Nat Hab's Alaska Bear Camp

© Court Whelan

2024 Photo Expedition — 8 Days

Itinerary Map
Day 1: Homer, Alaska
Arrive in Homer, a scenic fishing town of 5,500 on Kachemak Bay located near the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula. Known as “the end of the road,” Homer is the most southerly point on Alaska’s contiguous highway system. Surrounded by 280 acres of protected state land, this critical wildlife habitat sustains more than 100 bird species and a large local moose population. Homer’s key geographic feature is the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile-long gravel bar that extends into the bay. Visitors to the town harbor frequently see fishing boats unloading their catch—Homer is heralded as the Halibut Capital of the World. This evening, gather with our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner and orientation to the exciting bear adventures that lie ahead.

Day 2 – Homer—Private Kachemak Bay Cruise & Seldovia Tour
Explore the abundant waters and striking scenery of Kachemak Bay on a private boat cruise today. The bay is transformed daily by some of the largest tidal fluctuations in the world, and it's home not only to coveted sport fish but other plentiful marine life. Sea otters, seals, porpoises, sea lions, orcas, whales, bald eagles and puffins are common sightings. We cross the bay to Seldovia, south of Homer, and go ashore for lunch and a walk around this tiny town that can only be reached by boat or air, since it not connected to a wider road system.

Alaska Natives have a long history in the area, and on a local tour guided by a Seldovia naturalist, we learn about the region’s unique culture that brings together Aleut, Yupik, Alutiiq and Athabascan peoples. One of the oldest settlements in the Cook Inlet region, Seldovia also reflects its early Russian colonial heritage, shaped by fur traders and Russian Orthodox missionaries who had an influential presence here in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, Scandinavian immigrants developed a booming herring fishery, and salmon canneries dominated the town's economy until they were destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. Late this afternoon, return by boat to Homer to enjoy some free time for browsing on the spit.
Overnight Land’s End Resort–Homer

Day 3: Private Flight to Nat Hab’s Alaska Bear Camp—Bear Photography
Our plan this morning is to fly from Homer via private chartered bush plane across Cook Inlet to Nat Hab’s Alaska Bear Camp. However, weather in this region is often fickle and unpredictable, so we are prepared to work with our pilots to determine the best window of opportunity and adapt our timing as needed. Once we’re in the air, have your camera out: the view is staggering as we pass snow-clad volcanoes and jagged glaciers winding down from icefields on high. Our destination, where the Aleutian and Alaska ranges meet, is Lake Clark National Park, some of the world's most critical brown bear habitat. Look for bears along the shoreline as we come in for a landing, taxiing down the beach. Bear Camp is located on a historic homestead, a rare private inholding of coastal land surrounded by the roadless wilderness of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. These 4 million protected acres are the ancestral homelands of the Dena'ina people, preserving an intact ecosystem at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Accessible only by plane or boat, Bear Camp is ours alone for an unparalleled photography immersion in pristine brown bear habitat.

Once we reach Bear Camp, gather for an orientation and safety talk with coaching on bear etiquette. Then, it’s time to meet the bears! Here at Bear Camp, we have some of the best, most consistent viewing anywhere in Alaska, due to the season-long availability of food. In the spring, sedge grass awaits the bears as they emerge from their dens, protein-rich food that supports rapid growth. Bears also dig clams from the beach as they await their late summer feast: by late July or early August, the region's salmon runs help provide the fat that enables the bears to survive a long winter. All season long, nature serves a steady bounty to these omnivores. And since the bears are sated by this abundance, they see us humans merely as part of the scenery, allowing us to move safely in their midst on guided outings, at times observing them from just a few yards away. Two viewing platforms, one elevated for a territorial view, enable us to photograph bears nearby and at a distance. And we often watch them right from camp, which is surrounded by electrified wires, ensuring our safety on site.

After an exhilarating day, settle into your weatherproof tent cabin before we gather in the dining tent for dinner—you'll be surprised at the outstanding meals our resident chef is able to prepare in such a remote location. Fresh local fare is on the menu, including Alaskan salmon and other offerings from the region’s seasonal abundance.
Overnight Alaska Bear Camp.

Days 4–6: Brown Bear Photography in Lake Clark National Park
Prior to this rare opportunity, most of us will have seen bears only in zoos or nature documentaries. Yet there's nothing that comes close to this immersive experience, being among them in their wild home. Against a backdrop of sheer-sided peaks rising above the green valley floor, the bears are sometimes near enough that we can hear them chewing their food and communicating with one another in woofs, purrs and growls. Alaska's mighty brown bears—the coastal version of the interior grizzly bear (which is the same species, Ursus arctos)—are the largest land predators in North America. Adult males can weigh up to 1,500 pounds!

While bear activity will vary according to the season, weather conditions, and timing of the salmon runs, and we can never predict exactly what bear behavior we'll witness, there's always something riveting to photograph. Earlier in the season, we might see mating activity. Later on, we could get delightful shots of mothers with playful cubs. Once the salmon start running by mid- to late summer, we may see bears fishing in streams. And while bears are usually plentiful right in the vicinity of camp, we also go into adjacent Lake Clark National Park for added variety. At every turn, we explore the area in the careful company of our Expedition Leaders, seasoned bear naturalists who offer thorough coaching in respectful behavior to ensure your safety. Our low-impact presence ensures that we never disturb the bears, and they in turn grant us comfortable access to photograph them as they go about their daily routines.
Overnight Alaska Bear Camp.

Day 7: Bear Photography / Private Return Flight to Homer
If the weather cooperates for our flying schedule, we’ll likely have one last chance this morning to seek photos of the bears in Lake Clark National Park, admiring their majesty and whimsy alike. All too soon, it's time to leave Alaska Bear Camp behind as we board our small bush plane and taxi down the beach, bound for Homer. We’ll have lunch in town, followed by time to explore the beach and wander around the Homer Spit this afternoon, watching fishing boats unload their catch, checking out the activity in the small boat harbor, and visiting some of the shops and galleries that feature the work of local artisans. Then it’s time to gather for a farewell dinner to celebrate and reflect on our amazing adventures in the Alaskan wilds.

Few travelers ever have such an encounter with solitude and wilderness on the scale that we have just had. The size of the landscape, the raw beauty, the profound silence—these things alone would make for a life-transforming experience. But the chance to watch and photograph Alaskan brown bears, these incomparable icons of the wild, on their turf, their terms...it's a wonder to have bears welcome us into their world. And one thing is certain: no one leaves here unmoved by the bears' plight, intensely aware of the threats from mining, climate change and other potential impacts to the health of this vital ecosystem on which the bears rely. We depart as ambassadors for the bears, our time among them leaving an indelible mark on us, inspiring us to do all we can to protect them.
Overnight Land’s End Resort–Homer.

Day 8: Homer / Depart
Our Alaska bear photo safari comes to a close today as we transfer to the airport for homeward flights.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate

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