Along the Finnish and Russian Border lies an area of land as empty and wild as it gets in Europe. Amongst this taiga forest roams one of Europe’s most impressive and threatened predators, the Brown Bear. Waiting in our specially designed hides that offer swamp, forest and meadow habitats on a summer evening when darkness hardly falls, a snap of a twig can be heard and there in front of our hide is this magnificent animal only a few feet away. Large dominant males are an awesome sight but the females with young are a joy to behold, especially the playful antics of the cubs. In 2011 we were also lucky enough to photograph a nesting Great Grey Owl which along with the more regular Red Squirrel and forest birds offers plenty of rewarding daytime options as well.
Itinerary Open +Close -
Day 1: We are all due to travel to Kajaani airport in Finland via Helsinki where we will be met by our Finnish host for the 2-3 hour transfer to Martinselkosen which will be our base for the duration of the trip. We’ll arrive too late for any hide based photography for the bears this evening but over dinner we can discuss the itinerary ahead and go through what your expectations are for this unique experience.
Day 2: Our body clocks will take some adjusting as it will be light for 24 hours and after the long day travelling the day before I suggest you use this spare day to relax, ready for our first nights encounter with the bears. Breakfast and lunch will be served at certain times and I will advise once there.
Dinner is around 3.30 pm and then we get ready for the short journey to the bear hides. We have exclusive use of 4, 2 man hides for the bears and each hide offers completely different images so a good mix is what we are looking for. The walk to the hides is about 25 minutes or so and there can be a few mosquitoes/midges around if it is warm so make sure you have some repellent for this and also in the hides themselves. The forest hide is set in the pine trees and the activity lasts all night long here as this is the first port of call for many of the bears; it is a beautiful setting and with a bit of luck young cubs will be around and they make great shots when they climb the trees to escape the large males. The swamp hide can also attract females with young cubs and the setting again is beautiful especially if the bears stand in the cotton grass. At one point last year we had 12 bears feeding in this large expanse of swamp. The pond hide is a fantastic location and on still evenings you can get reflections as the bears are fed around the edges of the pond.
Days 3-5: Each evening follows the same routine and after dinner we transfer to our chosen hide for the night’s photography. We have to be in the hides by 5.00pm so by now we will be well into our routine. You will spend 1 night in each of the 3 hides and then the other night will be in 1 hide you have already been in. At the end of each night we will be escorted from the hides at 7.30am and back to our base for a deserved breakfast. It can be very tiring as the first thing you want to do is download your images and make sure they are safe and of course have a quick look. If you have one you could take a portable downloader into the hide as when you get a quiet period this vital work can be done then. You can have a couple of hours with the bird feeding station if you want it is your choice. We can also have image review each day; it can be tiring during the day so if you want to opt out of these you can again it is your choice.
Day 6: After our final night in the hide we’ll have time to shower and breakfast before returning to Kajaani airport for our flights home.
What our customers say
“It exceeded all our expectations of seeing and photographing the Bears”
“The maximum amount of time was spent photographing and for me that was one of the reasons I went on the holiday.”
“I enjoyed last year’s trip here so much but this trip exceeded my expectations: it helped make my birthday very special”
“The holiday was great and I particularly enjoyed photographing the dancing cubs”