Alaska Bear Viewing
We offer a variety of wildlife and photographic trips in the Katmai, Lake Clark National Parks and many other places in the Bristol Bay area. Our trips are very different than other wilderness lodges. Our lodge is located on the north shore of Lake Iliamna (Alaska's largest lake). We have both float planes (sea planes) and tundra tire bush planes parked at the lodge. We also have many boats located in different locations including the Katmai Coast.. Our planes and boats are for the exclusive use of our guests. We never have more than 8 guest at the lodge. Every Morning our guests depart the lodge in one of our planes and fly to different wilderness location. You never pay extra for the flying! The daily fly-outs are included in your trip package.
FLY-IN FLY-OUT GRIZZLY BEARS SAFARI
Day 1 Sample Itinerary:
You will depart Anchorage at 3:00pm on Iliamna Airtaxi's Pilatus PC-12 turboprop plane arriving at the Iliamna Airport at 4:00pm . Bristol Bay Sportfishing & Adventure lodge (BBSF) staff will meet you and provide transportation from the Iliamna Airport to the lodge where the rest of the staff is waiting to meet your party. After introductions the crew will help get everyone's gear into their cabins. Each of the 5 Cabins has a private full bathroom and 2 beds.
After you have a chance to settle in to your cabin you will wander over to the main lodge where hors d'oeuvres will be waiting. The great room with its panoramic views of Lake Iliamna and Roadhouse Mt is a natural gathering place. Relax, socialize, play pool, check out the Alaskan antiquities or just soak in the view.
Once everyone has gathered the lodge orientation starts. This meeting makes sure all questions get answered. Next everyone gets fitted for state of the art Goretex waders and wading boots supplied by the lodge. If you have not tried this gear before you will be amazed. You can hike all day crossing streams and sitting in puddles and stay dry. This lightweight gear is comfortable to wear and totally impervious to the weather.
The chef starts serving a multi-course gourmet dinner at 7:00pm. After dinner we discuss and make plans for the following day. The details are set and everyone knows where they are going, what equipment to bring, what aircraft they are to ride in. Breakfast and departure times are set. Our entire staff understands that photographers have special needs such as having the ability to stay out late for the best light, being able to bring extra equipment and how fragile/expensive camera equipment is. The lodge is flexible on breakfast/dinner times, departure/pick up times and whatever else it takes to meet the group’s needs.
Day 2 Sample Itinerary
After enjoying a hearty breakfast you will board one of the lodge aircraft and the day’s adventure begins. One of the big things that sets our safari apart from others is that we have 4 aircraft and 14 boats all set aside for the exclusive use of our guests. BBSF never has more than 10 guests at the lodge at one time. Today the group has decided to get images of grizzly bears fishing so we head to Katmai National Park and land on a small alpine lake in the lodge's DeHavilland Beaver float plane. After landing a short 15 min walk gets us to the confluence of 2 creeks. We spend the day filming bears on the creek where the grizzlies are chasing fish in the shallow water. Our pilot/guide has lead bear viewing trips here since 1978 and knows this place intimately.
After filming many different bears catching fish you will walk back to the plane for the 18-minute flight back to the lodge. From the plane dock next to the lodge you will smell the fresh smoked salmon that is part of the hors d'oeuvres platter. Now you have the tough choice to make: a hot shower or hit thehors d'oeuvres platters first.
After the chef has served the meal the discussion of the next day’s activity takes place and plans are made. We will have the opportunity to let everyone show their 5 or 6 favorite images from the day. With the blinds down the images are displayed on the large screen TV in the great room. The lodge staff often gathers in the background to see the amazing show.
Day 3 Sample Itinerary
Today you may decide to fly to Brooks Falls to try to get shots of a bear catching a fish jumping the falls. Brooks falls is crowded by the lodge standards and almost like a zoo setting but you are probably looking for one iconic image of a bear catching a fish on the top of falls, so that is where we have flown.
By 10:30am you have the shots you want. We then fly 15 minutes to a place where there is no one else and it has a true wilderness feel. We land next to a tiny stream. A 12-year-old sow bear has raised her cubs here every year for the last 8 years. She is very tolerant of us and often walks with her cubs very close to us. We have the place to ourselves. On the way back to the lodge we fly over the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, then past Mount Katmai, then over the caldera (crater lake) and past Novarupta volcano with its still steaming vents, then home to the lodge. Hors d'oeuvres , hot showers, a gourmet dinner and the evening image show await us.
Day 4 Sample Itinerary
You leave the lodge in time to arrive at the Katmai coast for the low tide. Landing on the beach in the wheel planes equipped with tundra tires, today you are searching for bears digging clams and eating sedge grasses. It is common to also see a wolf at this secluded beach. Today takes more walking as the bears are more spread out on the tidal flats and in the sedge grasses. A hot lunch is cooked by the pilot, including fresh clams dug from the tidal flats and shrimp jambalaya cooked over an open fire on the beach, topped off with hot Dutch oven baked corn bread. The 35-minute flight back to the lodge takes a different route so we can fly low over the glaciers and ice fields on Mt Douglas. After dinner everyone has a chance to show their 6 favorite images from the day, followed by discussions on how to improve, and what to expect the next day.
Day 5 Sample Itinerary
Some the people in your group may decide to fly to Twin Lakes to see and photograph Dick Proenneke’s cabin (Alone in the Wilderness) & the stunning landscape it is set in. Flying over the turquoise water of Lake Clark, past dal sheep, caribou and glaciers in Lake Clark National park we get to Upper Twin Lake, landing 100 yards from the historical homestead site and cabin that Dick built. The history is documented and preserved here by the Park Service. The spectacular mountain landscape and the old Alaska homestead has lots to keep the shutters clicking for the day.
The other people in your group may have decided to take advantage of good weather and plan an overnight expedition to the most remote and wildest part of Alaska. The Bering Sea beaches are a place very few humans have ever seen. Having BBSF departed at 6:00am and landed on a remote Bering Sea beach near a bull walrus haul out, a short 20-min walk into the wind brings the the smell of walrus long before they are seen. These huge bull walrus are a sight to see& once again cameras will be clicking furiously and memory cards filling up fast. With the walrus upwind, setting up tripods within 50 yards of the walrus will not disturb them. Eagles nest on the cliffs nearby and swans nest on the ponds next to the salt grass. One sand island commonly has 200-400 seals hauled out. Sea otters are commonly seen at the outlet of the streams. Caribou, moose, and bear are common to see along the way. The group will camp at an old native trapper’s cabin overlooking the Bering Sea and let the sound of the waves lull them to sleep.
Day 6 Sample Itinerary – the final day
For the people that camped night 5 at the beach day 6 has a morning of filming walrus, eagles, swans, the occasional puffin and of course beach combing. Around noon they will get back in the plane and head to a native village for lunch and refueling the plane. They will arrive back at the lodge in time for a quick shower, pack and departure for the evening flight back to Anchorage. For the people who stayed at the lodge on night 5, they will head to the crystal clear Copper River for a raft trip. They will film the pods of Red (Sockeye) Salmon in the clear water, see a few bears and perhaps catch a trophy rainbow trout. At the end of the river they will stop at a native homestead where Jim, Flora and their adult kids are living a subsistence life style on the homestead they have built. Flora's family has lived in this bay for centuries.
Day 6 Sample Alternative Itinerary
Today is the last day of the trip. Last night the group may have decided to return to the same place in Katmai National Park that they went to on day 2. Landing on a small alpine lake in the lodge's DeHavilland Beaver floatplane the 15 minute walk gets everyone back to the confluence of 2 creeks where the bears performed so well last time. You will spend most of the day filming bears on the creek. The bears are still chasing the Sockeye salmon in the shallow water but today there are more fish than a week ago so the bears are catching more fish today. Late afternoon you will walk back to the plane and head to the lodge. There will be just enough time for a quick shower then the staff will transport the group to the airport for the evening flight back to Anchorage..