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

Embark on an extraordinary journey to Bear Canyon in the heart of the Andean highlands, where the elusive Andean bears, adorned with distinctive white patches, now thrive thanks to over 15 years of dedicated conservation efforts by a local hero. In this special location, these magnificent creatures coexist harmoniously with the local community, offering a rare opportunity to witness their playful antics and majestic presence.

Venture into the pristine wilderness, surrounded by magical moss-draped trees that provide an enchanting backdrop to the Andean bears’ natural habitat. Capture moments few have witnessed, as these bears navigate the landscape with unparalleled grace. The unique combination of their distinctive features and the captivating surroundings makes this wildlife experience unlike any other on the planet.

Join us in Bear Canyon during the optimal time of year, not only for an up-close encounter with Andean bears but also to gain insights into their conservation and behavior. This expedition transcends photography—it’s a journey into the heart of nature’s wonders, where your memories contribute to the ongoing preservation of these spectacular bears and their delicate ecosystem.

Tour Highlights: Best Andean bear photography in the world

2025 Dates:

* Feb 2-7, 7-12

* Mar 12-17, 17-22

2026 Dates:

* Feb 2-7, 7-12

* Mar 12-17, 17-22

Tour Leader: Zac Mills

Group Size: 4

Price:

* 6 days = $3,495 (US dollars)

* 11 days = $5,995 (US dollars)

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

Accommodation: Single

Start/End: Quito, Ecuador

Fitness Level: Very Active

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REASONS TO CHOOSE THIS TOUR

Best location: Bear canyon is the most reliable and exceptional destination in the world to see Andean bears.

Stunning Landscapes: Bear Canyon transports visitors to a prehistoric paradise, where majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems paint an awe-inspiring panorama.

Magic moss: The hanging strands of Spanish moss create an otherworldly atmosphere, and the fig trees’ intricate branches provide a natural frame for the bears to navigate. 

Photo expertise: Whether you’re a novice or seasoned photographer, our tour provides a unique opportunity to skillfully capture the beauty of Andean bears and create lasting memories of your experience.

Conservation focus: As part of this tour, you will be inspired by our host Danilo Vasquez, who has made it his mission to protect these bears. As part of this tour, we make a donation to his non-profit the Mirador del Oso Andino

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.

Day 0 • Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

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, you 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 Andean 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.

* Please note that more days are added here for the longer tour options.

Day 6 • Tour Ends

On our last morning, we will wake up for breakfast and then descend into the canyon for a half day to photograph Andean bears one 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. We kindly request that you schedule your departure flight from Quito for a time after 10pm. If your circumstances require an earlier departure, we will make every effort to accommodate your needs.

* Please note that this will be Day 11 for the 11 day tour option.

Quito

WHAT’s INCLUDED?

• Photography instruction
• Accommodation
• All meals and drinks
• All transportation

WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?

• Flight to Quito, Ecuador
• Tips for guides
• Travel medical insurance (required)

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY?

6:30am: wake up

7am: breakfast

8am-12pm: Andean bear watch

1:30pm: lunch

1-5pm: Andean bear watch

6pm: optional photo review

7:30pm: dinner

 

* Actual times may vary and depend on weather conditions. 

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 2-5 bears per day, but we may not photograph every bear.

What other wildlife can we see?

We will several different species of birds (hummingbirds, woodpeckers, vultures, thrushes) and if we’re lucky, the Andean fox. 

What will the weather be like?

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 length 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 to 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.

What's the bathroom situation?

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

Will there be cell service or WiFi at the lodge?

If you have international roaming, the cell coverage is reasonably good. In addition, there is WiFi available at the lodge.

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.

HOW STRENUOUS IS THE HIKING?

Bear Canyon sits at an elevation of 7,500 feet and you must be capable of descending a 200-meter switchback trail, which takes approximately 15 minutes, followed by a return ascent that takes around 30-45 minutes and climbs the equivalent of 60 flights of stairs. We may do this hike up to 2 times per day. To make it easier, we will carry your backpack for you. The trail, while awe-inspiring, can be challenging, featuring muddy and uneven terrain that demands a keen sense of balance. You must also be comfortable with heights as we descend into the canyon and cross a wooden bridge 15 feet above the river. In certain sections, we employ ropes to assist in navigating the rugged landscape, and a bamboo ladder climb adds an extra touch of excitement to the experience. Once we descend into the canyon, the adventure continues as you may need to crawl a few feet on your hands and knees to traverse an opening.

While this adventure may be a bit challenging, the rewards are simply extraordinary. You will join an exclusive group of individuals fortunate enough to witness Andean bears up close in their natural habitat. The rarity of this encounter makes the challenges worthwhile, and delivers an experience that is not only unique but also profoundly enriching.

Our approach is designed for inclusivity, and we take pride in ensuring that the pace of the hike is comfortable for everyone. We understand the significance of the experience and encourage you to relish each moment. To further enhance your enjoyment, we incorporate frequent breaks, allowing you to catch your breath, absorb the breathtaking surroundings, and immerse yourself in this special ecosystem.

ANDEAN BEAR FACTS

Scientific Classification: The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, belongs to the species Tremarctos ornatus and is the only bear species native to South America.

Distinctive Markings: Notable for the distinctive light-colored facial markings that resemble eyeglasses or spectacles, each individual bear has a unique pattern.

Habitat Range: Andean bears primarily inhabit the Andean mountain range in South America, spanning from Venezuela to Bolivia, with various altitudes and ecosystems.

Herbivorous Diet: Their diet is largely herbivorous, consisting of fruits, vegetation, and bromeliads. However, they are known to consume insects and small mammals occasionally.

Adaptation to Altitude: These bears are adapted to high-altitude environments, often dwelling in cloud forests and páramo ecosystems at elevations of up to 15,000 feet.

Reproduction: Female Andean bears give birth to one or two cubs, and the cubs stay with their mother for only about a year.

Endangered Status: The Andean bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.

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. 

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH ANDEAN BEARS

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 a healthy dose of patience is required.

Read our bear photography guide, which covers practical advice on camera gear and settings, and composition tips that cater to photographers of all levels. We will have many opportunities to discuss different aspects of photography when we are watching bears.

We also provide optional 1-1 Zoom sessions before the tour, detailed prompts and guidance when we are in the field, and optional post-processing sessions after your tour. We will do everything we can to help you become a better photographer!

PHOTO GALLERY

EXTEND YOUR STAY

Mindo Bird Sanctuary

  • Bird Watching: Mindo is renowned for its incredible bird diversity, with over 450 bird species recorded in the region. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will have the opportunity to spot a wide variety of colorful and unique birds, including toucans, hummingbirds, tanagers, and many more.
  • Cloud Forest Environment: The Mindo Cloud Forest is a unique ecosystem characterized by its lush vegetation, misty atmosphere, and high humidity. Visitors can explore the cloud forest trails, marvel at the diverse plant life, and experience the beauty of this rare and delicate environment.

Galapagos

  • Unique Wildlife: The Galápagos Islands are home to a diverse array of wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Visitors have the opportunity to observe and interact with iconic species such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and Galápagos penguins.

  • Snorkeling and Diving: The marine life around the Galápagos Islands is equally as impressive as the terrestrial fauna. Snorkeling and diving in the crystal-clear waters offer the chance to swim with sea lions, sea turtles, colorful fish, and even sharks. 

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. 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.

JOIN US FOR A TRIP OF A LIFETIME!

Why Our Photo Tours Are Different

Experience

The essence of life lies in its experiences, and it is our unwavering mission to gift you the very best of them. We strive to craft our tours with care and authenticity, making each adventure a vibrant chapter in the story of your life.

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, carefully selected for their unparalleled beauty and chosen based on our commitment to providing guests with the very best wildlife experiences.

Photography Focus

We welcome all levels of photography and provide optional photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tour as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!

Small Groups

We believe that small groups give the best wildlife expereinces. We do not exceed 6 clients per guide, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve.

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 have the best wildlife experience.