds (ie it houses 20 people) with ONE shower and 2 toilets per dorm. Just to elaborate on the toilets; they were 'long-drops' but with the long-drop part being a normal black plastic rubbish bag. Not really a long drop at all. They were cleaned once a day but the smell by the next morning was totally overwhelming and enough to put anybody off their food... (Has the owner/s ever looked into the possibility of converting the toilets to the chemical, user-friendly ones found on boats????????)

So our overall impression was that we paid (over a thousand dollars per person per night) super duper inflated 5 star prices for what was effectively backpacker accomodation.
Yes, it is 'exclusive'. But we still can't help this overwhelming feeling of being ripped off.
Especially after we heard from 2 independent sources that the lodge is owned by a banker who is only interested in skimming off the fat and is not into the nature/conservation idea at all! Just as well we went this year, apparently there is a 30% price hike planned for 2007!

On a positive note; the food did improve after the first night, the lodge itself was warm and toasty and our guide Chris was a star. He was very knowledgable and went out of his way to make our bear viewing as exciting as possible.

Our recommendation is to go to Churchill, stay in one of the comfortable motels and hop on the Tundra Buggy daytrips.

  • Liked — Uh....
  • Disliked — The disgusting toilets
  • Tips/Secrets — before deciding to go, enquire whether the bathroom setup has changed.
  • Stayed October 2006, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 7, 2002

I stayed in the Tundra Buggy Lodge in November of 2001. I was on a trip to Cape Churchill to see polar bears, we never got there even though we paid a premium price for the experience there was no refund for not reaching our destination. The mobile lodge couldn't be towed out because of weather conditions. Apparently this happens much of the time. We stayed in close to Churchill with all of the other tourists. The "lodge" is old and in serious need of repairs. The toilets (buckets with plastic bags) smelled badly. International Wildlife Adventures did not produce what they advertised.

Was this review helpful? Yes 87
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Frontiers North Adventures' Tundra Buggy Lodge

Address: 124 Kelsey Boulevard, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
Location: Canada > Manitoba > Churchill
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Shuttle Bus service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 5 Specialty Lodging in Churchill
Number of rooms: 40
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Tundra Buggy® Lodge, situated in the heart of polar bear country, offers an 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 and cafe, and staff quarters. Viewing platforms connect each unit and allow for outdoor photography. Situated far from the lights of town, the Tundra Buggy® Lodge is the perfect place to view bears all day long and have optimal northern lights viewing at night (weather permitting). The lodge is also equipped with exterior field lights that enable us to continue to watch the bears even after the sun goes down! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Tundra Buggy Hotel Churchill
Frontiers North Adventures' Tundra Buggy Lodge Churchill, Canada - Manitoba

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