Eeyou Istchee Cree communities
Exploring with Canadian Geographic, Arctic Kingdom and
Waskaganish located 933 km from Ottawa Canada; at the bottom of the James Bay, and that was the starting point for this trip with the Cree Outfitters Tourism Association! Greeting us with lots of warmth, smiles and friendliness, we travelled to Waskaganish. Lucky enough to be invited to meet one of the Elders for a unique shared meal prepared by the couple. Wild goose cooked next to open flames, prepared potatoes, some blueberries for a sauce that we ate alongside bannock bread that also got baked next to the fire. The late afternoon activity with the Elders left me with lots of special memories, the hunting and fishing stories, how they met until today as the leading friends to everyone.
Our first sunset was enjoyed at the Smokey Hill rapids; it was just about as perfect as you can get to end the day. That was a great way to start our visit to Waskaganish, and then we got to enjoy some tours around the village and a good night’s sleep at the Lodge.
The first morning we are up and on the boat after a great breakfast with the team. A 10-hour boat tour is just about to start, Its 24 degrees on the water today with a little breeze, that made this day incredible to be exploring the shores of these islands. It’s only been 2 hours since we left land and voila OMG OMG OMG my first-ever polar bear sighting in its natural environment, I couldn’t believe my eyes when my colleague James spotted this big bear on the beach. I heard where’s the photographer where is he, I was watching beluga play close to shore. He was far from us and took off once it noticed the boat, so he took off and positioned himself at the top of the hill and gave us a little show, the photo above was cropped just so you know how far our he was from us. It’s so unbelievable to see it move up a hill, strong beast it is. That was our only sighting for our first day. We stopped for a picnic on an Island where the Hudson Bay traded some products with the Cree community.
Day 2, we drove from Waskaganish to Wemindji, as the trip was too long to finish it off by boat. This is where it got interesting, now I’ll tell you how I felt once I spotted the first 2 bears on this leg of the trip. I kept telling Sarah that I could see 2 buoys way far, as there were lots of waves today, the floats kept disappearing and re-appearing. Sarah took the binoculars, at that moment it was true, I had been watching 2 polar bears swimming in the Baie, mom and a cub. That was the best feeling ever, and OMG moment of watching them swim away from us, that was the start of another fantastic day. Once we got to this specific Island, a well-known breeding ground for the bears, the second cub was onshore, and 2 more giant adult bears, and it kept going with one more bear jumping in the water. Noting can beat checking off a bucket list item like Polar bears in the natural habitat.
This unforgettable life experience I will never ever forget, I truly enjoyed my time with a fantastic team that surrounded us. We laughed hard, we bounced as the water was rough in some areas, our team was amazing, and the best part is I’m leaving with unbelievable memories.
A few extra photos from our trip, In 2018, you’ll be able to see the full story with journalist James Little (my writer for this trip) in the printed version in Canadian Geographic that will include some of my photographs.
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