Seal River is on the western side of Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada. It is the place for polar bears in the summertime, and about a zillion beluga whales. Seal River Lodge takes only about a dozen people in a family environment. The hospitality and friendliess are memorable, the food is astonishing, and the experience is life-changing. If you love wilderness and you have good camera gear and you want a rare experience, go. Tell 'em I sent you. My pix are all RAW and then processed down to small JPGs for SmugMug. Hope they don't disappoint.
When you leave the float plane after a 20-minute flight from Churchill, this is what greets you. Polaris six-wheeler, trailer for guests and baggage, and Rebecca Reimer, complete with shotgun. Air-conditioned transfer vehicles? Nope. And if it rains, put up the hood on your jacket. We told you it was wilderness. By the way, the funny smell is fresh, clean, sub-Arctic air.
The ready-to-go shotgun makes you realise it is serious wilderness.
The lodge in the late afternoon. Ourt back there's a chainwire enclosure several metres high whereguests can go out there to smoke or get fresh air. But you don't go out the front door unless there's a guide with you, armed with a shotgun. Our room was behind the last window on the left. It has bars because sometimes bears try to break in. I was guarded while I took this picture. That's Mike Reimer standing just outside the front door, shotgun in hand.
At night, Mike Reimer closes the shutters to keep out the bears, who can smell the food and the humans. The shutters are studded with four-inch (ten cm) nails. It doesn't happen often at all, but it can.
This is Mike Reimer's "working" belt. Sheath knife, Leatherman multi tool and a "bear repellant" spray. Other people use the super modern shotgun, but Mike likes his old reliable single shot. A few days before we arrived, he met a bear out near the machinery shed. Dakota the Labrador barked, others in the lodge came out and started yelling and Mike picked up a fist-sized rock and threw it at the bear's nose. Fortunately, the bear just dropped to all fours and left.
It was a bit fresh, as they say, even in summer. REady to go on an expedition were my wife, Karen, right, and Linda Besse, one of America's premier wildlife artists. Despite their grim looks they really were having fun. The breakfast had been awesome!
This is Ian Thorleifson, Icelander, lots of environment-type qualifications, fountain of knowledge and all round good guy. He can talk you about moose hoofprints in the mud -- how big it was, when it was here, all kinds of stuff. Nothing rattled him.
Going on a trip. Rain was threatening, so only the hardy ones went. Mike Reimer driving and in the back, left to right, Matthias (Matt) Breiter, a German-born wilderness photographer with a dozen books to his credit, Louise Murray, a diminutive English wildlife photographer who's spent half a lifetime photographing things under the ice, and Linda Besse's husband Jim, a hunter, builder, good guy. The rest of us stayed home in the warm.
Linda Besse stayed inside, doing research for her paintings, while husband Jim and the others went off into the cold.
Out on the tundra, there's these little guys, called "sic sic" because of the noise they make. But if you stop and leave the trailer to take pictures like this, you must have a guard.....