AdventureSmith Explorations, an environmentally conscious travel company that is dedicated to adventure-seeking clients, has a series of expeditions that explore the backcountry for close-up bear encounters. These expeditions are offered in Alaska and elsewhere, where small ships and float planes have unprecedented access to the landscape.
These expeditions are exciting and educational, but must also be taken quite seriously, due to the fragility of the environment and the natural wild state of the animals. “Bears are cute but those spotted during a small ship expedition cruise are in the backcountry where it’s as wild as it gets,” said Todd Smith, founder and director. “Our method of accessing remote islands and coastlines where larger ships can’t sail plus the guidance of trained naturalists offer opportunities for bear-centric guests to encounter wildlife at a close but secure distance, without impacting the animals’ natural habitat.”
AdventureSmith provides the following information on their Bear Sighting expeditions:
The expedition ship Pacific Catalyst II has been awarded permits to guide travelers to the Pack Creek Zoological Area on Admiralty Island to view the highest concentration of Brown Bears in the world (about one per square mile). For 60 years Brown Bears and humans have lived in close proximity, and the bears have had generations to become accustomed to the presence of people. Considered the “best Brown Bear viewing opportunity in SE Alaska” this activity is now included in the seven night cruise itinerary.
Another highly popular trip and Alaska cruise extension is viewing the Brown Bears of Katmai based from the Brooks Lodge. Here they gather upstream from a series of lakes in Katmai National Park and where Brooks Falls impedes the progress of spawning salmon, making an easy meal and thus a high concentration of bears. A land-based lodge program operates in this region from May through September, but the best month is July when the Sockeye Salmon run is at its peak. Smith advised that bookings should be made earlier as it can be hard to obtain dates.
A trip called Within the Wild is float-plane-accessed tour based from Winterlake Lodge with a day of Brown Bear viewing in Redoubt Bay, a unique setting where bears are viewed from small boats that navigate river mouths were salmon congregate and acclimatize to fresh water before swimming upstream to spawn.
Annan Creek is the Black Bear viewing spot in Southeast Alaska. Located 30 miles outside of Wrangell, it is within reach of some small ships and yachts; however because special permits are required and group sizes are small, this option is best for charter yachts only. For travelers beginning a cruise in Juneau or Ketchikan it is possible to have AdventureSmith Explorations arrange an overnight in Wrangell with a bear viewing trip to Anan Creek.
There are ample bear viewing opportunities outside of Alaska as well. Popular small ship cruises to see Polar Bears include: Realm of the Polar Bear visiting the remote island of Spitsbergen.
Land of the Ice Bear visiting Arctic Svalbard, a remote archipelago situated just over 350 miles north of Norway’s North Cape.
Russian Brown Bears can be viewed on Natural Treasures of the Russian Far East.
Possible but “very, very rarely” a Spectacled Bear may be viewed on the Peru Mountain Lodge Trek according to Smith.
These are great itineraries for those who enjoy a wildlife expedition, and value the concept of ecologically responsible and sustainable travel.