Bill and Louella began teaching in Churchill, Manitoba during the year 2000, and are proud and honoured to have taught Don and Marilyn's three sons in their youth. They first met Don and Marilyn through the school parent-teacher conferences and immediately became good friends. During this time, Bill would help out with Great White Bear Tours when he could, but as the moment approached for their retirement in 2004, Don and Marilyn jumped on the opportunity to invite both of them to work for the company. It has since been 15 years.
Our understanding of the Great White Bear Tour story is that it began as a one-machine operation. Don would take famous wildlife photographer Norbert Rosing out on the tundra to capture the magnificent polar bears in their natural habitat. Through this, the demand for quality polar bear viewing grew, and with it so did Great White Bear Tours to accommodate the need. The company expanded their fleet from one vehicle in the early 1990’s, when eco-tourism really came into its own, to now operating about 10 Rovers, 1 Tundra Lodge and a fleet of transport buses.
Words to describe the company that immediately come to our minds are: superior quality, integrity and reliability. The people who are part of the crew – us included – strive to deliver first class service with first class equipment and personnel. They are always looking toward the future to ensure continued quality experiences. For example, moving from drop buckets to fully functioning toilets, modernizing the Tundra Lodge from diesel power to battery inverted systems – are but a few. This truly speaks to their commitment to environmental responsibility and to their ability to adapt.
Many wonderful memories have been shared while in the field, and they have stayed with us over the past 15 years. But, we admit, it is a challenge to pick out one in particular among so many. These are a few that come to mind:
"We were working on the Tundra Lodge while there was a young British couple on board. The wife’s childhood dream was to witness the Northern Lights. Her husband was up one night until 10:15 p.m. with his camera, hoping to capture a glimpse of the phenomena. With no luck at that point, he decided to go to bed. Around 10:30 p.m, we were doing our final walk-through when we noticed several wisps in the night sky, and we knew this was going to be special. We gently woke the couple and let them know that they should take a peak outside. The wisps joined together and became a firestorm of dancing, colourful Northern Lights. The wife was so moved that she burst into tears. This was such a moving experience to see her dreams realized.”
"It goes without saying that nothing can beat the look of awe and excitement in the eyes of guests as the experience their first glimpse of a polar bear.”
This particular memory is quite a sad and difficult one to discuss, but it is exemplary of Great White Bear Tours’ generosity and dedication to the community.
"It was about 1:30 in the morning when we received a call that one of the hotels in Churchill was on fire. Don and Marilyn immediately activated the buses and came to evacuate the stranded guests. An emergency centre had been set up with blankets, food and water. They took a very active part in providing supplies, while other hotels offered rooms for the guests. This showed the strength of the community and businesses through coming together in a time of need."
-Bill + Louella
It is evident that their compassion, quality of service and vehicles set them apart from their competitors. They are top-notch, safe, reliable and always well-informed. If there are improvements to be made, they are made right away, to stay at the top of their industry. We see them continuing to hold this position, and it is truly exciting to be a part of it.