Few wilderness experiences can rival your first sighting of a polar bear in the wild. And none can exceed the excitement of observing your first polar bear in the Canadian High Arctic—one of the most iconic places to witness the King of the Arctic. If you're eager to learn where to see polar bears in Canada, look no further than the remote, ruggedly beautiful Arctic regions that stretch across the extreme yet fascinating Canadian north. There's place better for you to appreciate—amidst the rugged landscapes and snow-covered landscape—the majesty of polar bears, known in Indigenous mythology as Nanuk or Nanook. Males, when fully grown, can weigh between 775 and 1,300 pounds (350 to 600 kilograms). Their prowess in the wilderness makes them one of the fiercest—yet intriguing wildlife species on the planet.
The Best places to see polar bears in the wilds in Canada
According to the Canadian Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, two-thirds of the world's polar bear population can be found in Canada, the majority of them living on sea ice around Canada's Arctic Islands. Arctic Canada, which includes the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, is often considered one of the best places to see polar bears in Canada because that's where travelers will be able to observe polars along the ice edge as they hunt for food. You can read an account by Jaymie, one of our guides, about their unforgettable polar bear moment at Croker Bay on the southern shores of Devon Island in the Canadian High Arctic. Some of the other best places to see polar bears in Canada include Lancaster Island along the Northwest Passage, Ellesmere Island, and Radstock Bay, for example.
However, polar bears aren't the only wildlife species inhabiting these Canadian Arctic destinations. Guests who choose to go by ship are apt to see mountains, glaciers, tundra, rocky shorelines, tall granite cliffs, and never-ending bodies of water. And sharing these polar landscapes with polar bears are grizzly bears, harp seals, muskoxen, beluga whales, migratory birds and walruses.
The Best Way to See Polar Bears in Canada
Joining a seasoned polar expedition team like the one you'll meet on a Quark Expeditions voyage is key to discovering the best way to see polar bears in Canada. A successful polar-bear watching voyage requires a team that knows how to navigate polar ice and Arctic waters, has vast knowledge of Arctic wildlife, and knows how to find them—and simultaneously knows how to safeguard and protect these beautiful animals. Booking a polar voyage with a polar operator that is focused on sustainability and safeguarding the environment is one of the best ways to see polar bears in Canada.
Learning about the Canadian High Arctic before you embark on your polar voyage is also essential. The team at Quark Expeditions has a deep understanding of the weather, ice conditions, geography, and presence of wildlife —all of which are essential.
Polar voyages which include the best places to see polar bears
Quark Expeditions offers a diverse portfolio of Arctic voyages that feature polar bear-watching.
For instance, one of the destinations on Best of the Western Arctic: Canada and Greenland is Lancaster Sound. Known traditionally as Tallurutiup Imanga, this is a rich Arctic marine habitat where guests can explore the inlets and bays on Zodiac cruises. Lancaster Sound is known for polar bear sightings. If you're fortunate, you may even spot the elusive narwhal. Researchers have suggested that the eastern entrance to the Northwest passage is an excellent option for polar bear viewing. If you're strapped for time but are still determined to journey to the best place to see polar bears in Canada, Quark Expeditions also offers a 9-day Arctic Express Canada: The Heart of the Northwest Passage, which includes abundant opportunities to look for polar bears, as well as muskoxen and other Arctic wildlife.
Wildlife (polar bears, muskoxen, bird species, arctic wolf) also constitute a big part of Canada's Remote Arctic: Northwest Passage to Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands. This region is also popular with birders who will likely see gyrfalcons and dovekies (little auks).
Radstock Bay, also in the Inuit homeland territory of Nunavut, is a well-known spot to observe polar bears, especially in the summer. Radstock Bay is featured in the Northwest Passage: Epic High Arctic voyage.
What to expect on a polar bear watching expedition
On polar bear watching expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, you'll have the best experience on a small vessel. Quark Expeditions, for instance, never takes more than 199 passengers on their polar trips, sometimes as few as 128. It's preferable to journey on a vessel that's small enough to land where the bigger ships can't—and on one that can navigate deep Arctic fjords where polar bears often dwell.
You can also expect to spend time learning from onboard polar bear experts. That's a key element of Quark Expeditions voyages—whose experienced team was the first to bring consumer travelers to the North Pole back in 1991. For insight into what to expect on a polar bear watching expedition from one of the onboard experts, check out guide-wildlife expert Daven Hafey's blog titled Highlights of Arctic Exploration: Polar Bears.
Best time to see polar bears in Canada
The best time to see polar bears in Canada—while on a polar voyage—is in summer, ideally August and September when ice conditions, weather, temperatures and wildlife habits make it ideal to join an itinerary to remote High Arctic Canada.
Plan thoughtfully, choose your voyage wisely, and you'll be on your way to one of the most amazing wildlife experiences in the Canadian Arctic—the domain of the polar bear!