Brown Bears & Puffins Photo Tour

Brown bears, puffins, and more at a secluded lodge

    • Brown bears up close and with incredible scenery
    • 30 bears each day
    • Puffins, puffins, puffins
    • Pristine wilderness, hearty food, comfortable accommodations
    • 7 Days / 6 nights

Embark on an extraordinary coastal brown bear expedition unlike any other. Immerse yourself in a seven-day / six-night, all-inclusive adventure at a secluded wilderness lodge that offers unparalleled proximity to majestic coastal brown bears. Nestled in a remote location off the beaten path, our exclusive lodge boasts breathtaking waterfront views and access, as well as a rejuvenating sauna for relaxation when not pursuing bears. With a perfect blend of modern comforts and historic charm, the lodge provides a genuine taste of Alaskan heritage, complemented by the opportunity to capture remarkable photographs of the world’s largest brown bears.

What sets our premier location apart is the exclusive access we offer to coastal brown bears rarely photographed by the many who venture to Alaska. Each group is accompanied by two knowledgeable guides which allows for divided expeditions, granting each participant ample space and time to capture remarkable shots of these awe-inspiring creatures.

While the bears steal the spotlight, we will also photograph eagles, puffins, murres, pigeon guillemots, kittiwakes, and an array of captivating species. For those seeking an extra touch of uniqueness, we can even explore a nearby beach in search of fossils, adding an intriguing element to an already diverse itinerary. Prepare to indulge in the freshest, locally caught seafood and delight in freshly prepared meals that elevate your overall experience.

Tour Highlights: Incredible brown bear photography, historic lodge, and puffins

2024 Dates:

* June 20-26

Tour Leader: Zac Mills & Kate and Adam Rice

Group Size: 10

Price: $6,495 (US dollars)

Price includes: All meals, guiding, accommodation, and transport

Accommodation: Shared

Start/End: Kenai, Alaska

Fitness Level: Moderate

REASONS TO CHOOSE THIS TOUR

So many bears: Expect to see upwards of 30 brown bears each day, which provides the opportunity to witness their behaviors, interactions, and the fascinating dynamics within this thriving bear community.

Puffins: Prepare to be amazed by their charming appearance, distinctive beaks, and remarkable flying and diving abilities.

Stunning scenery: Get ready to experience breathtaking scenery with its rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and expansive wilderness, creating a visually stunning and unspoiled natural landscape.

Exclusivity: Staying at an exclusive wilderness lodge offers unparalleled access to pristine nature, personalized experiences, and luxurious amenities, creating a perfect retreat for those seeking both adventure and comfort.

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

Conservation donation: As part of this tour, we make a donation to the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, who is opposing the Johnson Tract mine which could affect the bears we will be seeing.

ITINERARY

The tour departs from Kenai, Alaska. Please plan to arrive at least one day before our tour officially starts. 

Day 0 • Arrive in Kenai, Alaska

Arrive in Kenai, Alaska and stay at a local accommodation (not included). Arriving a day early is not required, but it does ensure you will not miss the morning flight to the lodge and is highly recommended.

Getting to Kenai is simple:

  • First, book your flight from your flight to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
  • Then, book a separate flight from the Anchorage airport to Kenai. Book this short flight through Grant Aviation or Kenai Aviation. Numerous flights are available each day.

Hotels: There are several hotels in Kenai. Kenai Airport Hotel is located directly across the street from the airport, within easy walking distance from the airport. A little father down the road (0.5mi) is the Quality Inn and across the highway (0.7mi) is the Aspen Extended Stay Suites

Shuttle: If you need a ride to your hotel, AK Cab is a reliable option, call 907.262.1555. Uber or Lyft are also available.

Day 1 • Flight from Kenai to lodge

Take about a 15min cab ride to Alaska West Air. Please arrive no later than 10:15am for your 11am flight to Snug Harbor. If you are travelling with additional luggage and need to store it, Alaska West Air is happy to keep it secure while you are at the lodge (there is a strict 70lbs luggage limit, including your camera gear). After we arrive, you will settle into your room, grab a bite to eat, and then we head out for our first bear viewing adventure.

Day 2-6 • Bears Bears Bears

For each of the next 5 days, wake up to a freshly prepared breakfast before heading out to photograph bears. We may stop by a nearby island to photograph puffins, walk to a nearby kittiwake rookery, or photograph eagles right at the lodge between each bear photography excursion. We will either eat lunch at the lodge or bring it with us on our excursion and return to the lodge each night to a freshly prepared dinner.

Day 7 • Tour Ends

Enjoy a hearty breakfast before departing for your return flight to Kenai where we will say our goodbyes. We plan to be back in Kenai by approximately 1:00pm.

Kenai

WHAT’s INCLUDED?

• Photography instruction
• Return flight from Kenai to lodge

• Freshly cooked, locally sourced meals
• Accommodation

WHAT’s NOT INCLUDED?

• Flights to Kenai, Alaska
• Accommodations before/after the tour
• Tips for lodge staff
• Travel medical insurance (required)

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY?

6:30am: wake up

7am: breakfast

7:30am: depart for bear viewing

1pm: lunch

8pm: return from bear viewing

8:30pm: dinner

 

* Actual times may vary and are affected by tides and the weather. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many brown bears will I see?

We typically see beween 20-30 brown bears each day.

What other wildlife will I see?

Puffins! We will photograph a colony or horned puffins, as well as eagles, murres, pigeon guillemots, kittiwakes, and an array of captivating species.

How do I get to Kenai, Alaska?

Commercial flights from Anchorage to Kenai offer convenient travel options. We suggest considering Grant Aviation as your primary choice, followed by Ravn Alaska as an alternative. Alternatively, for those preferring a scenic road journey, driving from Anchorage to Kenai is a viable option, typically taking around 3 hours. Additionally, a daily bus service is available for this route, providing a comfortable and reliable travel alternative.

What focal range do you recommend?

Every focal range from 24-600mm can be of value. The wider perspectives are great to showcase thee incredible mountain scenery around the bears. Tighter compositions work great for portraits and for those times when we are further away. There are so many compositional possibilities that have a variety of focal length options will serve you well.

What's the bathroom situation?

This is a historic lodge; therefore, guest rooms do not have private bathrooms. There are multiple bathrooms available and they are shared.

Rest assured, experience has shown that guests have ample access and availability to the bathrooms. Bathrooms are cleaned daily to ensure a pleasant experience.

Will there be cell service or WiFi at the lodge?

Due to our remote location, cell phones don’t usually work unless connected to the internet. Part of the experience is being off the grid. WiFi is available at times when the generator is running, but is not guaranteed.

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?

Each morning we embark on a short boat ride to reach our destination where we can explore on foot or from the boat, and capture stunning bear photographs at our own pace. What sets us apart is the absence of bustling crowds from other lodges or day-tourists, ensuring a serene environment for our encounters. With the freedom to track our favorite bears, we’ll witness their graceful movements across meadows, along the coast, as they navigate the sloughs. While our hikes usually aren’t extensive, it’s essential to be at ease traversing muddy and potentially slippery terrain in chest waders. We’ll provide all necessary assistance to ensure your comfort and safety throughout the journey.

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.

PHOTOGRAPH PUFFINS

At a nearby island, there is a colony of horned puffins. The “horns” are small fleshy spikes that are found above the eyes of adults. Contrary to other puffin species that dig burrows for their nests, horned puffins usually nest on cliffs. Amazingly, they can dive 100 feet or more to catch small fish, and bring back dozens at a time to their nest. In the winter, these seabirds disperse from the colony and are found far from shore over the Pacific ocean.

If you’ve never seen or photographed puffins in the wild before, you are in for a treat. From our location on the beach, these charming puffins fly right past you at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. There will be many photographic opportunities, including compositions of them flying as well as perched against boulders and the cliff cavities. Birder or non-birder, you will love it!

THE LODGE

The accommodations seamlessly blend modern comforts with early 20th century history. The lodge has preserved and reimagined the roots of the 100+ year old cannery’s iconic lodge and living quarters to meet your needs. The rooms are airy and bright and offer the breathtaking views you’d expect from your stay in the Last Frontier. Family-style meals are served and are locally sourced based on availability. 

BROWN BEAR CONSERVATION

The bears we’ll encounter are directly impacted by the proposed Johnston Tract Mine. Unlike an open-pit mine, Johnston Tract would be underground, increasing the risk of contaminants being released into the water and harming salmon habitat. Furthermore, the necessary infrastructure development for resource extraction poses a potential threat to local wildlife, particularly the highly endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale and the brown bears. 

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance (AWA) advocates for healthy ecosystems, scientifically and ethically managed to protect our wildlife for present and future generations. Part of the proceeds of the tour will be donated to support their advocacy against the proposed mine.

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH BROWN BEARS

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 discus 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

Things to do from Homer

  • Wildlife Viewing Cruises: Take a wildlife cruise in Kachemak Bay to observe marine life, including otters, seals, sea lions, and a variety of seabirds. Some tours also offer the chance to spot whales and porpoises.
  • Bear Viewing Excursions: Join a guided bear viewing tour to Katmai National Park, where you can witness brown bears in their natural habitats as they fish for salmon or graze in meadows.
  • Hiking Trails for Wildlife Observation: Explore hiking trails such as the Bishop’s Beach Trail or the Grace Ridge Trail for opportunities to observe local wildlife. Keep an eye out for moose, eagles, and other land-based creatures.

Things to do from Anchorage

  • Chugach State Park: Explore the vast wilderness of Chugach State Park, offering hiking trails, stunning mountain views, and opportunities for wildlife spotting. 
  • Denali National Park and Preserve (via Rail or Air): Take a day trip or extended journey to Denali National Park to experience the iconic Alaskan wilderness. Choose from scenic train rides or flightseeing tours to witness the majesty of Denali, North America’s tallest peak.
  • Matanuska Glacier Adventures: Head north from Anchorage to the Matanuska Glacier for thrilling glacier trekking and ice climbing adventures. Guided tours provide a safe and educational experience on this impressive ice formation.

MEET YOUR GUIDES

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.

Kate & Adam Rice

Award-winning photographers, conservationist, and amazing humans, Kate and Adam join us in co-hosting this tour. They currently split their time between Alaska and the Yellowstone areas, which enables them to provide unique opportunities for others to experience and photograph wildlife. Their goal is for each guest to have an adventure that will never be forgotten. They work hard to achieve each guest’s photography goals while sharing their knowledge of wildlife.

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.