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Andean Bears Photo Tour

Photograph the amazing Andean bear

    • Best location to see and photograph Andean bears
    • Andean bear sightings each day
    • Pristine wilderness, hearty food, comfortable accommodations
    • All meals, accommodation, and transport from Quito
    • 6 Days / 6 nights with 4 full days and 2 half days of photography

This is the best place in the world to see and photograph Andean bears. With their distinctive white patches on their faces and chest, these bears will capture your heart. Until now, these bears had been elusive and rarely seen. But thanks to the 20+ years of dedication by a local conservation hero, there is a place known as “Bear Canyon” where these bears thrive in peaceful coexistence with the local community.

Andean bears are simply spectacular. Often in the trees and surronded by magical moss, you will capture incredible moments that few people have ever witnessed, let alone photographed. It’s unlike any other wildlife experience on the planet. Join us in this very special place at the best time of year to see Andean bears up close, learn about their conservation and behavior, and capture incredible moments that will live on forever!

Tour Highlights: Best Andean bear photography in the world

2023 Dates:

* March 11-16 (full)

* March 16-21 (full)

Tour Leader: Zac Mills

Group Size: 3

Price: $3,145 + 5% tax (US dollars)

Price includes: All meals, accommodation, and transport from Quito

Accommodation: Single

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Fitness Level: Active

WATCH OUR ANDEAN BEAR VIDEO

PHOTOS FROM LAST YEAR

ANDEAN BEAR CONSERVATION

In recent decades, deforestation has caused a dramatic decline in Andean bear populations, and estimates suggest fewer than 18,000 bears now survive in the wild. But thanks to the work of one incredible conservation hero, these bears have a sanctuary in Bear Canyon.

Danilo Vásquez, a specialized naturalist guide, has dedicated his life to monitoring and protecting these bears. He created the Mirador del Oso Andino Foundation to expand his Andean bear conservation programs. As part of this tour, we are excited to be donating to their important conservation work. 

THE SPECTACLED BEAR

This tour is all about Andean bears, which have been rarely photographed. During the course of our tour, we will have the opportunity to see several different Andean bears that call this canyon home. While these bears can be observed year round (they do not hibernate), March is the best month due to favorable weather conditions and a higher probability of seeing moms and cubs.

You’ll have the opportunity to photograph Andean bears on the ground and in the trees. Most trees have an extensive covering of what can only be described as magical moss, which provides for some incredible photo opportunities.

With our position down in the canyon, we rely upon a spotter at the top of the canyon to keep watch and let us know if and where a bear enters the canyon. Because these bears are protected, they have become extremely tolerant of humans, which allows us to get close and be an observer in their world, and what a wonderful world it is!

TRIP DETAILS

Our typical day starts shortly after sunrise. After quick coffee and breakfast, we will descend into the canyon in search of Andean bears. It typically takes 10-15min get to the bottom and 20-25min to hike to the top. Once we are at the bottom of the canyon, we take our position and wait for further instructions from our guide.

Every bear is named and has its own unique personality. Some bears are more comfortable around us and some prefer to keep their distance. We will follow the directions of our guide who will put us in the best possible position, and importantly, ensure that all of our interactions are dictated by the best interest of the bears. We typically have 1-2 great sightings and photo opportunities per day, which means that patience is required and is necessary for Andean bear photography. Sightings may last from only a few minutes to several hours. Once the light begins to fade, we will hike back up to the top of the Canyon, relax in our guest house, and then have a hearty dinner.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Telephoto? Supertelephoto? Wide-angle? We are going to help prepare you to take the best possible photos of Andean bears when we are in the field. In this incredible place, every day is different and we have so many different composition possibilities. Before the tour, we will have 2 hour long one-on-one sessions with you to understand your shooting style, discuss topics of interest (such as field techniques, composition, post-processing), and provide guidance to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller.

During the tour, we will have at least 2 optional image review sessions so that we critique our images and thereby make necessary adjustments while we’re in the field.

After the tour, there will be 2 more hour long one-on-one sessions to help you choose and edit your favorite images from the tour, and discuss other topics of interest. Our policy is simple: ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you!

MEET YOUR GUIDE

Zac Mills

As a wildlife photographer, traveler, and former World Bank economist, Zac brings a different perspective to wildlife conservation. He founded the Wildlife Collective to help others become better wildlife photographers and to use their voice for conservation. With leadership roles in several conservation organizations, Zac knows first hand that working together with like-minded individuals can make a difference. A certified guide and bear lover, Zac hopes to entertain you with stories from the wild, inspire you to get involved in conservation, and to become the best wildlife photographer you can be.

   

ITINERARY

The tour departs from Quito, Ecuador. Please plan to arrive in Quito the day before our tour officially starts. If you need any help making your travel arrangements, please let us know.

Quito

Day 0

Arrive in Quito

Arrive in Quito where you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel. Depending. on what time you arrive, you will have the rest of the day to explore Quito or to catch up on some much needed rest. 

Day 1

Quito to Bear Canyon

After an early breakfast, we will be picked up and driven the approximately 4 hours to Bear Canyon. Upon arrival, we will have lunch and then we will descend into the canyon to search for the Andean bears for the rest of the day. Once the light fades, we will return to the guest house to relax and then we will have a hearty dinner.

Day 2-5

Bear Canyon

For each of the next four days, we will have an early breakfast and then we will follow the same schedule — we’ll be out all day in search of the magical Andea bear. We will eat lunch in the canyon and hike back to our guest house at sunset to rest, relax, and then consume a hearty dinner.

Day 6

Tour Ends

On our last morning, we will wake up for breakfast and then decscend into the canyon for a half day to photograph Andean bears once last time. We will return to the guest house for a late lunch and afterwards, we will drive back to Quito, which will bring this tour to an end.

* Optional extensions to Mindo Bird Sanctuary and the Galapagos Islands (more details coming soon)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many Andean bears will I see?

Wildlife is unpredictable, BUT Andean bears have been spotted almost everyday in Bear Canyon. Typically, we see 3-10 bears per day, but we may not photograph every bear.

What other wildlife can we see?

We will several different species of birds and if we’re lucky, the Andean fox. 

How wet will it be?

March typically doesn’t receive much rain, however, it will be important to pack sturdy rain gear and rain protection for your camera equipment just in case.

What focal range do you recommend?

For Andean bear, every focal range from 24-600mm can be of value. The wider perspectives are great for the times when we are close a bear and we can showcase its natural environment in the canyon. Tighter compositions work great for portraits and headshots, and for those times when we are further away. Last year, my 200-400mm was my most used lens, but I also used my 70-200mm and 24-70mm lens too. There are so many compositional possibilities that have a variety of focal length options will serve you well.

Can I bring a tripod?

Absolutely. You will just need to carry it with you, or better yet, one of our guides can carry it for you.

What's the bathroom situation?

There are two bathrooms with hot showers at the guesthouse. Out in the field, it’s nature.

What's the food situation?

Hearty. We will be well fed on this trip. Any dietary needs can be accommodated.

What's the cell coverage like?

Good. There is reliable cell reception at the guest house, where we will also have WiFi. Once we descend into Bear Canyon, expect to leave this connectivity behind.

More Questions?

Send us an email and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat through everything with you and answer any questions you may have.

WHAT’s INCLUDED?

• All guiding
• Photography instruction
• Accommodation
• All meals and alcoholic beverages
• Return transport from Quito

WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?

• Insurance (required)

JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!

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Why Our Photo Tours Are Different

Discount

We value our guests, so everyone who travels with the Wildlife Collective will automatically receive a 5 percent discount on all subsequent tours. It’s our way of saying thank you for your support!

Conservation

All of our tours have a conservation focus. We will learn about the challenges facing our primary subject and ongoing conservation work. Plus, every tour makes a donation to a conservation partner.

Locations

We take you to the world’s most amazing wilderness destinations, which were chosen based on our ability to offer our guests the ultimate wildlife photography experience.

Photography Focus

Every tour includes photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tours as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!

Small Groups

We will never exceed 6 clients per instructor, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve on our tours.

Best Guides

We work with the world’s best wildlife guides, who also happen to be our good friends. They are experienced, keep us safe, and put us in the best possible position to create a compelling image.