7-day GOLD Photo Tours — Tips, Options & Itinerary
This is the BEST tour we offer at the moment. It gives you the most flexibility within the 8 day/7 night period to take advantage of prime photo opportunities and maximize your experiences at each location. Especially at the world renown bear camps, you should have enough time to get great photos with an excellent probability of great light and weather.
Chronological order may change due to weather and other logistics, but below are the activities and time frames you can expect. You will be sent a more concrete schedule about 30-60 days before the tour begins.
Advantages & Disadvantages with each tour
Compared to the 3 and 5-day tours, the 7-day tours give you the most flexibility to catch great light, animals and scenery — 1-2 extra days with the bears and 1-2 extra days touring the Kenai Peninsula (more wildlife spots) and/or in Homer, Seward, and other areas with recreational options (see below). See the 3-day and 5-day itineraries for more info on the shorter tours.
Extra days sometimes make THE difference between getting the shots you came for, or having to settle for shooting in lousy weather when the next day might be gorgeous. Especially in Alaska, they are excellent insurance when you’re planning a (possibly) once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-blue-moon trip like this.They allow you to relax a bit with the normal uncertainties of travel and weather. The cost per tour day goes down with the longer tours, so you get a better value for your experiences. Plus you have a much greater probability of getting great shots of great animals in great light. More time is your greatest ally in wildlife photography.
Especially on the shorter tours, we cannot guarantee whether you can make it to the bear camp or do any aerials. But if air or boat transport is prevented by weather or other logistics, don’t fret yet! We have been here a long time and have several workarounds and choices for you.
You can reschedule another day outside of your scheduled 3-day tour for the bear camp, and use the previously scheduled bear day to take advantage of other options such as:
1) a wildlife float trip down the upper Kenai river
2) a whitewater raft trip down a class IV-V river
3) a whale and wildlife boat cruise in Resurrection Bay in Seward. This is also a world renown option, as you can photograph sea otters, puffins, bald eagles, possibly several types of marine mammals including humpbacks, orcas, minke, dall’s porpoise, possibly dall sheep, mountain goats, bears, and other assorted animals
4) zip-lining amongst the old growth forests in Chugach National Forest. This is an option that can also be combined with the boat cruises, whitewater rafting or Kenai river float trips
5) other options we can customize for you depending on your particular requests. There will be additional charges for these activities since you would be adding a 4th day to your tour, but we can facilitate any changes seamlessly for you.
DAY -1: Independent arrival in Anchorage
You should plan on arriving at least a day or two before your tour date begins. This way you can get acclimated, enjoy Anchorage on your own for a day or so, and leave some room for weather delays before or after you arrive.
Most hotels have free shuttle service and you can decompress a bit in your hotel or around town. You can call or contact us by phone after you arrive and we can update you on arrival times for your transportation to the Kenai Peninsula.
DAY 1: Courtesy transport and wildlife/sightseeing to Kenai Peninsula
Sometime in the late morning, you will be picked up for your ~3 hour drive to and around the Kenai Peninsula. We will be stopping at famous wildlife spots along the way, most notably the Potter Marsh bird sanctuary a mile south of Anchorage, and possibly, time permitting, a drive up the hillside area for great views of Anchorage and to look for huge bull moose (protected in certain areas). Keep an eye out for dall sheep in the first 10 miles south of Anchorage, bald eagles along the way, bison at the Wildlife Center near Portage, moose when you drop down onto the Kenai Peninsula, and Trumpeter Swans at any of the larger lakes.
Bring snacks and your water bottle for the drive south. We will stop at the top of Turnagain Pass (elevation 1015′), and perhaps a rest stop somewhere in Cooper Landing along the Kenai River. Lunch or dinner will be at your lodge/hotel in Sterling, Soldotna or Kenai.
DAY 2: Flight to Bear Viewing Camp
After breakfast, we take a quick shuttle to the Kenai airport where we load onto a floatplane for our 45 minute flight to the bears! We’ll land on a sandy beach near the lodge where we will spend the next three nights.
We have 3 different bear camps that we reserve our tours with, as a redundancy for you in case one is full, or weather delays or other issues deter us from using one or another.Each room, glamour tent or cabin will be very comfortable with a combination of twin and/or double beds, full baths, individual heat sources, electricity, boardwalks or private decks, with views of the tidal flats and Cook Inlet. Some have electrified fences around the cabins or quonset huts, while others are full-size permanent lodges and rooms.
After you get settled, we’ll immediately look for bears, accompanied by one or two highly trained guides looking out for your safety. We may use ATVs to transport us from one location to the next. Today, you’ll most likely capture your first images of these beautiful bears. After a break for dinner, you’ll again look for bears, in hopefully beautiful evening light, taking photos and enjoying their behavior as long as light allows.
DAY 3 & 4: Grizzly Bear Photography, Evening flightsee/return
You’ll spend two more days following bear tracks, photographing and observing bears, bear cubs and any other animals or light that crosses your path. You will probably see them catching salmon, playing with each other, sparring, digging up mussels and clams, and just being themselves. It is truly a joy to be in the company of such trusting yet magnificent animals that command our respect. We will return to the lodge for lunch and breaks. Depending on which area we are at, you will have different opportunities to see bears interacting with salmon, bear cubs, themselves, and other wildlife.
You will either be walking, taking ATVs, or be shuttled in boats to the areas that the guides know are having the most activity at the time. Be sure to see our FAQ for guidelines on clothing and other items to bring. After breakfast on Day 4, you will have more time for bear watching and photography, before being picked up by bush plane for the return to Kenai. You’ll arrive back at the lodge or hotel area around 4PM.
DAY 5-6: Land tour around Kenai Peninsula, Dogsledding, Helicopter flightsee
Today you’ll relax a bit and enjoy a full-day tour around the Kenai Peninsula looking for moose, bald eagles and other animals. These days are built into the tour for flexibility and alternate options around the Peninsula.
We will work our way over to Seward for your unforgettable helicopter-dogsled adventures. Depending on the weather and the pilot’s decisions, doors off may be allowed for BOTH the dogsled flight to the glacier, and the GORGEOUS flightsee over Resurrection Bay and fjords. Nothing compares to these spectacular helicopter flights over some of the most beautiful glaciers and fords in the world!
If weather is bad, or if there are participants who don’t want to fly for whatever reasons, there is the option of a half-day or all-day boat tour in Resurrection Bay, Seward to photograph whales (orcas, humpbacks, minke, etc.), sea otters, puffins, sea lions, mountain goats, etc. The boat tour is a terrific option, and there may be an extra charge (generally $150-200) depending on whether participant(s) decide to take this option in lieu of, or in addition to, the helicopter or dogsled experiences.
DAY 7: Catch-up day, possible Seward tour, Back to Anchorage
This is a day we can use instead of one of the other days for the bear camps or helicopter aerials, if weather or other circumstances prevent us from going earlier. (You may even be stuck in bear camp an extra day due to weather…how fantastically sad…). Otherwise, this is a day divided between a short wildlife land tour and return to Anchorage in the evening. As mentioned before, it is very wise to have buffer time built into the tour like this for the unforeseen circumstances mentioned above. If weather or light hasn’t been cooperative, this might be the day that makes up for it with great light!
Depending on group size and preferences, and/or light and weather, we will work our way after breakfast around the peninsula and eventually back to Anchorage in the evening for dinner. We’ll reminisce a bit about your experiences, share some life-thrilling photos, and wish you our very best until perhaps another visit!