13th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Bears at Play

I was on a boat tour in Churchill, Canada, looking for beluga whales. We came around a bend to find some polar bears sparring in the water. Being a photographer, naturally I wanted to get closer so our guide unloaded me on a beach around the corner. We slowly walked in the direction of the bears. We watched three bears from a distance for about 15-20 minutes to see their reaction to us. They didn't seem to care and kept playing in the water as if we were never there. Little by little we crept up until I was standing basically on the shoreline watching these bears take turns sparring. It was an incredible event! Our guide said these were full grown adult male polar bears and they were practicing their sparring preparations from the mating season. We watched them for about 45 minutes and out of the corner of my eye a fourth bear had shown up a little farther down the beach. He didn't seem to mind our presence and slowly got into the water to join the others! I could of sat there for hours watching them go round after round. Truly an amazing experience that I will never forget! I believe sustainable travel is travel that leaves no footprints, we can enjoy it yet preserve it for future generations to enjoy. We came and left this place in peace and left no traces of humans. The bears were happy, and I was happy to just be there to witness such an amazing event.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 08.2015
Date Uploaded: 08.2015
Photo Location: Canada
Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Copyright: © LEIGHTON LUM