Summary : Nature puts on few displays as arresting as Alaskan brown bears feeding on summer’s bounty. These bears—the largest coastal grizzlies in the world—gorge on spawning salmon as the fish swim up the rivers that pour onto these wild beaches. Your boat, the Ursus, ideally designed for your Alaska adventure cruise, offers an exclusive opportunity to follow the bears along the shoreline as they fish, dig for clams and amble along the beach. Ashore you'll have an even closer vantage point as you watch with guide from a careful distance. Here in Katmai National Park, experience this rarest of encounters with Ursus arctos in all its untamed majesty!
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Photography
Arrive in Homer, a scenic town of 5,000 located near the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula, and transfer to our hotel. Known as "the end of the road," Homer is the most southerly point on Alaska’s contiguous highway system. Depending on your arrival time, you may have a chance to explore a few 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. Visitors to the town harbor frequently see fishing boats unloading their catch—Homer is heralded as the Halibut Capital of the World. This evening, meet your local guide for an orientation and welcome dinner.
Homer sits on Kachemak Bay, a 40-mile-long arm of Cook Inlet, which you 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, rockbound beaches, dense mountain forests, glaciers and ice fields, has been designated a Critical Habitat Area due to the important biodiversity it harbors, and you might see plenty of wildlife from on deck. Marine mammals frequently spotted include whales, harbor porpoise, sea otters and Steller sea lions, while on shore you may glimpse 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.
Take a floatplane (weather-contingent) from Homer to Katmai National Park to meet your private chartered ship, the Ursus. The plane pulls up right alongside, and you disembark to board the vessel that will be your floating home for the next several days. The Ursus cruises slowly along the coast toward Hallo Bay, where you commonly find coastal grizzlies, or brown bears, foraging for food. Cruise to wherever the bears are, following them from bay to bay.
Though you have likely seen footage in nature documentaries of Alaskan brown bears in the wild, nothing prepares you for the drama of an actual encounter with these magnificent beasts, just yards away. They are North America's largest land predators, and an adult male can weigh 900 pounds. Cruise just off the coast, where bears dot the shoreline. Go ashore by skiff for an even closer view, exploring the beaches on foot. It's not uncommon to find massive grizzlies in great numbers; previous trips have seen as many a dozen of them at once. And far from dozing lethargically, these bears 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.
Watch as they fight to capture salmon in their jaws, trying to seize spawning fish as they make their way up the streams that flow into the tidal area. As omnivores, they also dig for clams in the sand and browse on sedge grass. Depending on the time of your visit, you may even see bears mating or cubs gallivanting on the shore. Other trips watch grizzlies from viewing platforms or vehicles. Not here. In coastal Katmai, you are on foot, carefully wandering the area in a small group under the cautious guidance of your Expedition Leader. In addition, it is not uncommon for groups to frequently see wolves and observe their interesting interaction with the bears. As a result, this trip offers a wildlife encounter that will thrill you beyond expectation. On Day 7, plan to return to Homer by floatplane.
Your Alaska wildlife cruise comes to a close today as you depart from Homer. It is recommend that travelers book an afternoon flight out in case inclement weather prevents a flight back to Homer on Day 7 as planned.
Departure dates are subject to change without notice. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to confirm departure schedule before purchasing air tickets.
This Alaska adventure requires a moderate level of physical fitness. Travelers must be able to walk at least two miles in varied conditions including rough, uneven terrain, shallow water, and through mud while wearing hip or chest waders (which can be awkward and uncomfortable). Transfers between ship and floatplane to a smaller boat require the ability to make a large step up or down onto an unstable surface. It is generally not possible to view bears from the Ursus. In order to maximize bear viewing opportunities, you may spend long days ashore returning late to the ship for dinner. Travelers must be of sound health and able to maintain a positive attitude in a wild and remote setting.
Medical Evacuation Insurance is mandatory for this trip. Note that the cost of a medical evacuation policy will be added to your tour invoice. If you wish to decline this coverage and opt for a different carrier, you will need to provide other proof of coverage including your insurance company’s name and contact number, and your insurance policy number.
The Expedition Leaders are among Alaska's premier naturalist guides, as well as superlative wildlife photographers who are gifted at sharing photography tips and guidance with guests.
Round-trip float plane flights; accommodations as per itinerary; meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on the final day; services of an expedition leader, boat crew and local staff; airport transfers on Day 1 and final day; gear on loan (chest or hip waders for shore excursions); permits and entrance fees; taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Travel to and from start and end point of trip; alcoholic beverages on land; gratuities; passport and visa fees; optional activities; items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.); airline baggage fees; airport and departure taxes; optional travel insurance; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Suzanne Kiser (NHA)