A Private Ship-Based Photography Expedition with the Wild Brown Bears of Katmai National Park
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Day 1: Homer, Alaska
On arrival in Homer, a scenic town of 5,000 located near the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula, a transfer is provided to our hotel. Known as “the end of the road,” Homer is the most southerly point on Alaska’s contiguous highway system. Depending on timing, you may be able to explore some of Homer's highlights on your own this afternoon. Options include the Pratt Museum, showcasing the natural and cultural history of the Kachemak Bay region or the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Homer’s key geographic feature is the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile-long gravel bar that extends into the bay. Homer is heralded as the Halibut Capital of the World, and you may have a chance at the town harbor to see fishing boats unloading their catch—an exciting opportunity for photographers.
Day 2: Kachemak Bay Cruise
Homer sits on Kachemak Bay, a 40-mile-long arm of Cook Inlet, which we explore on a full-day private boat cruise. Much of the bay environs are part of Kachemak Bay Wilderness State Park, accessible only by boat or floatplane. The park, which contains wild beaches, dense mountain forests, glaciers and ice fields, has been designated a Critical Habitat Area due to the important biodiversity it harbors, and we expect to see have plenty of wildlife photography opportunities from on deck. Marine mammals frequently spotted include whales, harbor porpoise, sea otters and Steller sea lions, while on shore we may catch shots of moose, coyote
and black bear. The bay also encompasses the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a fertile marine environment that’s home to prolific waterfowl and shorebirds. Return to Homer for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Homer / Katmai—Board Natural Habitat Ursus
Exciting aerial photo opportunities await as we fly via float plane from Homer to Katmai this morning where we'll meet our privately 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 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 expect to return to Homer by float plane on Day 7.
Day 8: Homer / Depart
Our Alaska photo tour comes to a close today as we depart from Homer. We recommend booking an afternoon flight out in case inclement weather prevents us from flying back to Homer on Day 7 as planned.
Most float plane flights will depart Homer for the Ursus
in late morning and return to Homer 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.