There’s not a lot that could get me onto a little tiny airplane, but apparently two days in a row of disappointing weather cancellations for bear viewing by boat will do it! It was truly a magical experience to be able to get so close to these amazing creatures and watch them in their natural habitat. The bears in this reserve have never been hunted, never exposed to human food or trash, and do not perceive people as predator, prey or food source. They seem pretty comfortable sharing their space with the lucky few who can access their wilderness by boat or plane, and barely paid us any attention at all. Our guide was wonderful, ensuring that we got to observe several bears safely and without disturbing them. There isn’t much more I can say, other than that it has been hard to whittle down the 500+ photos to a few dozen for this post. Bears and stunning views from the plane! Enjoy!!!
Our first sighting was this sow with two yearling cubs. These cubs are about 1 1/2 years old. They stay with their mother for approximately 4 years. They were lazing about and napping in the sun, with the mom making an occasional survey of the surrounding area.
Back to napping
The salmon have not started running yet, but the male and/or solo bears on the beach seemed to be eagerly awaiting something more interesting to eat than grass and clams.
Nope, still no fish.
May as well take a nap. They dig big holes in the sand for sleeping and lounging in.
Our next sighting was this big sow laying by the river.
And behind her…three new cubs! These guys would be about 6 old, and they were adorable!
After a bit they got to work. Mom grazing on the sedge grass and the cubs being cubs!
One of the cubs was a bit more reserved, preferring to do a bit of grazing and snuggling with mom amid the horseplay. The other two were a constant tumbling pile of fur. They were just adorable to watch.
We watched this family for a long time before heading back to the beach to see who else we might see.
More beach napping bears!
This guy was just beautiful!
And here’s our friend again who dug quite a hole after not finding any salmon. The bear equivalent of a LazyBoy recliner!
It was sad to leave the bears, but the flight home was stunning. There were five planes in total and Scott and I were actually on separate planes. Mine took off second, and plane three got a bit stuck in the sand, apparently a common hazard when the beach is your runway. Since we got a little head start, my pilot took a scenic detour over the glaciers and volcano. It was breathtaking.
My plane parked on the runway! The takeoff was a quick 90 degree turn and a slightly wild ride down the beach involving some fishtailing before we popped up and out over the water. Much more dramatic than the takeoff at the airport. And for those of you who know I am not a huge fan of flying (and are wondering how the heck this even happened), I have to say that the whole thing was a really great experience. I loved sitting in the copilot seat and getting to see everything that was going on. The weather was also very smooth and my pilot, Ben, was top notch.
Above the ice field that feeds into several glaciers.
The pilot tipped the plane so we could get a good under the wing into the caldera of Mt Katmai. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the volcano was actually steaming in spots.
Braided glacier river. Everything was so green and lush
The coast near Katmai was glacier gorgeous!
Almost back to Homer
Scott’s plane caught up and we all landed one after another. What an amazing day to remember!