Alaska Bear Adventures

The perfect July day - blue skies, no bugs, lots of bears, and a great guide pilot!  George's brother Steve and his wife Lois suggested this adventure.  I wasn't sure about getting on a tiny plane, flying to Katmai National Park, landing on a beach and walking the island with Grizzly Brown bears, but WOW is the only word we have now - it was truly an AMAZING experience!!!!!

We took thousands of pictures that day, but have picked out the best ones that will tell our story - we hope you you enjoy and appreciate you taking the time to come along!

Their little office on the Homer Spit - this is where we had to weigh in for our adventure the next morning.  On such a small plane, it's important to follow weight restrictions.
Early morning departure, we've had our briefing, put on our wading pants and are walking out to board this tiny plane!

Shortly after take off, the sun had just risen, it was shining through the clouds creating diamonds on the water below!

My nervousness is fading, this tiny plane is fun and the views were gorgeous! Here, we are looking down on a glacier...

...another glacier...

...where the ocean meets the mountains...

...so many mountains...all majestic.

Here's our first bear sighting!  We also saw a wolf running down the beach before we landed.

There were five planes in our group, each plane carried six people including the pilot.  The rules for visiting Katmai National Park are very strict and only certain businesses are allowed to visit.  

We landed safely, on a beach!  Yes, that is Steve...George was in a separate plane.

Bear #1 - we saw her within 15 minutes of walking...we all crouched down...thinking we would watch from a distance...  
...but then she started walking across the stream towards us...


...she got very close...so close that our guide had to stand up to startle her away.  If you listen close to end of the video (at the beginning of this post), you will hear the guide ask us "okay, who packed the salmon"?!?  

...our hearts were pounding...

...she took a quick sniff of us and went on her way.

Here's a good shot of our "Alaskan sneakers"...they are wading boot pants.  We were so excited to have seen that first bear...we never imagined how fantastic the rest of the day would be!

In our groups of six people; everyone must crouch down together so as if to seem bigger to the bears...no one is allowed to wander off on their own.

Bear #2 - such a beautiful back drop...

...she walked closer to us...notice the other bears in the background...

...she stopped to munch a little....

...still munching and moving closer...

...and closer...

...and then moving toward the beach.

Bear #3...he was in the background a couple of shots up...

...he didn't get too close and seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere.

Bear #4...she was also in the background of that earlier shot...she and her cubs are alert because of the male bear we just saw.

....after the male bear passed...our group moved around to position ourselves in front of the mama bear and her cubs...they had laid down to take a nap....

...we sat down as a group and had lunch!  I just couldn't believe what was happening...having lunch in a meadow in Alaska with Grizzly (brown bears)...UNBELIEVEABLE!!!

Mama picked her head up a few times to check us out...

...the strict no interaction rules have been followed for close to a hundred years...follow the same paths, stay as a group, always crouch down to show submission...the bears are somewhat used to people; they don't associate with food or danger....

...they decided to wake up, they're yawning...

....one of the cubs is slower to wake up...

...checking out their surroundings...

...something looks interesting over there...

...let's make sure those people stay put...

...mama is checking us out as she and her cubs move over toward the stream...

...so amazing...we're just dumbfounded...

...it's kind of early in the season...the bears are eating this grass that is full of protein...

...the cubs were so cute, probably in their second season...









...we watched the mama and her cubs for close to two hours...this shot shows how close we all are to the bears...the other group's guide was showing some strength by standing up because the mama and cubs were quite curious...

"Fluffy" - our pilot and guide...such a neat young man...he has a real passion for nature!

This is Bear #2 again...when she left us earlier, she found a spot to soak up the warm sun...

...just taking in the rays...

...then she sensed us...even though we were very quiet...

...there are some more of those pesky people again...

...I think I'll just wiggle around and scratch my back a bit...

...wiggle, wiggle...

...I couldn't believe how big her paws were and her claws...it was as if she was waving us off...

...and she rolled over to nap some more.

Bears #5, 6, 7, and 8...we continued walking and found four bears in the same field - Fluffy said that was unusual because bears are very territorial.

...this guy was not happy with how close one of the other bears was to him...

...so he charged the other bear...

...the standoff...

...then they went back to eating.

We were always in single file, so as not to appear aggressive to the bears.  At this point, we're headed back to the beach; the tide is coming in and we need to make sure there is enough runway to take take off and head back!

We crested the dune and saw more bears on the beach...Bear #9, he's clamming! 

Then we see the King of the Island, Bear #10 - he is huge - Fluffy recognizes him and says he's only seen him a couple of times.

The smaller bear is moving out of his way...

...but moving out of the way wasn't enough, the King turned toward him as if to say "you better sit down and show me some respect"...

...so he sat!

...the king moves on, walking toward us...

...he was massive...

...the other bear is still obeying...

Bear #11 - another mama bear with her first season cubs...she is definitely alerted to the King's presence...

...come on kids, let's move along...

...quickly now...keep moving...

...stopping every once in a while to assess the situation and location of the King...

...she continues to move toward us...

...all the sudden she decides to take her cubs up over the dune...right in front of us, in between the two groups...

...moving her cubs to safety.





All five groups of people were instructed to stay still and crouch down on the beach.  We were only feet away from the planes and the tide was rising!

...the King walked right in front of us...just mosing along...

...he paused to check out all these pesky people...

...the size of his paws and claws...

...at this point, I really hadn't been afraid - probably because I really didn't know what to expect and all our encounters so far today had been peaceful and unobtrusive...

...but this guy was just so enormous and so close, and we were on this wide open beach, no where to hide...

...but he just kept walking along, so majestic, so captivating, so beautiful...

...we were all in awe...

...and just like that, the King moved on down the beach.

If you're ever in Alaska, we strongly recommend this experience, it was so worth it!!!  here's their website...

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