From Our Private Small Ship, Meet the Mighty Brown Bears of Katmai Up Close
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Day 1: Kodiak, Alaska
On arrival in Kodiak, you are met and transferred to our hotel. Depending on your timing, you may be able to explore some of the island's Native and Russian history on your own this afternoon. Options include the National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, St. Paul Harbor, Baranov Museum, Alutiiq Museum and Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Our grizzly adventure officially begins this evening, when you meet your fellow travelers and our local guide for an informal welcome dinner and orientation.
Day 2: Kodiak Island
Today we explore Kodiak’s coastal waters and rocky shorelines on a half-day private boat trip. A cruise up a fjord to Kodiak’s protected inner realm, past tidal pools and kittiwake rookeries, may reveal sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles and occasionally whales. Kodiak is remote, not often visited by travelers to Alaska, and our sense of a unique encounter with nature is palpable as we glide through the rockbound coves. We'll also spend a half-day touring historic Kodiak, with a mix of activities that may include visits to Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, a local fish hatchery, aquarium, and/or a drive up Pillar Mountain for sweeping views over the shoreline and sea.
Day 3: Kodiak / Katmai—Board Natural Habitat Ursus
Our day begins with a classically Alaskan pursuit: a floatplane flight from Kodiak to Katmai to meet our private chartered ship, the Natural Habitat Ursus
. The plane pulls up nearby, and we disembark to board the vessel that will be our floating home for the next several days. The 73-foot Ursus
originally gained fame as a crab fishing boat called Time Bandit
, which plied the storm-tossed waters of the Bering Sea and was featured in the Discovery Channel TV series "The Deadliest Catch." The vessel was later transitioned for research use by the National Park Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Since retrofitted for custom tourism charters, this veteran of wild Alaskan waters now offers our guests comfortable wilderness accommodations. The Ursus
(which, of course, means "bear" in Latin) cruises slowly along the coast, where we commonly find coastal grizzlies, or brown bears, foraging for food. Since we are mobile, we can cruise to wherever the bears are, following them from bay to bay.
Days 4–7: Bear Viewing in Coastal Katmai
While we’ve all seen footage in nature documentaries of Alaskan brown bears in the wild, nothing prepares us for the drama of an actual encounter with these magnificent beasts, just yards away. They are North America’s largest land predators, and an adult male can weigh 900 pounds. As we cruise just off the coast, bears dot the shoreline. We go ashore by skiff for an even closer view, exploring the beaches on foot. It’s not uncommon to find massive grizzlies in great numbers; our previous trips have seen as many as a dozen of at once. And far from dozing lethargically, these bears put on quite a show in their efforts to fill up on enough protein-rich food to prepare them for a long winter in hibernation.
We watch as they fight to capture salmon in their jaws, trying to seize spawning fish making their way up the streams that flow into the tidal area. As omnivores, they also dig for clams in the sand and browse on sedge grass. Depending on the time of our visit, we may even see bears mating or cubs gallivanting on the shore. On our other Alaska trips, we watch grizzlies from viewing platforms or vehicles. Not here. In coastal Katmai we are on foot, carefully wandering the area in our small group under the cautious guidance of our Expedition Leader. In addition, it is not uncommon for our groups to frequently see wolves and observe their interesting interactions with the bears. As a result, this trip offers a wildlife encounter that will thrill you beyond expectation. On Day 7, we plan to return to Kodiak by float plane.
Day 8: Kodiak / Depart
Our Alaska wildlife cruise comes to a close today as we depart from Kodiak. We recommend that travelers book an afternoon flight out in case inclement weather prevents us from flying back to Kodiak on Day 7 as planned.
Please note: Most floatplane flights will depart Kodiak to meet the
Ursus in late morning and return to Kodiak by mid-afternoon. The exact times will vary according to weather and other logistical factors.
Physical Rating: Moderate
Click here to view the seasonal variations of grizzly viewing season.