By Nat Hab Traveler Valerie Van Griethuysen  | Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Safari

I experienced countless memorable moments during my Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Safari. There was the clear view of Mt. Denali on our last evening, seeing my first caribou, the bull moose eating at Wonder Lake, the humpback whales, sea otters and other marine life in Resurrection Bay, watching a bald eagle take a bath at Potter Marsh and many more.

I must admit though, that thanks to the trip, my viewpoint toward Alaskan coastal brown bears (aka grizzly bears) changed. Although I had a healthy respect for these apex predators, I never felt any personal connection toward them. Well, that all dramatically changed thanks to our stay and experiences at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. It was a thrill being able to observe the many behaviors of the bears in their natural habitat.

My favorite behaviors were of the mama bears with their cubs in that it was quite clear of how protective the mothers are. For example, watching a mama bear charge a male bear that was getting too close, clearly demonstrating her ferocity toward protecting her cubs. And of the mama bear with four cubs that came to the rescue when they came out into the river that was flowing too fast for them. One climbed up on to her back for about a ten minute ride until feeling safe enough to climb back down. It was way too cute!

Another touching experience was of the mama bear, which after fishing for salmon in the river, climbed up to the bank and lay down on her back to let her three cubs nurse on her stomach. She then raised her front legs up to literally give them a bear hug. Seeing the tenderness she showed toward her cubs was very poignant and just melted my heart. It was one of the most moving experiences I had ever witnessed of wildlife.

Yes, I now have a personal connection to brown bears.

All images © Valerie Van Griethuysen