To be safe," MacPherson says, "we will keep you about 50 meters from the polar bears as we walk about. Like most visitors to this part of the Province of Manitoba, I came to see polar bears, and it's no idle claim when the town of Churchill calls itself the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Most tour operators offer some form of Tundra Buggy experience involving a bus on giant wheels that keeps passengers well out of the bears' reach (and vice versa). Walking hibernationIt turns out the 50-meter distance is a starting point; the only times we are that far from the bears is when MacPherson or fellow guide Tara Ryan first sight them. With both a chef and pastry chef at Seal River, the meals always featured hot entrees, often a choice of soups, and incredibly rich desserts. Destinations during the trip include the large freshwater lake from which the rustic, yet modern, lodge draws its water (it is treated before being served) and an archaeological site with rough circles of stones, used to anchor the flaps of tepees erected thousands of years ago. After dinner, guests sit or sprawl on the huge leather couches and recliners in front of the wood-burning stove in the lodge's lounge for presentations and slide shows about the region's history, animals and how the staff restocks the lodge using a tractor to haul a huge sled for 36 hours over the Hudson Bay ice. Diverting predatorsTypically the bears - usually one at a time - appeared as large ivory splotches resting or sleeping on the rock-strewn ground, where withered shore grasses provided a pale gold accent to the landscape. While they are not social animals - the mothers of new cubs must protect them from males, who occasionally eat them - on my trip we saw as many as three bears at once, lumbering in a widely spaced follow-the-leader train. [...] escalating the auditory experience, MacPherson would reach into his parka, pull out fist-sized rocks and clack them together - a sharp sound not familiar to bears. Shooting polar bears is banned on provincial lands not occupied by the aborigines, who are allowed to hunt bears and walrus, which they eat. [...] he settled down almost against the fence, opened his mouth and put his enormous upper and lower jaws around one of the holes. After a two-hour flight on a twin-engine plane from Winnipeg to Churchill, passengers climb aboard a purpose-built Tundra Buggy, which rolls high above the snow.