Manitoba Self-Drive Tour Showcases Both Black Bears and Big City
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — Canada’s prairie province of Manitoba is accustomed to hosting fall visitors who flock to Churchill on the shore of Hudson Bay, about 650 miles north of Winnipeg, the provincial capital. Each year, for about seven weeks, the shoreline is alive with polar bears as these extraordinary animals prowl along the coast anxiously waiting for sea ice to form.
During the summer, however, the focus shifts to a destination much closer to Winnipeg that is the habitat of black bears. Actually, the black bears of Riding Mountain National Park are renowned for their many color phasesÂ—including blonde, taupe, cinnamon, red and chocolate.
On a new eight-day tour package, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing these secretive forest creatures close-up from the comfort of a special viewing blind. You may even spot a mother with cubs. The park is not much more than a three-hour drive from the city in the rental car that is part of the “Black Bears and the Big City” package.
After checking in for a three-night stay at Riding Mountain Guest Ranch, you’ll meet your naturalist-guide, Dr. Jim Irwin. On that first evening, you’ll enjoy a “Welcome Dinner” and join a bear-watching tour.
Throughout your stay, you will join your guide on daily, fully-commentated wildlife-viewing safaris. The park also is home to a bison herd, as well as moose, elk, deer, coyotes, timber wolves and bald eagles. Mid-day periods are free for making use of the recreational facilities on the ranch. These include hiking trails, canoes, kayaks, hot tub and horseshoe pits.
Returning to Winnipeg, travelers are encouraged to spend time at the Manitoba Museum or Winnipeg Art Gallery. Overnight stays will be at the historic Fort Garry Hotel.
Take a gorgeous drive north along the scenic River Road Drive to Lockport. Travel along the west bank of the Red River. It features historical buildings and picturesque lookouts through a region initially settled by fur traders. Before heading back to the city, enjoy an unhurried lunch and a stroll near the Lockport Dam. Visit the Forks National Historic Site at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. It is a good spot for shopping and dining. Another worthwhile stop is the Mennonite Heritage Village, a 40-acre open-air museum that includes a replica windmill circa 1877.
This unusual getaway package is offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, an operator that has been organizing bear observation tours since 1980. It brings to its travel packages nonpareil knowledge and first-hand familiarity with a wide variety of northern and arctic destinations.
Cost of this eight-day/seven-night “Black Bears and the Big City” package is $1545 Canadian (approximately $1485 US) Included are four nights’ accommodations in Winnipeg, three nights’ accommodations at Riding Mountain, with breakfast daily and all meals while at the guest ranch. Also included are three evening bear-watching tours, wildlife walks in the national park, one week mid-size rental car and all applicable local taxes. Departure dates are Saturdays June 5 through September 25. The single supplement is $890 Canadian (app. $855 US).
Reservations and additional information available from The Great Canadian Travel Company, 800-661-3830, www.greatcanadiantravel.com. The URL for the Black Bear program is http://www.greatcanadiantravel.com/tours/canada-usa/manitoba/black-bears-and-the-big-city.