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Top 5 Alaska bear tours

Posted in: Alaska

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Which bear viewing locations in Alaska get your heart beating and your hands shaking, as you come face to face with some of the most powerful land mammals on this planet? An Alaska bear safari is more than just a chance to take the perfect photo; it is an opportunity to walk in their BIG footsteps, learn a little about their daily life and habitat and head home with a richer understanding about the magnificent grizzly bears of Alaska.

Lake Clark National Park Bear Viewing

·         Best for photographing mother and cubs

·         Fly-in day tours and multi-day lodge stays possible

·         Diversity of habitats; such as meadows, river estuaries, tidal beaches and forests

We first visited Lake Clark national park in early July, as we decided to focus on early summer bear viewing in Alaska before the main salmon runs were in full flow. This is a great time to see female brown bears with spring cubs and we were rewarded with three separate females; all of which had two young cubs. The cubs were a bundle of energy, mischief and fun and provided us with hours of great photographic opportunities. Sometimes the cubs would climb trees located close to the beach and show off their climbing skills; or make a real mess of the ‘clamming technique’ their mum was trying to teach them. We were able to photograph the bears from our ATV; but our preferred option was on foot, as their mothers – one in particular – were very used to the presence of humans and incredibly tolerant of our presence.

Brooks Falls Alaska bear viewing

·         Best for the classic bears catching salmon at Brooks Falls photos

·         Need to book Brooks Falls lodge a year in advance during July and early August

·         Bear viewing at Brooks Falls is more ‘controlled’ due to presence of park rangers

·         Day trips from Anchorage and Homer possible if you can’t book the lodge.

If you have marvelled at the quality of some of the bears catching salmon photos displayed on the internet, you can bet that a lot of them were taken at Brooks Falls located in Katmai national park. There are actually three different viewing platforms at Brooks, but only two of them have views of the famous falls and just one has the perfect angle for taking the photos of the brown bears; who will either position themselves above the falls - waiting for a salmon to jump within striking distance of their powerful jaws – or, below the falls to trap salmon underneath the falls. Obviously, it takes a lot of energy and often lots of failures, for the salmon to make it up the falls.

Best time to visit Brooks Falls?

Having visited Alaska multiple times, we are always a little cautious about being too specific with our advice about when is the best time to see bears catching salmon at Brooks Falls. Bearing in mind this is the main reason bear fanatics and keen wildlife photographers include Brooks Falls in their Alaska bear safari. Last time we were in Alaska, we took a floatplane from Homer to Brooks on July 27th; which should have been pretty much peak season for this famous bear viewing location in Alaska. For sure we saw bears – even one which met us off the floatplane as we landed – but we did not get the classic bears on top of the falls shots we hoped for and the salmon run was far from at its peak. However, if we look back over multiple years we can still say that July and early August offer the best chance to see bears catching salmon and September can also be considered a good option, for people who would prefer to avoid the crowds.

Katmai Wilderness Lodge – walking with bears is just what you do!

·         Scenic floatplane ride from Kodiak to the lodge, with the chance to see Fin Whales

·         Intimate walking safaris for bears, as well as bear photography from a small skiff

·         Maximum of 6 clients per guide

·         Incredible accommodation and food given its remote location

·         Long days in the field with packed lunch to maximise your grizzly bear photography

Staying at Katmai Wilderness Lodge is an experience you will never forget and 100% it is the Alaska bear viewing lodge, for which we receive the most positive reviews. As the only permanent wilderness lodges permitted to operate within Katmai national park, it is already offering the visitor a very special insight into the brown bears of Katmai. Add to the very special location, superb hospitality, great food and some of the best bear viewing guides in the business and you have a truly winning combination. Angela and Perry will treat you like family during your stay and those long days in the field and the chance to ‘walk with the brown bears of Katmai’ will stay in your memories for years to come. If there is one wilderness lodge to visit in Alaska then it has to be Katmai Wilderness Lodge.

Bear Viewing from Juneau

·         Chance to visit Pack Creek in Tongass National Forest on Admiralty Island.

·         Auke Bay in Juneau one of the best places to see Humpbacks bubble netting in Alaska

·         Another great bear viewing location out of Juneau is Waterfall Creek

·         Affordable bear viewing and whale watching holidays

Juneau first came to our attention mainly because it was known as one of the best places to see Humpbacks bubble netting in Alaska. Indeed, on our first visit there, we had unbelievable sightings of this unique behaviour, as well as several full body breeches by adult Humpbacks – simply amazing. We also found out that there were several floatplane providers flying out of the main Juneau airport (there is a floating dock close by!) who organised fly-in bear viewing tours to salmon rich rivers nearby. We were lucky enough to visit both Pack Creek and Waterfall Creek during our stay and the bear viewing was great – for different reasons – in both locations. Bear viewing out of Juneau also presents a more affordable Alaska bear safari option for visitors and you can also use the Alaska Marine Ferry service to link up communities like Juneau and Wrangell; both of which have great bear viewing and whale watching operators.

Anan Bear Tour from Wrangell

·         A truly unique chance to see brown and black bears fishing for salmon at the same location

·         Because Anan is reached by boat and not floatplane, less chance of your bear viewing being cancelled.

·         Beautiful concealed hide located close to the river

·         Chance to see black bears and cubs

Firstly, if you are lucky enough to arrive into the tiny harbour of Wrangell on the Alaska Marine Highway, then you should have already trained your eyes for wildlife encounters, as you scanned the waters for Humpbacks Whales and Orcas. Wrangell is a small compact town directly connected with the ocean. Infact, they have a wonderful facility for refitting and building boats and the wildlife operators who offer the Anan bear tours and Le Conte glacier tours; depart from the wooden jetty which is directly connected to your hotel – happy days!

The beauty of the visit to the AnAn Bear and Wildlife Observatory, is the sanctuary’s proximity to Wrangell and the fact that it is accessed by boat. A very comfortable, highly manoeuvrable jet boat, with a cruising speed of 30km/h and a built in toilet, is your mode of transport to AnAn. On arrival you have an easy to moderate 1km boardwalk through magnificent old growth rainforest, before arriving at the well-constructed, spacious viewing platform; complete with steps down to a hide close to river level.

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