Born and raised in Manitoba, Wally Daudrich was drawn to Churchill because of the sense of freedom that one enjoys there. Earlier on a seasonal Parks guide and part time trapper Wally has been a person who dreamed and then lived the dream. Learning the art of log building from an old timer from the Yukon Territory Wally commercially built hunting camps, a wilderness family cottage, even an old fashioned family home. And when the opportunity came to build the Lazy Bear Lodge, a unique handcrafted log cabin lodge, this was the most ambitious project which required remote acquisition of building material by snowmobile, building time when conditions were extreme in January, and still operating in our busy summer/fall months. A ten year plan saw over 1000 stunted and twisted dead standing trees harvested from a forest fire on the Arctic tree line just south of Churchill Manitoba.
Wally now operates the vertically integrated Polar Bear and Arctic whale tour company Lazy Bear Expeditions with his family and highly qualified and unique staff members. His libertarian philosophy of hard work and innovation has served him well. Wally is a float plane pilot and 5 to 60 tonne vessel captain. He and his wife Dawn raise their five children in Churchill on the west coast of Hudson Bay.
How do the experiences you offer at Lazy Bear Expeditions give guests a unique perspective on the history, environment or culture of your region?
With almost 40 years of experience in ecology based tourism in Churchill our full day trip on the SAM HEARNE north of Churchill along the Hudson Bay coastline gets us to geographical areas that trace the exact same route that the early Hudson Bay Company explorer Samuel Hearne used to advance trade between the HBC and the northern Inuit people.
We are blessed to have a custom designed vessel that can go into shallow water via jet drive inside the Seal River and along the Hudson Bay coastline where we know Polar Bears frequent. Because the tidal zones here have low tide pools which often trap seals and whales, this creates a happy hunting grounds for the Polar Bears who freely roam in is area. So not only are we able to access this area with modern safe equipment, but we are able to see these Arctic monsters in their summer hunting mode safe in our vessel. (Please see our website summer video)
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
As we have grown we have spent exceptional time on detail when we have built the new modern equipment that we base our expeditions on. In our Arctic Crawlers (TM) we use engine heat to warm up our steering fluid so all systems operate as they would in normal temperatures in our sometimes cold weather tours in our late fall winter season. We offer see through rear decks on our vehicles so our guests can see polar bears that often walk directly under our clients as they are observing from our rear outside decks.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
We have recently built a brand new deep water port to moor our tour vessels throughout the tidal cycle on Hudson Bay. Hudson Bay is larger by volume than the Mediterranean Sea. What else is interesting is the extreme tide in this bay which is as much as 16 feet forced us to build the only privately built deep water port in Manitoba. This allows our vessels access to the Hudson Bay at our convenience. The added significance to this is the fact that this facility exists in an iced over body of water with salt water ice as thick as 15 feet. The facility was engineered and built to withstand the extreme pressures of our Arctic marine environment.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
I always emphasize the sense of freedom that we enjoy in such a remote part of our planet. When disembarking on the Sam Hearne during our safety speech I always mention the convenient on board lavatory as well as our meal and hot beverage facilities, and then jump to the built in redundancy of our equipment, our communications equipment which includes radar, GPS, EPIRB, SHORT WAVE AND FM RADIO, AND SATELLITE PHONE SERVICE. With modern equipment and all the convenience we provide I try to remind our guests that we are traveling to a
Very remote and wild areas of Northern Canada, and that we have worked very hard to make their experience both safe, and extreme, in the sense of wilderness adventure.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Because we are a small family owned business that was built from the ground up we offer a very authentic experience that is more than what we see each day, like the people, the team who brings it to our guests each day. I’m so authentic that I rarely use the word authentic for fear of loosing authenticity. Each summer requires months of planning and equipment checks and upgrades. We take what we do seriously and we believe in our clients, who are often professionals in their own fields who expect, but also appreciate hard work, and what it takes to make an operation like ours run smoothly.
What sets Lazy Bear apart from other arctic experiences?
The close proximity and sheer numbers of wildlife sightings. There is a good reason why our advertising theme is UP NORTH AND PERSONAL.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Take your time, but show up early for tour departures. Ask thoughtful and personal questions like a friend would and exhibit a genuine interest in those who are there to help you.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Our family travels a lot in our off season. We are then the “tourists”. Like Marco Polo, we travelled far and brought back others ideas and applied them to our own operations.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
In the absence of love and hate, everything becomes clear and concise. I like to analyze and study ideas. I fancy being a critical thinker, mentally taking things apart. Not to be confused with being a critical person.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
There was a woman who just arrived at our local airport who told me when she saw me embracing some of my guests at the airport who were leaving to go on their flight out, later told me with wet eyes, I didn’t think I would be like those people, embracing, sad, and weeping. After all, it’s just a wildlife tour. Without trying to explain it, I just told her that while we enjoy financial success in our company, for a long time now, what’s better is getting to know and enjoy those who visit us. Yes, there is the occasional person who perhaps should not travel:) but we truly respect people, and yes I enjoy studying them just like they enjoy us. We have a lot of fun together.