Natural Habitat Adventures, a leader in high-end ecotourism, will offer a polar bear excursion this year that it hopes will become the first in a new category of education-focused adventure travel.
The Special Expedition: Polar Bears in a Changing Arctic itinerary, which in addition to taking travelers into the polar bear's wild tundra habitat along Hudson Bay this October, will deep dive into the complex issues surrounding conservation, climate change and Arctic ecology through conversations with expert guests including Nobel Laureate Paul Romer and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) climate expert Brad Schaller.
Court Whelan, the company's sustainability director, says that while this is a first-of-its-kind in the field education opportunity in Churchill, Manitoba, he hopes it will be a springboard to more immersive educational opportunities around the world.
Indeed, in the world of luxury travel, guests are increasingly seeking not adventure, but meaningful and socially impactful experiences.
"We're always trying to push the envelope to get a better experience," Whelan said. "Our guests are hungry for this type of information."
Whelan said the tour will hold up to 45 people who will be split into two groups for excursions. They will all come together at night for sessions with the experts.
Guests will hear from Natural Habitat Adventures founder Ben Bressler about 30 years of polar bear tourism and the company's commitment to protect them. Brad Schallert, deputy director of international climate cooperation for WWF, will speak on sustainability challenges and achievements in a warming North. And New York University professor Paul Romer, co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics and former chief economist for the World Bank, will talk about his vision for creating long-term sustainable economic growth while addressing the imperative to slow climate change.
Whelan said the idea is to create "the next wave of ambassadors out there for understanding climate change policy. I can say all 45 people will come away some of the most informed people on climate change in the world."
If all goes well, he said, it is likely the company will look at offering similar deep dives into topics that include grizzly bear biology in Alaska, primates in Borneo or whales.