Facebook   Twitter   Road Scholar Network   Pinterest   YouTube  
Road Scholar educational adventures are created by Elderhostel,
the not-for-profit world leader in lifelong learning since 1975.

Online Chat Offline
Call (800) 454-5768

New extended hours!
Now open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. ET

Create an account                             Forgot your password?

Log in to see all you can do with your online Road Scholar account.


Lords of the North: Ecology of Hudson Bay's Polar Bears

Select a Date



and receive your



E-Photo Book:

Top 10 Learning Experiences Around the World

Find A Program

Search By:




Science & Nature

Price Range

over $1500

Start Date

End Date

More Options

Road Scholar
Program #6290RJ

Enroll Here
Add to Your Wishlist
8 Days | 7 Nights
EasyFor people looking to exercise their minds more than their bodies. Minimal walking and not too many stairs.
ModerateThese programs get you on your feet and include activities such as walking up to a mile in a day through a city and standing in a museum for a few hours.
ActiveFor people who enjoy walking as much as two miles a day, perhaps to explore historic neighborhoods or a nature trail.
Moderately ChallengingFor hardy explorers who enjoy a good physical challenge, spending most of their days on the go.
ChallengingGet ready to keep up with our highest-energy group. These demanding, and rewarding, programs are for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
Discussion Board

Before we can post your comment, you must be logged in to your Road Scholar Account

Betty Lynch Feb 07, 2016 at 07:28 PM

I will be going on the Oct 22nd trip. How is the research station we are staying at?
Mary Kuhner Feb 09, 2016 at 05:23 PM

The CNSC is a state of the art new facility. See "The Churchill Northern Studies Center Goes Green in a White World" -- an online article that talks about the history and architectural features of this special facility.

Sara Bailey Nov 08, 2015 at 04:28 PM

I am considering several northern programs. Besides polar bears (and sled dogs) what animals did anyone see?
Kenneth Bergman Nov 10, 2015 at 01:15 AM

Sara, my wife and I were part of the Oct 22-29 Road Scholar Lords of the North tour. We saw arctic hare, snowy owl, snow buntings, Canada geese, house sparrows and ravens (in town), many (white) willow ptarmigan, and lots of gray jays (at the dog-sledding site). We saw the burrows of arctic foxes but never saw them emerge. At the airport we saw collared lemmings. The day before our first tundra buggy adventure, a white gyrfalcon had been seen but we struck out. One can't wander about birding at this time of year - polar bears like to eat birders - so one can only watch birds while walking the main street of Churchill or from the tundra buggy. Our neighbors just returned from Churchill (Nat. Habitat Tour): a birder in that group claimed to have seen 38 species of birds from their Great White Bear vehicle, but I think that's a very high number for that time of year. The time for birding is in the summer, when the mosquitos are out!
Kenneth Bergman Nov 10, 2015 at 01:22 AM

I should say that we went to Churchill in Oct 2014 - not this year. Our neighbors went this Oct-November.

Frances Latham Feb 10, 2015 at 02:02 PM

I am strongly considering registering for this program and would like to hear comments from prior participants concerning the size of the group and if there were any problems with viewing because of group size.
Kenneth Bergman Feb 10, 2015 at 02:21 PM

Frances, My wife and I attended the Oct 22 - 29 (2014) session of this program. Our group included about 24 people, give or take. On the tundra buggy we were joined by the driver (of course) and our guide, a PhD student doing field research on polar bears. The buggy is very wide, so there's generally plenty of room to walk around when it isn't rolling across the tundra: the central aisle is very roomy. Each bench seats two, but with a group size of about 24, several of us occupied our own bench. The windows drop down enough to allow someone sitting next to the window to rest his camera or binoculars o the window and get a clear view, while others looked over that passenger's shoulder. Because the bears are not moving much and often stay in the same location (same posture, even) for extended periods of time,, there was plenty of time for people to switch positions and move next to a window after others had taken pictures. We also tended to take turns sitting toward the front or the rear. In addition, there is a platform at the rear of the buggy that could probably accomodate 6-10 people if they all moved up against the chest-high side walls. Since a typical scenario involves stopping the buggy to view one bear at a time, usually only 3-4 people had front positions on the side of the platform facing the bear. I spent a lot of time on the platform, but it was windy and cold; some passengers never visited the platform and viewed the bears only from their windows. Usually there was plenty of time to get a good position and take lots of pictures. We saw only a few bears that were walking or standing upright; mostly we parked in front of sedate, stationary animals and the driver waited until everyone had taken as many pictues as they wanted. Certainly it would have been easier for everyone to find a good position and take lots of pictures had our group been very small, but I never felt pressed for time. Members of our group were very courteous and accomodating and behaved in ways that fostered positive relationships; that would describe how they acted on the tundra buggy as well. Only about 4 of us had long lenses, and I never regretted the effort involved in getting the lens there, since I had ample opportunity to use it on the tundra buggy. Here's a link to a picture of the interior of the ttundra buggy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/8561740@N08/15937947479/in/set-72157648557990867 Hope this helps. Perhaps I would have felt more rushed and bothered by congestion if we had encountered 30-40 bears per day, causing the driver to move on from bear to bear more rapidly than in our case. We had close encounters with 10-12 bears each day. Feel free to contact me if you want more information or clarification.

Kenneth Bergman Sep 25, 2014 at 10:39 PM

My wife and I will be on the Oct 22 - 29 program. I do a lot of photography and often use a dSLR with either a 300 mm lens or a 70-200 zoom lens. Each has a max f2.8 aperture, and I often couple them with a 1.4 teleconverter. I'm tryng to figure out whether to bring the 300 mm, since it's large and heavy and the carrying case just barely fits into the overhead compartment on a typical commercial airliner. If we'll be traveling to Churchill on a smaller commuter plane, that might be even more challenging. I've also been on programs in which the zeal and needs of serious photographers have been somewhat annoying to guides or fellow participants. On the other hand, I know I'll regret not having the big lens if the bears aren't very close to the tundra buggy. Can anyone tell me if they'd recommend a large lens and if the guides and vehicle design allow for use of long lenses in a way that won't interfere with the enjoyment of the other participants? Any advice will be welcome.
Mary Kuhner Oct 06, 2014 at 11:30 AM

I took my 200-400 mm zoom and it was a pain to lug around. Also, when a bear is spotted, there is a rush to the open deck on the back of the tundra buggy and you can expect to wait your turn for a spot if you aren't speedy. I brought a bean bag to balance the lens on the deck ledge but found it awkward/heavy to use. Settled for balancing the lens on my arm. Wouldn't recommend a tripod because of maneuverability issues with an excited group in a small space. You can shoot from inside the vehicle through an open window, but perspective is limited. Would recommend camera rain protection. The good news is that 200-400 mm results were excellent. Can see individual hairs on bears that weren't that close to the tundra buggy. Also, you likely will shoot from a helicopter. Be prepared to move quickly onto the vehicle with your camera. I used my 70-200 and the bears lounging on the beach were dots on the landscape. Enlargements weren't great. Don't worry about the other participants. Most will have cameras; you'll learn how to negotiate. Good luck. Prepare to enjoy yourself!
Kenneth Bergman Oct 06, 2014 at 02:19 PM

Kenneth Bergman Oct 06, 2014 at 02:19 PM

Kenneth Bergman Oct 06, 2014 at 02:36 PM

Mary, thanks for your response to my question about lenses. It sounds lilke you were glad to have the 400 mm reach, even though it was "a pain" to lug around (and that the 70-200 wasn't quite powerful enough to give you good shots). If you wouldn't mind addressing one related question, could you indicate whether the "pain" part included difficulty stashing your lens on the commuter flight up to Churchill? I have a LowePro Trekker 400 backpack-style case for my camera and lens. It measures in at 17 x 13.75 x 9.25 (inches, LxWxD) when stripped of some compartments and top covering: The sum of its dimensions = 41.25, stll well in excess of the 38 inch sum cited for the overhead bin ini the Winnipeg-to-Churchill aircraft. Did you find it difficult to fly with your camera gear on a plane whose carry-on luggage capacity is far less than that of a 737 or other typical airliner? Did you check it in for that flight or carry it onboard? Thanks for your advice. I am looking forward very much to this trip but still unsure how to manage the gear.
Mary Kuhner Oct 06, 2014 at 03:46 PM

The 70-200 might be adequate, especially with a converter if the bears are cooperative and come close to the buggy. Check out sites online featuring photos from tundra buggies (http://www.hickerphoto.com/photos/tundra-buggy-tours.htm). They'll help you figure out distances and conditions you'll encounter on board. You'll also have more than one day on the buggy to develop strategies. As for the "pain" part, as I recall it was a close call with Calm Air, the carrier from Winnipeg to Churchill. I had my gear in a case of approved size but was overweight. They wanted me to stow the gear in the luggage compartment, but I was concerned about baggage handling of such expensive equipment. They allowed me stow my camera gear in a cabin closet, but don't assume they commonly do this. Take the mystery out of this leg of the journey by calling Calm Air and asking about the size and weight limits. If you're good to take your gear into the cabin, there is generous space under the high seats. My biggest issue was the weight. Luckily my roommate agreed to carry some of the equipment. I'm not sure weight would be as big an issue for you.
Kenneth Bergman Oct 06, 2014 at 04:18 PM

Thanks for your prompt and useful response, Mary. I will call Calm Air, after I weigh my loaded camera bag. Good advice. Cheers.

Susan Blanton Feb 23, 2013 at 11:32 AM

I recently enrolled in this program. Does anybody have any recommedations for gear to take along? I've been corresponding w/the folks from the "Centre" in Churchill & realize you can rent appropiate clothing, but I was wondering if fairly ordinary cold-weather clothes wouln't do, since we will be in-doors or in-vehicle most of the time? Those of you who have done this program; if you go again, what would you do, or take, that you didn't before??
Mary Kuhner Feb 25, 2013 at 12:03 PM

You're correct that most of the time will be spent indoors/in vehicle; however even when you're in the tundra buggy, windows will be open and you'll be venturing onto a tail deck for better looks at the bears. You'll also be outside for an extended time when doing the sled dog ride and walking around Churchill. That said, thermal underwear, a puffy coat, warm gloves, hat, footwear and layers should do it. Keep track of temperatures in Churchill at that time as your guide and you should be comfortable.
Susan Blanton Feb 25, 2013 at 08:31 PM

For pants, I was thinking fleece over long underwear. Do you think I will need snow (insulated) pants in addition? I am enrolled in the last of October's(23-30) program.
Sandra Bennett Dec 31, 2013 at 09:22 PM

When I did Yellowstone in Winter, I talked with a salesperson at REI. She recommended a pair of rain pants+sweat pants(jeans too cold) + silk long underwear. The rain pants are for rain or snow. Yellowstone temps were @10 degrees. I was warm as toast the whole time. REI people are a great resource for travelers.

Mary Kuhner Sep 02, 2012 at 02:07 PM

Lords of the North is an excellent program. The polar bear expert, Dr. Nick Lunn, is one of the few remaining scientists who actually studies polar bears in the field. He is warm, engaging and extremely knowledgeable. Also, the CNSC staff is accommodating and the state-of-the-art green facility, itself, is another good reason to make the trip http://www.yourtravelchoice.org/2011/12/the-churchill-northern-studies-centre-goes-green-in-a-white-world/
Joyce Starkey Oct 16, 2012 at 01:59 PM

Reading your comment made me look forward to my trip even more! I'm signed up for the third trip in 2012.
Mary Kuhner Oct 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM

Have a grand time with the bears. Give my very best to Michael Goodyear, the CNSC's terrific director.

missy tenhet Feb 23, 2012 at 06:48 PM

Any input from anyone who has been there?
If you could only go once, would it be for the polar bears, snow and northern lights or go for the summer birding, kayaking with beluga whales and wildflowers in bloom?
Mary Kuhner Sep 02, 2012 at 01:50 PM

Tough call. Have enjoyed both programs. The bears waiting to go out on ice floes are numerous and magnificent but there may be little snow. Kayaking with hundreds of playful belugas was exciting. Polar bears/cubs could be seen basking on gravel beaches. The blooming tundra is colorful; lots of plant and bird diversity with interesting studies taking place through the Northern Studies Center.
saj Oct 18, 2013 at 11:32 PM

saj Oct 18, 2013 at 11:33 PM

Hi, I don't see the program offered about the kayaking with belugas. Do you know the program #? Also, do you need to be an experienced kayaker? thanks.
Mary Kuhner Jan 01, 2014 at 01:54 PM

The Belugas in the Bay program is offered directly through the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (www.churchillscience.ca/¿). Go to the website to see their slate of 2014 offerings. Click on "Learning Vacations." You do not need to be an experienced kayaker.

Rick Rottman Jul 17, 2011 at 06:10 PM

I am hoping to get some good photography opportunities during this program. Are there any other nature photographers signed up for the first program who are interested in sharing photography opportunities?
Susan Blanton Feb 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Hi Rick, I am going to the last program in October but I am taking a class this spring w/a professional photographer w/an enphasis on composition just in case I get any good opportunities. I have a decent camera, but lately am using my iPhone because it is handier--& takes decent picture too. The course I am taking promises to optimize ANY camera (iPhones are mentioned specifically). I'll let you know.....
Mary Kuhner Feb 25, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Your class will no doubt talk about the advantages of a telephoto lens for photographing wildllife. Although bears seem large, they will look small on your iPhone even with your digital zoom. They are often fairly far from the parked vehicle.
Kenneth Bergman Sep 25, 2014 at 10:45 PM

I just was told by Routes Adventures staff that any carry-on baggage on the commuter flight cannot exceed Combined dimensions (LxWxH) is not to exceed 10in x 16in x 12in or (25cm x 40cm x 30cm) and a total weight of 20 pounds is allowed for total carry-on baggage. This would seem to preclude taking my largest lens. Has anyone on previous iterations of this program seen participants with large lenses (300-400 mm)? .

Before we can post your comment, you must activate your profile on the Road Scholar Social Network. What's this?

By checking this box, you agree to the terms and conditions and your Road Scholar Social Network profile will be activated. You can continue posting your comment and fill out your profile later.
By checking this box, you will not be able to post your comment.

Before we can post your comment, you must be logged in to your Road Scholar Account

Our Value Promise To You

You won't find a better value.

at no additional cost on this date ...
7 nights of accommodations
19 meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 7 dinners
8 Expert-led lectures
10 Field trips
2 Flights during the program


Ratings are determined by participant evaluations.

Support Lifelong Learning

Our educational adventures are made possible by donors like you

Please support lifelong learning here

Free Catalog | Refer a Friend | Gift Certificates | Press | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Careers | Contact Us

© Elderhostel, Inc. 2016
11 Avenue de Lafayette | Boston MA 02111 | Toll-Free 1-800-454-5768