’d been snorkeling in Hudson Bay for only two minutes “when the first three whales” sidled into view, said Robert Earle Howells in National Geographic Traveler. Just as I began to relax, a companion told me he had also just spotted a polar bear in the water. “Uh-oh.” I was on a weekend package trip called “Birds, Bears, and Belugas” based at Seal River Heritage Lodge, “about 40 roadless miles” north of Churchill in Canada’s Manitoba province. Perched on an isolated Hudson Bay promontory, this lodge is reached by floatplane, and guests are required to abide by one rule above all: “No one leaves the compound without an armed guide.” Strolls across tidal flats usually resulted in sightings of bald eagles, tundra swans, and Arctic terns. Opportunities to snorkel with beluga whales were more limited, dictated by time and weather. It was in the estuary of the Seal River that I encountered hundreds of whales—and that bear. Fortunately, I was able to return safely to our boat, and let the bear paddle on undisturbed.
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