Bear Watching in Alaska

Old Oct 10th, 2009, 08:29 AM
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Bear Watching in Alaska

I'm in the early stages of researching bear viewing trips in Alaska for 2010. I've read a few topics here with good information about the land based options - Hallo Bay, Brooks Falls, etc. I'm also interested in looking at a boat-based option where we would stay 3-5 nights. Saw one reference to this with Coastal Bears of Katmai. Has anyone had experience with a boat-based tour?

We're considering late August-early September ... could slip into mid-September if opportunities for viewing are better ... if we had to go late June-July, would have to put the trip off a year at least.
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Old Oct 10th, 2009, 10:47 AM
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We were at Anan Creek during our cruise in late August. Had to take a sea plane to get there. Very safe with Rangers with guns, and watching the bears was over the top. It was a sight I will never forget.
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Old Oct 10th, 2009, 10:58 AM
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We did a flyout trip from Soldotna over Redoubt Bay to the edge of Lake Clark. This was a great combo trip bush plane/water landing/salmon fishing/bear viewing. We saw 20+ black bears within a few feet of our boat. Saw grizzlies only from a long distance. We caught our limit in Salmon and noone stopped the bears from catching their limit. They would get a fish eat a few bites then get another one. It really wasn't what I thought it would be like after seeing it on TV. The bears we saw had no problem catching a fish within a few seconds. Even the younger bears caught them with ease. Our guide did carry a gun and did get it out whenever my wife went to the bank to use the bathroom. We also saw many bald eagles up close. pretty exciting to sit in a boat 5 or 6 hours and see all of this. We had the fish processed and sent back home. Maybe not exactly what you had in mind, but was awesome experience. I would imagine that Katmai would be out of this world. The salmon runs are all different, so that is the main thing you need to know. silvers, sockeye, pinks, king, all run at different times in different places.
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Old Oct 10th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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The particular trip I described above was on July 1.
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Old Oct 10th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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There's an excellent 100 page book out, "Bear Viewing in Alaska" by Stephen Stringham. Covers 24 areas, most in Katmai or the panhandle (including Anan and Redoubt Bay mentioned above). Author is a bear biologist who guided for a while on one of John Roger's 'bear boats', so it's clear he has a preference for the boats over the lodges, but still a nice reference. I think it was $10 at amazon.com.

I've been to Brooks Camp several times and to Hallo Bay once for several days to spend up-close quality time with the bears, but haven't done a boat trip. Everyone I've talked to felt the bear boats offer the most consistently excellent bear viewing, but the cost is about double over the main lodges (and about 100x the cost of camping at Brooks).

Perhaps the two best known bear boat operations are Chuck Keim with Coastal Outfitters ( http://www.xyz.net/~bear/ ) and Katmai Coastal Bear Tours with John Rogers ( http://www.katmaibears.com/ ). I think Lynn (atravelyn) went with Rogers last year so maybe she'll post to this thread and post a link to her photos.

We're considering late August-early September

I prefer this same time frame because the bears look fat and well-furred, and because it's easy to combine a trip to Katmai with a week in Denali, which is at it's best last week in August and first week in Sept. Weather can be a problem in Sept, mainly with not being able to fly.
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Old Oct 10th, 2009, 03:28 PM
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Thanks all and Bill_H in particular. I ordered the book you reference this morning ... looking forward to reading through it. I'll check out Coastal Outfitters. I noticed the cost is more for the boats, but seems it would be worth it.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 02:18 PM
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I just want to add another fly-in option to your list. We went to Alaska Homestead Lodge in Lake Clark National Park. They have (as of Sept. 2009), 1/2 day, all day and 24 hour trips. You land on the beach and are driven to different areas in a trailer pulled by a 4-wheeler, then you walk to where the bear are most likely to be found. We did the full day, and had a fabulous time. Alaska Homestead Lodge, James and Shelia Isaak,(907) 262-1960. We were there the first week in Sept.
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 03:20 PM
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Bookmarking.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 06:14 AM
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Thanks rolncathy -- however, we're not looking at fly-in options at this time but rather a boat-based 5-7 day trip that will take us from one bay to another where we will use skiffs to go on land. I did find two operations --MV SingleStar, a four-six pax boat, and the MV Kittiwake and MV Waters. Both are very attractive ... now to just settle on the dates and make a decision. When I have a moment I'll post links to those sites -- perhaps my research will prove helpful to others as well.
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 08:23 AM
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We've gone ahead and booked a 7-day boat trip in August 2010 on the MV Single Star (http://mvsinglestar.com/), accompanied by a photographer. Area of focus will be between Hallo Bay and Geographic Harbor, with the exact itinerary developed based on weather, salmon runs, our interests, and other factors to maximize our bear viewing opportunities.

Other options were MV Kittiwake or MV Waters - information at: http://www.katmaibears.com/index.html and http://alaskabeartours.com/boat.htm.

I thought I'd post this information for the benefit of anyone else who might be interested in a boat-based tour at some point in the future.
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 09:18 AM
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Should be a great trip. A photographer acquaintance of mine has done trips with Eberhard in Alaska and a safari in Kenya and said he was a really nice guy.

Be sure to post a trip report when you get back.
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Old Oct 18th, 2009, 10:24 AM
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Bill_H ... Eberhard has been most helpful so far; looking forward to meeting him in person. Will post a link to my blog when I get started ... for now, it's back to researching things to do for the rest of our trip.

By the way, found a link to your bear photos in another thread here ... great images.
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