We awoke early, packed a small carry-on and set out for Lake Hood Seaplane Airport just outside of Anchorage. Reggie had given me an Alaska Bear Tour for my birthday. We were so excited. Our pilot, Anna, greeted us. She would be taking us from Anchorage to Lake Clark National Park, about an hour’s flight. Once there, we would stay overnight at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge and spend the afternoon and next day bear viewing in Alaska.
A Storm Delays Alaska Bear Tour
Anna brought us to wait in the office. We only had 24 hours for our bear viewing, so we were anxious to get on our way. Unfortunately, a storm had just blown in and we needed to wait until it was safe to fly in a prop plane. The plane seated 4 people, including the pilot.
A ratty couch, a desk, some chairs. We stayed positive as we waited. One hour passed. Then a second. A third. Into the fourth hour, we began to wonder if it was going to happen.
Were we going to make it to Lake Clark for our Alaska Bear tour?
Finally, Anna announced that the storm was clearing. She went out to prepare the plane and soon we were on our way to see the bears in Lake Clark.
Arriving at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge
The views from the plane were stunning. We weren’t flying at a very high altitude to we had a chance to see the terrain.
In a very short time, we were preparing to land on the beach. As we were coming in for the landing, I looked to my left. We were landing on the beach right next to a mom and two cubs digging for clams. Really. That close? Yup. No worries. The bears didn’t even look up from clamming as we landed and unloaded.
Safety and Bear Viewing
We brought our bags to our room in our cabin. And, immediately met our guide to go out in search of bears. We drove around in a little cart. Bears were all over. Moms and cubs. Adolescents. Older Males. They were everywhere.
Our guide gave us strict instructions about following her lead and staying safe. The guides don’t carry guns or bear spray. And, guests are also prohibited from carrying bear spray and weapons. The only shooting we would do was with cameras. We had to stay down wind from the bears at all times and move slowly and quietly so as to not startle any of the bears.
The next 24 hours, we drove around and watched the bears in their natural habitat. It was incredible to be that close to the bears and to watch them live their lives. Sometimes, we were were only 30 feet away. Often, there were cubs around. The bears paid little attention to us. In retrospect, it was scary but not while we were doing it. It seemed natural and unthreatening.
Wildlife Sightings at Lake Clark
Bears were not the only animals we saw. We saw a beautiful bald eagle just sitting on a branch on one of our walks. We watched it for a while, relaxing, taking in the views. The eagle finally flew off, but not before we snapped this picture.
Puffin Excursion: A Cook Inlet Boat Trip
I love puffins almost as much as I like penguins. They are so curious looking and move so quickly. I can watch them for hours. Lake Clark and the Cook Inlet offered a great opportunity to go see some puffins.
We took an hour away from the Alaska bear tour to cruise the very beautiful west Cook Inlet. There were hundreds of puffins and we spent an hour trying to take the perfect picture of them taking off and landing. We did not succeed. It was hard to capture them in motion with a point and shoot camera, so we had to settle for these photos.
The next afternoon, our time at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge on the Alaska bear tour had come to an end. Sadly, we boarded the prop plane with Anna and returned to Anchorage.
Bear Viewing in Alaska
Taking an Alaska Bear Tour is a wonderful experience. There are many places to do it. We went to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark. The Lodge provided room, board and bear viewing. Accommodations and food were good. They also arranged for the charter flight.
Some of the other trips we looked at involved camping in one of the national parks. There are all types of lodging for every kind of traveller. Some people combine bear viewing with fishing or other activities.
Plan ahead as an Alaska Bear Tour is expensive and you will want to enjoy it fully.
7 Tips for Alaska Bear Tours
- Listen to your Guide about safety. They are very familiar with the bears and will keep you safe as long as you follow their lead.
- An Alaska Bear Tour is a photographer’s dream. Bring a camera and a tripod. A DSLR is best but we took all of these pictures with a point and shoot camera.
- Rain Gear is useful. If you don’t mind looking like us in this picture, you can borrow rain gear from your lodge. Check ahead to confirm.
- We did our Alaska Bear Tour in July. It rained a lot and was cold. Bring layers because the weather is very changeable.
- Flexibility is key. We had to wait 4 hours for our flight to depart due to a storm. Some people end up staying longer due to wether conditions
- You need to pack light for the prop plane. These trips are usually only 1 or 2 days so you don’t need a lot of clothes.
- We highly recommend an Alaska bear tour if you are looking for an unusual experience, love bears and are not afraid to be in the wild. Don’t go if you think you may be too scared to enjoy the experience.
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