Alaskan Grizzlies of the Katmai Coast

dragon-8

August 29 - September 6, 2020
$8,450 | ($500 deposit due upon registration)
7 participants max

O n this amazing adventure, you will have 7-days to immerse yourself in a majestic landscape few travelers to Alaska ever visit. Starting from Homer, Alaska, we will cruise in our private chartered ship to the rugged and remote coast of Katmai National Park. You will be photographing bears in a way most can only imagine, in some cases just yards away, while being surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciers and volcanoes.

Our private chartered ship offers us opportunity not only to follow and photograph some of the largest brown bears in the world, but also explore different locations and bears along the coastline as they fish, dig for clams and roam along the numerous beaches and coves. Ashore, you will hike with your NBNC leader and your expert bear guide to photograph these majestic bears.

This is a limited, 8-person boat-based tour aboard a private chartered ship. Since we sleep aboard we can be flexible be with our daily plans, often traveling at night you can find yourself in a new location when you awake! Departing from Homer, we also have special opportunities along the way to photograph marine mammals including whales, seals and sea otters.

Additional Information

Pacing and Physical Expectations

Physical Requirements: This trip is boat-based, so participants must be comfortable with extended periods on a ship, including sleeping in ship's small stateroom quarters at night. The terrain is flat and at sea-level, and most of each day is spent sitting and watching bears. 

Participants can expect to walk 1 to 5 miles each day, depending on the season and level of bear activity. The terrain is generally not steep but we do walk on beaches, bear trails, tidal flats and cross some small creeks.

Climate: Temperatures in this part of Alaska generally range from 50-70F this time of year. This region is considered temperate rainforest, so expect a range of weather conditions, including rain.

Health and Safety Considerations: This trip is spent at remote destinations far from definitive medical care. Please consult your doctor if you are concerned about any health issues that may impact your participation on this trip.

Bear Safety: The bear viewing on this trip is completely safe. Guided groups have been watching bears in this refuge for decades with no issues, thanks to strict routines and rules that have enabled a safe, and exceptionally close, wildlife viewing encounter unlike anywhere else in the world. The bears ignore human groups, and your guide has decades of experience reading the behavior and intentions of each individual animal in the area. You will be trained on proper bear safety protocols before bear viewing. 

Your Guides

Alaska native Drew Hamilton has been working with Alaskan brown bears since the late '90s. Drew has spent 15 years observing and photographing brown bears, black bears and polar bears across Alaska and Canada, including nine seasons living and guiding in the famed McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, home to the largest congregation of brown bears on Earth. Drew is an accomplished wildlife photographer, world-renowned bear guide, and longtime advocate for the conservation of Alaska's prime bear habitats against the pressures of mining and extraction.

NBNC Staff Naturalist, Sean Beckett has guided wildlife safaris and birding trips across North America for the last decade, working with black bears, grizzlies, and polar bears from the Northern Rockies to the shores of Canada's Hudson Bay. His experience as a top-tier guide is complemented by a background of wildlife research work in the Rocky Mountains that ranges from owls to deer to cougars. He holds a M.S. from the University of Vermont's Field Naturalist program. 

Ship Accomodations - The M/V Pukuk

We will travel to and around the Katmai Coast on the 72' H/V Pukuk. The Pukuk was custom built for Alaska chartering. State of the art safety and comfort features make this vessel ideal for customers with limited experience at sea or who have reservations about living on and traveling by boat. “Pukuk” is an Inupiaq word meaning poking around and getting into things.

We sleep aboard the ship each night. Not only does this allow us a safe and restful sleep in bear country, it also allows us great flexibility with our daily plans. Traveling overnight, we often find ourselves in a new bear viewing location each morning.

We will be traveling to and from Homer on the boat as well, so we will also have special opportunities along the way to photograph marine mammals including whales, seals and sea otters.

Galley: All meals are prepared by our full time cook.  The galley is equipped with stainless steel appliances and has enough freezer and refrigerator space to accommodate any length of voyage.

Staterooms: Four comfortable staterooms are below deck. Each room multiple power outlets, hooks, shelves and adjustable heaters. Three state rooms have two berths each and one large stateroom has four berths. Each berth has a memory foam mattress, bedding, and a personal reading light. Trip participants share two bathrooms complete with showers.

Inclusions

Includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Meals
  • All transportation
  • All permits and entrance fees
  • Two expert naturalist guides
  • Shared wildlife spotting scopes
  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Hip waders
  • Orientation potluck at NBNC

Excludes:

  • Airfare to/from Alaska
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Alcohol
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature

Registration

Ready to go to Alaska?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.

Itinerary

August 29 - Arrival in Anchorage

You will meet your NBNC guide at the airport in Anchorage in the evening, and enjoy a group dinner on the way to your lodging in Anchorage. We will be staying in a basic, Comfort Inn/Holiday Inn -style lodge a short drive from the airport. The schedule for today and tomorrow is left intentionally flexible to account for Alaska's unpredictable weather (on land and at sea).

August 30 - Anchorage to Homer

After a hearty breakfast, we will hit the road for a spectacular scenic drive from Anchorage to Homer, a stretch of road that rivals any national park in terms of scenic and wildlife diversity. We will have opportunities to enjoy views of whales, volcanoes, Dall's Sheep, snow-capped mountains, and an array of birdlife. Depending on our timing, we may visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which features up-close encounters and learning opportunities with rehabilitated wildlife that cannot be released back into the Alaskan wilds.

Upon arrival in Homer, we will enjoy a group dinner and meet our expert bear guide, then head to the harbor to hop aboard the M/V Pukuk. This 72' ship will whisk us to and around the Katmai Coast for the duration of the trip. Our exact departure time will depend on the tide schedule, but once aboard, we'll head to bed while our captain motors us 15 hours overnight to the Katmai Coast.

August 31 - September 4: Bear Watching!

For the next five days, beginning the moment we wake up offshore along the Katmai Coast, our focus will be on bear viewing. Each morning, our ship captain and bear guide will assess the weather, the salmon runs, and other ecological factors, and position our ship in a cove or bay along the peninsula that offers the best bear viewing that day. We will travel from ship to shore each morning and evening in an inflatable Zodiac. We will spend all day on land among the bears, with a brief return to our ship for lunch.

We'll hike over tidal flats and bear trails each day to situate ourselves at vantage points where we can watch the bears safely and at close proximity. Over the course of each day, we'll discuss the ecology of these massive predators, learn their individual personalities, and explore "bear culture" as we witness social interactions between grizzlies in different locations and contexts.

We'll watch the bears fish for salmon, jockey for position in fast-moving streams, graze in the sedge meadows, and dig for clams. We may see mother bears caring for cubs, dominant males vying for status, or immature males romping around the tidal flats. The Katmai Coast is one of the world's most secluded and natural settings. It belongs to the bears, and humans are humble visitors.

Each day brings us to different bear communities and ecological contexts, but our goal is to be totally immersed in their world each day, under the guidance of a world-renowned bear guide who can interpret and explain the complex personalities and dynamics of these animals.

In addition to the bears, we have the chance to encounter other wildlife such as whales, Mew Gulls, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Horned Puffins, Black Turnstones, several salmon species, and even gray wolves.

September 5 - Return to Shore, Homer to Anchorage

We voyage back to Homer overnight, arriving at the dock as tides and weather allow. Upon return to Homer, we'll have a bite to eat in town, then venture north to Anchorage. We intentionally build this flexible day into the itinerary to account for Alaska's variable weather at sea. If the ship arrives at port early, we'll use the day to explore wildlife- and wilderness-viewing destinations along the Kenai Peninsula, such as Kenai Fjords National Park.

September 6 - Departure from Anchorage

As you reflect on a week of unparalleled wildlife viewing in one of the wildest corners of the world, you'll travel with your NBNC leader to the Anchorage airport for mid-morning flights back home.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206
[email protected]

Office Open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm
Trails Open 24/7

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