Day 1: Kodiak, Alaska
On arrival in Kodiak, you are transferred to our hotel in town. Depending on your arrival time, you may have some free time this afternoon to explore some of the island's Russian and Native history. Options include the National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, St. Paul Harbor, Baranov Museum, Alutiiq Museum, Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral and Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, where guns were readied to defend against an invasion during World War II. Our grizzly photo tour officially begins this evening, when you meet your fellow travelers for an orientation and casual welcome dinner.
Day 2: Kodiak Island
Today we explore Kodiak’s coastal waters and rocky shorelines on a half-day private boat trip. Cruising to Kodiak’s protected inner island, we find rich tidal pools and offshore kittiwake rookeries amid abundant marine life: have your cameras ready to capture shots of sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles and occasionally whales. Kodiak Island 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—depending on our timing—visits to the Alutiiq Museum, Fort Abercrombie, Russian Orthodox church, a local fish hatchery, fisheries research center, aquarium, microbrewery, and/or a drive up Pillar Mountain for fantastic views over the shoreline and sea.
Day 3: Kodiak / Katmai—Board Natural Habitat Ursus
Our day begins with a photography workshop led by one of Kodiak's most admired local photographers. Then, exciting aerial photo opportunities await as we fly by floatplane from Kodiak to Katmai to meet our privately chartered ship, the Natural Habitat Ursus.
The plane pulls up right alongside, and we disembark to board the vessel that will be our floating home for the next several days. The bear viewing begins in earnest as we cruise slowly along the shore. In this area
we commonly find giant Alaskan brown bears—the world's biggest coastal grizzlies—foraging for food, and the opportunities to capture impressive close-up photos is simply remarkable! As we are mobile, we can cruise to wherever the bears are, following them from bay to bay. Bring double the memory capacity you think you'll need, as you won't believe the shots you will get.
Days 4–7: Coastal Katmai—Grizzly Viewing
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, often just feet 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 often dot the shoreline. We go ashore by skiff for an even closer view, exploring the beaches on foot. It’s not uncommon to find the massive bears in large numbers; on previous trips we've seen as many as 30 to 40 of them at once. And far from dozing lethargically, the bears often 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.
With cameras poised, we watch in awe as they fight to capture salmon in their jaws, swiping out at a slippery fish with talons as long as a man’s fingers. Sometimes they dig for clams in the sand or browse on sedge grass. Depending on the time of our visit, we may even see bears mating or cubs gallivanting on the shore. On other trips
we watch brown bears from viewing platforms or vehicles. Not here. In coastal Katmai we are on foot, carefully wandering the area under the cautious oversight of our Expedition Leader. In addition, it is not uncommon to see wolves and to observe their interesting interaction with the bears. Suffice it to say this trip offers wildlife photo opportunities that will thrill you beyond expectation! We return to Kodiak by floatplane on Day 7.
Day 8: Kodiak / Depart
Fly home today from Kodiak. We recommend booking an afternoon flight out of Kodiak today, in case inclement weather prevents us from flying back to Kodiak on Day 7 as planned.
Exact times of our flights between Kodiak and our ship, the Natural Habitat Ursus,
vary according to weather and other logistical factors beyond our control.
Physical Rating: Moderate