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“ONE OF A KIND EXPERIENCE”

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Seal River Heritage Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Victoria, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“ONE OF A KIND EXPERIENCE”
Reviewed June 6, 2011

I have been working in the Arctic filming for over 2 decades and no where in that experience have I ever been able to have such a frequent and up close view of polar bears in the wild. In a two week trip, I was able to observe bears everyday.

On top of that the hospitality and services provided by Mike and Jeanne Reimer are like none other. The food is fabulous, the guides are safe and knowledgable, and the entire staff caters to your needs. To me there is no other remote experience on this planet, that is highly accessible, with an absolute guarantee of polar bear viewing and with comfortable dining and accommodations. Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge is simply a very unique and unusual experience for those people who want a safe polar bear adventure. To do this with Churchill Wild, with Mike and Jeanne Reimer puts you in good hands.

Adam Ravetch Arctic Wild life Film maker

Stayed November 2010, traveled on business
Helpful?
4 Thank Adamravetch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
USA
Level 1 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed February 25, 2011

I am a wildlife photographer and have traveled to all seven continents pursuing great photographs of earth's most amazing creatures. Polar bears were right at the top of my "amazing creature" list, of course, so finding the right venue to photograph them was of major importance. It's important to note that I am somewhat tough to please regarding photographic opportunities.

So, where do I go and how do I get close to the bears with unobstructed views in a safe environment? Polar bears do have a reputation, you know. OK, there are the tundra buggies out of Churchill. Do I want to spend all day in a crowded vehicle and then photograph bears from 12 ft. above them? Then, what about Norway? Do I want to attempt to view the bears from a long distance aboard a ship around Spitzbergen with the possibility of not even seeing a bear? For me, the clear answer to these questions was a resounding "no".

I learned of Churchill Wild while doing my research to find the right venue. Honestly, it sounded too good to be true, given reputation of polar bears. More and more research and I found myself quickly becoming a believer.

I visited Churchill Wild's Seal River Lodge in late October, 2010. While the logistics of venturing 30+ miles north of Churchill, Manitoba into the Arctic wilderness are rather challenging (but worth the effort), the difficulty was minimized by Churchill Wild. After an overnight in Winnipeg and a commercial flight to Churchill, a bush plane finished the trip to the lodge in short order.

Bears around the lodge were plentiful and we saw bears close by immediately upon arrival and during our short hike from the "runway" to the lodge. Polar bears gather around the Hudson Bay this time of year waiting for the bay to freeze in order to begin hunting seals once again, as it has been months since they have had regular meals. This waiting period makes for perfect bear viewing.

Each day, we would take at least two hikes into the surrounding tundra. It was unbelievable! Here I was in Northern Manitoba standing only yards from polar bears... nothing between the bears and me but crisp Arctic air. Oh, wait a minute, there were our exceptional and safety conscious guides, Andy and Terry. They knew exactly where to take us and how to get us into a safe and ideal position to photograph the bears. If a bear became a bit too curious, the guides would encourage the bear to leave with a snowball. Although they have more serious weapons, it is my understanding there has never been an incident requiring their use. Overall, I believe bears are curious animals but do not want trouble, thereby risking injury to themselves. These are clearly wild animals, however, and all precautions are taken to ensure, a very safe experience at Seal River lodge.

The eye-level photography and the beautiful backdrops of the Hudson Bay and surrounding landscapes gave my camera a real workout every day. Over the course of my several days at Seal River, I took thousands of images.

The lodge itself was another great story. My expectations were not high given its location but I was way off base. The lodge, ideally situated along Seal River and the Hudson Bay, was comfortable and warm. Meeting rooms were large and ideal for viewing the surrounding landscapes and constant activity outside the large windows. It was great to sit around the main gathering room in the evening, sharing photos and stories of the day's events.

Although the rooms were perhaps a bit small by some standards, they were more than adequate. Certainly, that was a non issue for me, as I was not there to lounge around in my room. Most importantly, there was plenty of warm water and heat for all.

Did I mention the staff and the food? Mike and Jeanne Reimer were most excellent hosts and the staff were constantly taking care of our every need. Everyone was friendly and laid back, making for great conversation and camaraderie. The food, which could not have been better, exceeded the quality I have experienced in my other adventures and it was plentiful.

The lodge has a fenced in "compound" area attached to the rear of the facility. It was a great place to be extra close to the bears and spend time between our hikes. The bears would come right up to the fence to check us out, curious creatures that they are... Occasionally, a bear's breath would literally fog my camera's lens. It was exhilarating, to say the least. The compound was also the perfect place to view and photograph the Northern Lights. It was my first time to see them. I was awestruck.

Well, there is little doubt about the success of my trip to Churchill Wild's Seal River Lodge. So much so, I have booked a trip for Fall, 2011, as well. My wife, who was initially reluctant to accompany me into the Arctic last year, is anxious to go in 2011. Having heard the amazing stories and viewed the amazing photographs, she could not resist. I am sure it will be another great outing!

  • Stayed October 2010, traveled solo
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Helpful?
8 Thank LarryGKinney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
55 reviews
37 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
Reviewed September 27, 2010

We went on the Birds, Bears & Belugas trip in August.

The good news - the location is stunning and there were plenty of bears to see. The guides, Andy & Terry, were excellent. The food in the lodge was also very good.

The bad news - due to winds there was only one day when we could try to see Belugas and even that was quite windy so the Belugas were not much in evidence, only 2 of the guests got a reasonable sighting of the Belugas during their 15 minutes in the water. Everybody else was disappointed. The expedition is subject to both weather and tide (2 hours either side of high tide) and your chances of seeing Belugas are therefore far from certain. While the lodge cannot be held responsible for the weather it is responsible for the fact that they only had four dry suits to share among 16 guests! Due to size restrictions this meant that 8 people had to share the 1 small suit. Not that they ever got the chance to do so. Mike explained that one of their suits had been damaged the previous week but on a trip costing this much the lodge should have been better equipped.

The birds were also a big disappointment. Few in number and dull to look at.

The lodge was full throughout the summer opening period and this success was perhaps the reason why other promised events such as the evening lectures simply did not happen. Another promise was that we would have "fine" wine with our meals but we were given plonk available for C$ 8-12 in the wine shop in Churchill (the cheapest of the cheap). Mike's daughter, who looks after the wine, did acknowledge that she needed to go on a course to learn about wine.

The rooms were small but adequate. However, there is only one set of linen per room and this has to be washed and dried during the changeover. We had to wait until the evening before our bed was made up and we were given towels. Not what we would expect having paid so much for this trip.

On one evening the guests had to play second fiddle to visiting VIP's (i.e., travel agents!).

Finally do bear in mind that with 16 people plus 2 guides on each hike you leave when the last person is ready and travel at the speed of the slowest person.

We have majored on the negative points of this trip, however, we do want to emphasize that our experience with the bears and the guides was really very good. Our advice to anybody is that if you want to see the bears go on one of the Autumn trips when the bears are more active and you won't be bothered by the bugs.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
8 Thank Richard727
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ingatestone, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
107 reviews
46 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 160 helpful votes
Reviewed November 11, 2009

I would love to say "please ignore Irish Captain and all previous reviewers of this place - don't stay here" ....... but only because I want to keep it to myself! Seriously though, Seal River Lodge (aka Churchill Wild) could almost be described as Heaven on Earth for nature lovers - especially if you are a fan of polar bears. We have just recently returned from 'The Great Ice Bear' trip.

The lodge is only open for a small number of weeks per year to ensure that guests get the full benefit of their reason for visiting (eg bear season, beluga whale season, etc.). It is quite a remote location, being about a 20 minute flight (on a tiny plane) from Churchill.

There are 8 guest bedrooms (4 of which have been recently added), which means that usually there are around 16 or so guests staying at the lodge at one time. The bedrooms are relatively basic, but very comfortable and cosy, and all have ensuites (some bedrooms sleep more than 2 people so this could be good for families). There is electricity available 24 hours a day, and wi-fi is available although a little erratic.

There is a large lounge which comfortably fits all the guests; it has big picture windows which is very handy for when the bears come strolling by a few feet away! There is also an indoor viewing tower, and one outside too. There is a cosy dining room next to the kitchen where all meals are cooked for you, again with large windows overlooking the bay outside. Next to the kitchen is a small window with bars over it, which often has a visit from a passing polar bear, peering in to see what we've got for dinner.... amazing! At the back of the lodge is a fenced in area so that guests can go outside to view the wildlife, scenery, Northern Lights, etc. without the fear of being surprised by a 900lb polar bear!

All of the staff are fantastic - Mike and Jeanne who run the place are extremely welcoming and eager to please; all of the 'behind the scenes' people (kitchen staff, maintenance guys, etc.) are also excellent, and there are also two wonderful expert guides, Andy and Terry, who take groups out on twice-daily hikes for bear-spotting and photography sessions.

The hikes are great - the guides are very knowledgeable, and you get to see some great scenery as well learning a lot about the wildlife, the area, and the history of this place. They also make sure that you are safe at all times, and have a variety of weaponry to scare off any over-inquisitive bears (including throwing snowballs!!).

Being far north, the weather obviously cannot be guaranteed - we were 'lucky' enough to have bad weather on our departure day from the lodge, so the whole group got to stay an extra night as the small plane could not fly in - everyone was delighted, although I did feel a little sorry for the group waiting to fly in to Seal River. Whilst we were there, the temperature went below -20 degrees C, so if you are going on a winter trip here, make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes, layers, handwarmers etc.

For any avid photographers, it is worth bearing in mind that after a walk in the freezing cold, you cannot take your camera straight back into the lodge and start using it immediately - obviously it can fog up and possibly do damage to your lens. The staff at Churchill Wild supply you with bags to put your camera in, in order to stop this from happening - but it may be worth bringing a second camera with you just in case you want to take more photographs inside the lodge immediately after a walk outside!

We saw lots of bears whilst we were here, which was the main point of our visit. Some were even play-fighting just outside the front door! One more tip - make sure you bring PLENTY of film or memory cards for your camera - you'll need it (my husband and I took thousands of photographs - literally!).

Everyone in the lodge loved their time here, and we were all sorry to leave - as Irish Captain mentions below, the Tundra Buggy tour in Churchill afterwards really paled into insignificance after staying at such a wonderful place as Seal River.

I would heartily recommend to anyone who is considering visiting Churchill - STAY WITH CHURCHILL WILD!!! It's quite an expensive trip, I agree, but can you really put a price on walking around in the land of the polar bears, standing just feet from these incredible animals? I think not.

Thanks to Mike and Jeanne and all of the staff - they do a fantastic job. We're hoping to go back some day to do the 'Bears and Belugas' trip. I'm starting to save up my money already....

  • Stayed October 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank polarbear
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Strandhill, Ireland
Level 6 Contributor
343 reviews
73 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 213 helpful votes
Reviewed November 9, 2009

We're just back from Churchill Wild's Great Ice Bear tour, where we stayed at the Seal River Lodge. This was the most amazing trip I've ever been on. From the turbo prop plane ride from Churchill to the lodge, to the staff/food, the whole experience was fantastic. Then there's the bears...the whole reason for going. The reason I chose Churchill Wild over all other Churchill tours was the fact you go out hiking in bear country. I still can't believe we could get to within 20 feet of bears while out walking! Unbelievable! And when you're in the lodge they come up to the windows! You might not see 20-30 bears like you might on a tundra buggy, but seeing 1 or 2 or 6 while on the ground, like we did, is so much better. The trip includes a day on a buggy, but after hiking the buggy really was a bit disappointing!
I can't recommend Churchill Wild enough!

  • Stayed October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank irish_captain
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed August 23, 2007

My family and I have recently returned from Canada and we had an amazing 6 days at The Seal River Heritage Lodge. It is a remote lodge which you reach by float plane from Churchill. We saw lots of polar bears and had an amazing experience swimming with beluga whales in the Hudson Bay ( a once in a lifetime experience.)
The lodge was very comfortable and had great views out onto the Hudson Bay and the food was superb. The guides were amazingly knowledgeable about the local wildlife and were so welcoming with our 2 children aged 11+12 yrs old. Our daughter made a plaster cast of wolf prints, which she was able to bring home.
Great experience would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. If you go say hello to the beluga's and polar bears for me.
Mrs M Smith

  • Liked — The food and view
  • Disliked — nothing
  • Stayed August 2007, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank md0yle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Arizona
Level 2 Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed November 23, 2005

Went to Churchill this past summer and stayed at Seal River Heritage Lodge which is a remote lodge north of Churchill. I am a huge fan of Whales of any type, not being a water lover I was content to sit in the zodiac and watch as other guests jumped in a dry suit and swam with them. Well, after being persuaded to try it out, I gathered my nerves and in I went. Amazing… no other word I can think of. I was screaming and laughing in my snorkel as they came to see what was up. I couldn’t believe I didn’t scare them away. They came so close to my face and then would swim under and touch me. Amazing!!!
The guides, the staff, the accommodations, all above expectations in such a remote area. All this and Polar Bears to…. I would recommend them to anyone. Churchillwild = Great travels.

  • Stayed August 2005
    • Value
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Helpful?
12 Thank tmasiak
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Seal River Heritage Lodge

Property: Seal River Heritage Lodge
Address: P.O. Box 79 | Kleefeld, Seal River, Manitoba R0A 0V0, Canada
Phone Number:
Location: Canada > Manitoba > Seal River
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Seal River
Number of rooms: 8
Also Known As:
Churchill Wild - Seal River Heritage Hotel Churchill

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