Need review of Katmai Coastal Tours

Aug 18th, 2006, 05:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 49
Need review of Katmai Coastal Tours

We went to Alaska this year but are thinking of returning and taking a boat bear viewing trip with Katmai Coastal Bear Tours and John Rogers. Would like to hear any reviews or comments on this trip as I need to book for next year. Thanks for any advice you can give.
teresa48 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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I'd like some information as well - has anyone done this tour?
ala1873 is offline  
Oct 11th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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I'm looking at Katmai Costal Bear Tours for late June of 08.

I met a woman who did the trip and just loved it. She liked the mobility of it so that if there were few bears in one area, you could relocate.

I met one of the Katmai Coastal Bear Tour guides at a black bear refuge in Orr, MN. Here is what he told me: Bear viewing is good during the whole season but his favorite time is when the tides are low the last week in June.

I was looking at Natural Habitat's ( trip called Grizzlies--Kodiak to Katmai Bears because they use KCBT. They also arrive a few days early and do some activities in Kodiak. I would definitely arrive in Kodiak several days before the boat leaves due to possible weather delays.

I asked KCBT if booking with Nat Hab is a good idea since Nat Hab has the exact dates I want. They agreed it would be fine and did not insist I go directly with them. They even mentioned the activities in Kodiak before the bear trip.

What I don't know is the max # of guests KCBTs takes vs. Nat Hab's 6.

Also I don't know what the min # is for KCBT, whereas Nat Hab does not have a min #.

I've gone with Nat Hab on other trips and they are highly reputable. Not sure of the difference in cost of using them or KCBT direct. There is also the consideration of the days up front with the group or on your own.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 03:40 PM
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I received some rates from Katmai Coastal Tours and believe if you are going as a couple it would be better to use them directly than the intermediary, Natural Habitat. As a solo, I think Nat Hab may be a better bet.

Teresa, if you go in 07, please post a report! Or any other findings between now and when you go.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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I looked at the email I received from John Rogers again and think even for a solo going direct is best.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 08:32 AM
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This thread has become my own personal blog. I will provide such a review on Katmai Coastal Tours in July or August of 2008 because I just signed up for a late June, 2008 trip with them.

Attractive incentives were available for early booking.

Now I have a couple of years to decide whether to buy my own hip waders or use those provided.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 31st, 2006, 03:04 PM
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Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp on Katmai coast gives great bear tours ranging from 6 hr, 1day, 2-7 day tours with overnights right in middle of bear country. Awesome experience and well recomm. Check their website. Out of Homer, land on beach and join guides who live there all season long. Noone know these bear better.
jq is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2006, 05:33 PM
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I agree. We did a one day tour with Hallo Bay. It was fantastic. When we left the park, some people on our plane were returning from spending 2 nights at the camp and they just couldn't stop raving. We saw many bears and were closer to them than I ever thought possible. Just sitting and watching them do their thing with the beautiful surroundings of Katmai park was a phenominal experience. Our guide was excellent and our group was only 5. It's an expensive excursion, but well worth it.
Jacquie is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 04:13 PM
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Yes, Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp is outstanding. I spent a week + in 2004 and will likely return. In addition to great bear action there were two wolf sightings, one was photographable. Also a few very close encounters with red fox. Not to mention the eagles, harbor seals, and a flyover by 3 tundra swans. Nice accommodations, great food, friendly staff. Probably less expensive per day than Katmai Coastal Tours.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 28th, 2007, 04:27 PM
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I have been to alaska many times in search of bears. I traveled to Hallo bay camp 4 years ago and had an OK time, except that only a few bears (2 or 3) were present because of a poor local fish run- you are limited to only one small creek to walk to. I got a very wierd feeling from the managers, and the owners were actually inhospitable- pretty creepy. food was atrocious. I kind of felt like I was fed a lot of exaggerations on the phone when I booked the trip. There is a lot of staff turnover, and they seem to have lots of "trainees" and one year workers these days. last year I went with katmai coastal bear tours and was amazed. I went in mid august, and traveled to 4 different bays, and saw dozens of different bears in each location. food was outstanding- we had fresh halibut caught out there that day, the captain, Bill, was the nicest man, and the guide (actually left Hallo Bay camp and now works on the boat) was fantastic. There is no comparsion to the overall experience. The scenery in the southern bays knocked my socks off!! and we saw a beautiful white wolf
running towards us in a place called Kakak Bay. I think it was the best trip Ive done in alaska- ranks up there with antarctica. best bears, best scenery, best service. not cheap, but custom boat trips in a remote area never are. Highest Rating!!!
crittercrazy is offline  
Oct 7th, 2007, 02:15 PM
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If you read this, where all have you been "bear hunting"?

I'm going the end of June 2008 with Katmai Coastal. I spent a week at Hallo Bay and can acknowledge some of the friction you mention. But it was a fantastic time with good bear action. Plus some very close views of red fox and a couple of wolves. I want to go back sometime when I have a week to spend.

I know the guide you are referring to. It is Katmai Coastal's gain in this case.

John Rogers of Katmai Coastal has been great to work with pre-trip. Looking forward to meeting him and the staff. I bought my waders last month so I am ready.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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Thanks for the feedback on Hallo Bay as I have just confirmed reservations for 4 nights the beginning of August 2008. I have read mixed reviews on the management so I am hoping for the best. But I am sure spending all that time with the bears will be worth it!
MonicaH is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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You'll have a wonderful time, Monica. The later in the season, the better chance to see wolves.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 8th, 2007, 07:52 PM
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Wolves? Well this just keeps getting better. Thank goodness for digital cameras and the ability to take hundreds, thousands of pictures.

How were the accommodations (or "pods" as my husband is now calling them)? They look very cozy and comfortable.
MonicaH is offline  
Oct 10th, 2007, 04:37 PM
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Yes, cozy and comfortable. I recall there was some way to get heat in them, too. They were very dry. I endured 40 straight hours of high winds and sheets of rain. Stayed completely dry inside.

I saw lots more than 2-3 bears, which was what CritterCrazy saw. Probably 10-12 a day and that was a bit below average. We could view them for hours at a time too. There were some great dramas that played out.

My suggestion is to bring two sets of outer rain gear. When one set gets soaked it can take awhile to dry out. I had two pairs of rain pants and two rain coats. Plus layers underneath. I used them all.

I happened to have "Muck Boots" with me that were needed for my next destination. These are ankle high waterproof boots. I wore them a lot. But I was there July 19 for a week and by Aug it should be less wet underfoot.

Also warm hats/gloves and something to protect your face. At times we would spend a few hours just sitting and watching bears, sometimes waiting for bears. You can get cold when you aren't moving.

The cost of Katmai Coastal vs. Hallo Bay is about double per day for Katmai Coastal. I am not complaining, just stating costs.
atravelynn is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 11:27 PM
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I traveled to Anan creek, Denali, Brooks, hallo bay camp and silver salmon creek to see bears. my trip on the boat was better than all of the above combined. have a great time on the boat!!! I didnt meet john, but his crew was the best.
Art Wolfe did a PBS special that was out this last summer called "travels to the edge"
you can look it up on the web- you should order this DVD as I did, it was fantastic. I caught it on tv, but missed half of it. its a great show shot in June when you will be there.
I noticed thst Hallo Bay Camp is not showing their guide's page anymore- I guess they are having more turnover? no returning staff? I sure do not like going into the bear areas without a very experienced guide. Ill never forget sitting on a log for 6 hours and seeing no bears one day, and eating a soggy bologna sandwhich. It just wasnt right there. if anyone goes, here is some advice!! bring your own sleeping bag- the camp cook told me that the sleeping bags are not washed the entire season, they just spray air fresherner on them! he wasnt a very happy lad out there.
I also heard they have had some plane crashes there in the past.

crittercrazy is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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I am really looking forward to this summer's bear viewing now based on your comments. You had a lot to compare Katmai Coastal with.

My sandwiches at Hallo Bay were never soggy but waiting six hours for no bears would be a huge disappointment. We did sit for a good hour with no action on several occasions, but were always rewarded.

Thank you for the sleeping bag hint. If that's true about that air freshner was all that was used--Yuk!

Your name suggests you would like Africa. That's the forum I usually post on. Or, if it's bears that are of most interest to you, check out the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary in Orr, MN. I'm going back there for a third time this summer after Alaska.

atravelynn is offline  
Nov 9th, 2007, 05:03 AM
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check out the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary in Orr, MN. I'm going back there for a third time this summer after Alaska.

Hi Lynn,

When are you going to Orr? We'll be there for several days in late May with the black bears

Since you've been twice do you have any tips?

Bill_H is offline  
Nov 9th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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You'll have a great time!

I assume you will be paying the photographerís fee so that you can spend your days down on the ground. There are also viewing platforms for the many visitors that arrive every evening by school bus (with cars parked in a remote lot) and watch the bears for free. Your first night youíll probably park in the remote lot and arrive on the bus so you can meet with the staff and go through the orientation and rules the night before your first full day in the sanctuary. If you do not do the orientation on the eve of your first paid day, then the orientation cuts into your bear time on Day 1.

If you donít already have accommodations, there are some B&Bs nearby that the people at the sanctuary can tell you about. The reason I cannot give a specific recommendation on these is my husband and I stay at AmericInn, a little farther away so my husband has a nice place to hang around, with a pool, etc. while I am with the bears. But closer is better because you should arrive very early in the morning, as that is when the bears are most active.

There is a tricky lock on a gate that extends across the gravel entrance road that youíll need to open and drive through when you arrive in the early morning. Bring a flashlight so you can see the numbers to do the combination, which you'll be told. I have had a lot of trouble getting the lock open and I use combination locks daily at home.

Midday there is usually a lull in the bear activity. You can go out to eat or if you pack your lunch, you can eat in the volunteer house. Iíve always brought my lunch and just remained at the sanctuary for the day. One reason is I prefer to reduce the amount of driving over the rough gravel road that leads to the sanctuary.

Iíve also helped the volunteers in the middle of the day with tasks ranging from scooping up bear dung to separating big wads of dates for the bears to eat. Iíd like to volunteer for a week or more sometime and stay on the premises.

You can leave extra clothes, rain gear, etc. in your car because it will be parked nearby and youíll always have access to it when you are at the sanctuary as a photographer. But that first night, bring everything with you when you leave your car in the remote lot with everyone elseís cars and board the school bus to be taken to the sanctuary and your orientation. There will likely be good photo opps that evening, especially of cubs in the trees.

Unless rules have changed, you will be allowed on the ground when the other guests are there that first night and subsequent nights, but you must remain under the raised platforms and out of sight (so you donít disturb the viewing of the guests on the platform or get in their pictures). I did not enjoy lurking in the dark evening shadows under the platforms and just joined everybody on top of the viewing platforms. Of course during the day, you can wander around open areas of the sanctuary. You are not allowed in the surrounding woods.

Using flash photography is fine. The bears took no notice of a flash.

You probably would not make this error, but one guy left his $10,000 camera and giant lens set up on a tripod on the lower steps of one of the viewing platforms. Along came a curious bear and knocked it over. It happened a day before I got there, so I donít know if the camera was ruined or not because it was going in for repairs, but I heard about it.

At the Orr visitor center in town there is a nice boardwalk path in a marshy area.

Here are a dozen photos from the Vince Shute Sanctuary. Both times I went at the very end of the season, end of August.

Too bad weíll miss each other. Iím gong to go in early July and I had better make my reservations pretty soon.
atravelynn is offline  
Nov 11th, 2007, 08:10 AM
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Lynn, thanks for all the tips on Orr ... we will be there a couple weeks before it's open to the public in the afternoons so will have the entire place to our group of six both AM and PM

Your photos have got me worked up to go ... the cubs should be tiny little balls of fluff in mid-May.

Bill_H is offline  

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