This is why she wants a refund for her Natural Habitat Adventures trip

When Carol Majewski plunks down $16,000 on a Natural Habitat Adventures journey to photograph polar bears, she expects to come home with an abundance of pictures of these rare animals. So now that she has returned from this excursion, why is her photo album of “The King of the Arctic” virtually empty?


I recently traveled for a promoted “photo” trip with Natural Habitat (NatHab) to Churchill, Canada, to photograph polar bears. Their promotional materials strongly suggest ready access and close encounters with polar bears. They also require travel insurance.

Prior to our trip’s departure, we met some of the travelers and guides from the previous week’s journey, and they told us that the “ice was in and the bears were out.” Our guide stated that we were in for a “very challenging week.”

Weather predictions were for a cold front, which meant more ice formations. Natural Habitat Adventures conducted the trip, despite guest access to travel insurance, and the likely dearth of bears that week for photos. Their “value guarantee” assures satisfied customers.

I came home from this trip incredibly disappointed and beyond heartbroken. We envisioned capturing facial and full body eye level photos to enlarge, mat and frame. But I have no frameable photos from this trip. I am struggling to reconcile our experience with the superb reputation NatHab has for adventure travelers.

Multiple people from our trip strongly complained. A very nominal credit was offered. I have written two letters expressing my dissatisfaction.

So I proposed a resolution to the company. I hoped to travel back to Churchill, for three days of polar bear photography. Lastly, I asked for airfare to and from Winnipeg and Churchill (they have private flights), hotel and food. This would all be at Natural Habitat Adventures expense.

Do you think my request is reasonable? — Carol Majewski, Canaan, N.H.


Your disappointment is reasonable. And your desire for a “do-over” of this once-in-a-lifetime experience is understandable.

But the question is: Who should foot the bill?

You had planned this photography adventure for months and contemplated it for years. You pored over literature to prepare for this journey.

A Natural Habitat Adventures polar bear photography excursion

After considering several companies, you decided that Natural Habitat Adventures, which is in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, fit your criteria the best. And you and your husband decided that this was finally the year to see the polar bears.

If only Mother Nature had cooperated with your plans!

Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world. But there is a season to view the polar bears. Generally, late fall, when the bears are emerging from hibernation, is considered a good time to for viewing these animals. Once the winter ice is established, the polar bears leave terra firma and head out to sea.

You knew that you were arriving at the end of the season, but you trusted the expertise of NatHab. Its website is filled with information about the polar bears, the ecosystem of the area and other wildlife that can be seen at various times of the year.

Natural Habitat Adventures also provides an ebb and flow chart to help travelers understand the migration patterns and the sometimes unpredictable behavior of the polar bears.

An unusual cold front arrived with you

Unfortunately, when you arrived in Churchill, an unusual cold front arrived as well. This caused ice to form in the sea. As a result, the polar bears started to migrate three weeks earlier than is typical.

The ice formation was good news for the polar bears, but bad news for your photography plans.

Your guides recognized that there weren’t many polar bears in the immediate area. So the company responded by chartering helicopters to transport your group of adventurers to see where the polar bears had gone.

Although you were pleased with the effort, you were unable to capture any usable photos from the helicopter.

In your requests for a new trip from Natural Habitat Adventures, you praised the company, the accommodations, the staff, the food and almost every other part of the trip.

Your only complaint was the unfortunate weather change that caused the unusual behavior of the polar bears. Instead of waiting to be photographed by you, they followed their natural instincts and headed out to the newly formed ice.

How rude!

The unpredictable nature of the polar bears

In your complaint letter to the owner of Natural Habitat Adventures, you said that you fully understood the unpredictability of animal behavior and weather. But it seemed that you were overlooking one important thing: The disappointment you experienced resulted entirely from those two uncontrollable factors. Everything else on this tour you praised.

Sometimes, when consumers contact us they just need to be able to vent and get the perspective of a third party. You fit into that category. As we discussed your case, you wanted an opinion of what would be fair in this situation.

And you had some confusion about your trip insurance policy. Natural Habitat Adventures does not require that participants purchase trip insurance.  It’s unclear how you came to believe that you could have filed an insurance claim because of the sudden cold front. Your trip insurance policy has a list of named perils. Polar bears heading out to the icebergs earlier than expected is not a covered reason for cancellation or trip interruption.

Natural Habitat Adventures responds

In his response, the owner of Natural Habitat Adventures explained:

I would like to sincerely apologize for the dearth of bears in the area during the time of your adventure. Through the experience we’ve gained from over 25 years of running polar bear tours, we’ve refined our trip dates to take guests to Churchill only during the best times to see the bears.

Historically speaking, scientific studies generally tell us that there is only a 5 percent chance from year to year that the ice will freeze before November 20 (and similarly, a 5 percent chance that it will freeze after December 10). While experiences vary for this exact week in previous years in terms of the number of bears seen and the weather conditions, we have largely had very successful sightings towards the end of our season which is why we continue to offer tours during this week. Of course, nature is often fickle, and despite our best efforts, we can never fully predict or control the patterns and behavior of the wildlife we seek out.

At Nat Hab, we take great pride in doing whatever we can to ensure that our guests have the best chance for the best wildlife viewing and for a wonderful experience, regardless of the cost. In this instance, we chartered complimentary helicopter tours, which I hope was a highlight of the trip for you. Still, I am genuinely sorry that we failed to meet your expectations. It is always our intention to provide our guests with remarkable nature journeys.

The resolution

The owner then offered a $2,500 per person goodwill credit to come back to Churchill and retry this adventure.

You told me that offer felt right. And you plan to study the Ebb and Flow chart a little more carefully, pack up your photography equipment and try again next year.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend