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Why Polar Bears Love To Swim

June 02, 2021

With summer quickly approaching many of us are getting excited to do some swimming. A dip in the lake or river is no longer so cold you have to call them Polar Plunges.

Do you know who else loves swimming? Polar bears!

However, unlike us, polar bears will happily go for a swimming anytime of year. Whether the water is warm or cold, a polar bear is well suited for the water.

Join us as we explore some of the reasons that polar bears love to swim.


Why They Are Good Swimmers

Did you know that polar bears are marine mammals? You may think of beluga whales or narwhal when you think of marine mammals, but polar bears are so dependent on the sea that they’re classified this way.

Whether it is for hunting or travel polar bears spend a significant amount of time in water. They primarily hunt animals that live in the water like seals and whales, forcing them to be good swimmers.

As winter turns to summer their snowy domain begins to melt and cracks in the ice form and turn to open sea. Polar bears navigate this obstacle course well as they swim from one icy platform to the next.

In the middle of summer, they can get overheated and go for swims to cool off. Their fur and bodies are designed to insulate them for the cold temperatures that they rest through most of the summer. This means that rather than walking you can often find polar bears swimming from one cove to the next.


What Makes Them Good Swimmers

A polar bears thick layer of fat, which can reach 11 cm (4.3 in) thick, helps keep them insulated but it also helps them float and makes swimmer easier. They use their front paws to propel themselves in a doggy-paddle style, while their back paws act as a rudder to steer them.

In fact, polar bears are well known for the distances they can swim and have been tracked swimming over 100 km (62 mi) and multiple days continuously.

Polar bears have even evolved to make them more streamlined in the water compared to other bears. Their snout, head and body are longer helping avoid resistance in the water. They can reach speeds of 10 kph (6.2 mph).


See Polar Bears Swim In Their Natural Habitat

For many people, the only polar bears they’ve seen are at the zoo. Sometimes the bears will swim in their small pool, but it is hard to appreciate their exceptional ability in a confined space.

If you want to see polar bears roaming their natural habitat and swimming towards icebergs than you’ll want to visit Baffin Island.

Our Polar Bears & Glaciers Safari takes you on boat tours daily to commonly visited locations for polar bears. There is no better time for you to visit the Arctic. Enjoy the long summer days and get the thrill of safely seeing the world’s largest land carnivore gracefully making their way through the Arctic Ocean.  If you’re lucky you might even see a cub following after their mom.


Experience The Arctic On A Safari

Get chances to view elusive Arctic wildlife and experience the majesty of the Arctic on safaris almost year-round. View all Arctic Safaris here.

Ready for adventure? Contact our Arctic Travel Advisors to book.

Are you still curious about the many wonders of the Arctic or looking for more interesting content then explore more blogs here!

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By: Mat Whitelaw