Ask Lonely Planet: Momma Bear can get mighty cross

2 comments
A polar bear won't tolerate any perceived threat to her cuddly cubs. Photo / Thinkstock
A polar bear won't tolerate any perceived threat to her cuddly cubs. Photo / Thinkstock

We are planning a trip to Canada in April and hope to see grizzly bears and polar bears in the wild. My wife thinks that I am crazy and has decided not to come, but my two children are keen. We have seen television programmes with grizzly bears catching salmon and I have looked on the web, but alas, we have found neither scent nor trail that will lead us to such wonders. We are also keen to head up to the Arctic Circle in search of polar bears. We figure that if we get too close to them and things get a bit ugly then, being fast runners, things will all be sweet. Do you know of places where we can see these bears in the wild?
- Ian, Matthew and Olivia Lambie

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

Ursus arctos horribilis, better known as the grizzly bear, makes its home on the higher slopes of Canada's Rocky and Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.

The endangered creature stands up to a fearsome 3m and has a distinctive hump between its shoulders, clearly distinguishing it from a black bear.

Grizzlies are solitary animals with no natural enemies except humans.

Although they enjoy an occasional snack of elk, moose or caribou, they usually fill their bellies with berries and vegetation. British Columbia's Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary has more than 50 bears on its 45,000ha refuge and a few eco-tour operators have permits for viewing the animals.

The mountain national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho also offer a chance to see these rare creatures as you drive or hike in the region.

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus), the fiercest member of the family, weighs less than 1kg at birth but can grow to more than 600kg.

The best place to observe them in Canada is Churchill, Manitoba, on the shores of Hudson Bay, from late September to early November. About 900 of the world's roughly 20,000 white-furred beasts prowl the tundra here, and it's one of the main maternity denning grounds.

Operators take tours around the polar bear capital of the world in elevated buggies. Caution is required. Unlike grizzlies and black bears, polar bears actively prey on people. To them you look like filet mignon.

As for outrunning these nightmare-teddies, we don't fancy your chances.

One whiff of a potential meal can see polar bears sprint at a speedy 40km/h, while grizzlies have been clocked as high as 56km/h. To put this in perspective, Usain Bolt red-lines at about 45km/h. However, top speed isn't necessarily the most important factor, so long as you are faster than those around you. Group tours sound like the way to go.

More advice on finding these amazing animals can be found in Lonely Planet's Canada guide.

Cycling around Europe

I am thinking about taking five months off and travelling Europe by bike, starting in Holland and ending in Paris. Where can I find information about this, and is five months long enough?
- Lisa

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

A seasoned touring cyclist can average about 80km a day, but this depends on the terrain and the amount of weight on the bike.

Via the back roads, Amsterdam to Paris is 600km, so you could conceivably complete that leg in just over a week.

However, you'd have to be pedalling at a fair clip, leaving very little time for smelling the roses.

Covering an average distance of about 40km a day, you could cover large tracts of the continent in the time you have available.

Planning European cycle tour may seem daunting, but help is at hand. The Cyclists' Touring Club is an excellent resource, providing members with detailed routes, itineraries, and updates on cycling conditions.

Lonely Planet's Cycling France and Cycling Italy guidebooks are also great companions, both on and off the bike.

It would be satisfying to say that you cycled your way around Europe, but bear in mind that some routes can be quite dull.

Five months is a long time, but the occasional train or plane hop between destinations will allow you to concentrate your efforts on the most idyllic routes.

You can take your bike on most European trains and planes.

- NZ Herald

WIN A LONELY PLANET GUIDEBOOK

Email your questions to travel.info@lonelyplanet.com and they'll be answered by Lonely Planet's experts.

In addition, the best question each week will earn a Lonely Planet guidebook. Add your postal address and the guidebook you'd like (see lonelyplanet.com).

Not all questions are answered and Lonely Planet cannot correspond directly with readers.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 21 Aug 2014 10:46:22 Processing Time: 1009ms