Alaska Polar Bear Photo Tour


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    Wildlife

    Photograph polar bears – seeing these beautiful animals can be a life changing experience!

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    Autumn Colors and Aurora

    The colors in the Arctic this time of year can be off the chart – and that goes for in the sky and on the ground.

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    Lots Included!

    This trip includes boat rides each day for polar bears, It also includes all transportation from Fairbanks including flights, and all meals and lodging.

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    Price

    11 days/10 nights $9250.00


ARCTIC AUTUMN LANDSCAPES, NORTHERN LIGHTS AND POLAR BEARS PHOTO TOUR

Aug 28 – Sept 7, 2017*  Space Avialable

*(Trip participants limited to 5)

Sept 11 – 21, 2017  SOLD OUT


I am excited to be teaming up with Hugh Rose for this amazing photo adventure.  The following write up is from Hugh.  If you are interested in booking this trip contact Hugh directly by email at:  hughrose64@gmail.com or Hugh Rose Website

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival Day

  • Travelers arrive in Fairbanks after flights from lower 48 states or other Alaska destinations and are transferred from the airport by Rivers Edge Resort van.  Hugh  and Ron Niebrugge meet all participants at Rivers Edge Resort at 6:00PM for orientation and welcome dinner at a local restaurant.  At dinner we will discuss the trip itinerary in detail and talk about northern lights photography technique.
  • Your first night will be spent at the comfortable Rivers Edge Resort in Fairbanks. Rivers Edge offers an excellent place to photograph the aurora on the banks of the Chena River and even have an “Aurora” Wake-up Call.

Day 2: Drive north to Wiseman

This is a beautiful drive where will cross the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle.  The fall colors will be wonderful along the stretch, and there is always the chance for wildlife.  The next two nights in Wiseman will give us a chance to photograph Northern Lights.

Day 3: Drive North through Brooks Range to Atigun Pass

After breakfast we will head north to explore and photograph the northern edge of the boreal forest as it thins to the northern edge of the treeline, located just to the south of the Continental Divide and Atigun Pass.  The Dalton Highway will take us over Atigun Pass, the highest road accessible mountain pass in Alaska.  This exciting and scenic drive over the Continental Divide to the “north side” is always a highlight and very photogenic.  We will keep our eyes open for black bear, grizzly bear, moose, caribou, dall sheep, wolves, red fox, golden eagles gyrfalcon, willow ptarmigan and other birds of the arctic.

Day 4: Drive North through Brooks Range to Prudhoe Bay

After breakfast we will head north to explore and photograph the northern edge of the boreal forest as it thins to the northern edge of the treeline, located just to the south of the Continental Divide and Atigun Pass.  The Dalton Highway will take us over Atigun Pass, the highest road accessible mountain pass in Alaska.  This exciting and scenic drive over the Continental Divide to the “north side” is always a highlight and very photogenic.  As we drop off the Pass to the north side all trees disappear and we will be beyond the northern reach of trees for the next 5 days.  Driving north out of the Brooks Range and onto the north slope the landscape changes from precipitous mountain peaks to rolling tundra covered hills.  We have the possibility of seeing caribou, muskoxen, grizzly bear, dall sheep, red fox and wolves as we drive north towards the Coastal Plain and Prudhoe Bay.

Day 5: Fly to Native Village and Polar Bears

A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE NATIVE VILLAGE

We will be visiting a native village inhabited by approximately 250 Inupiat “Eskimo” people who are endemic to this region of arctic Alaska.  The village is located on a small 3 mile by 2 mile island just off the arctic coastline. This island was an important stop for whalers at the turn of the last century, but did not become a permanent settlement for the semi-nomadic Inupiat people until 1923 with the establishment of a fur trading post by a Nantucket whaler who married a native woman. The island is characterized by a large saltwater lagoon that is located on the east side of the island and provides a sheltered anchorage for the village fishing boats.  The downtown consists of a cluster of homes built on the barren tundra approximately one mile from the village airport.   There are limited roads and vehicles located in this village, but a vehicle is necessary for travel and photography of the polar bears.  We will have the only rental vehicle available and although it may not be pretty it will be sufficient for the purpose.   Keep in mind that we are visitors from a different culture to this village, and our sense of time and schedule may be different than the resident’s.  Experiencing the culture of the Inupiat is as much of an experience as watching the polar bears!

WHY ARE POLAR BEARS (NANOOK) HERE?

The circumpolar indigenous people of the world have been hunting marine mammals and whales for thousands of years and the Inupiat of Alaska are no different.  In a very tightly controlled hunt, arctic coastal villages of Alaska are allowed to hunt the bowhead whale, which frequent the waters of the adjacent Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean.  A whale harvest quota is awarded to each village according to number of residents and the historic harvest.

The Inupiat name for the polar bear is “Nanook” and the domain of Nanook is not the beaches and tundra of the arctic coast, but the pack ice that covers the sea surface for 9 months of the year.   Polar bears feed mainly on seals that live on and under the arctic ice, hunting them using a number of different techniques.  Like their cousins the brown bears from which they evolved, during times of hunger, polar bears can be opportunistic and will feed on whatever food opportunities are present.  Other food sources can include vegetation such as grass, small rodents, bird eggs, other marine mammals and scavenging on carrion.   Polar bears are attracted to this area to scavenge on the carcasses of butchered whales, and begin to arrive here before the annual whale hunt begins on Labor Day each year.  In mid summer when the arctic pack ice moves off shore, Beaufort Sea polar bears are often marooned on shore where there is little to eat.  These bears enter the fall season hungry from lack of readily available food and have keyed in to the presence of whale carcasses in this area starting in September.  A bear’s memory is so good they will remember the time and place where food was available and return to that same spot the next year at the same time.  The bears typically arrive in late August before the whale hunt begins, and will scavenge on the remains of whale carcasses from previous year’s hunts.  We will be visiting this area during the annual hunt and if we are fortunate we may witness the community event that surrounds the harvesting of a whale.

Days 6 and 7: Photography and Bear Viewing

Day 8: Return to Prudhoe and Wiseman

We will spend time with polar bears in the morning before a mid-day flight.  As we leave Prudhoe Bay we will target muskox.  Later that evening in the heart of the Brooks Range is typically one of our best opportunies for Northern Lights, although we have another chance for them the next night.

Day 9: Explore Around Wiseman

More chance for landscape and wildlife photography in this amazing location.  Hopefully Auroras that evening.

Day 10: Drive Haul Road South, Return to Fairbanks

Day 11: Flights home

After breakfast this morning you will be transported to the Fairbanks airport for your flight home.

Information about Alaska

“Before you travel

DOCUMENTATION:

  • A valid US ID is required for travel to and from Alaska via commercial airline
  • Special Travel Note About the arctic:
  • In the unlikely event that our return flight from the native village back to Prudhoe Bay is cancelled due to weather, an additional fee of $450 per person will be collected from each trip participant for each additional night we have to stay in the village.  This is to cover the extra cost of staying in the village and the cost of a rental vehicle so that we are still able to view and photograph polar bears.  I apologize in advance if it becomes necessary to collect this additional fee, but weather in the arctic can be unpredictable.

ARRIVING IN ALASKA:

  • Please have your flights arrive in Fairbanks no later than 4:30 PM on Aug 28/Sept 11 in order to arrive in time for our welcome/orientation dinner.  A van from Rivers Edge Lodge will  transfer passengers from the Fairbanks airport to the hotel on Aug 28/Sept 11 .  If anyone plans to arrive in Fairbanks before Aug 28/Sept 11 please contact me to arrange additional nights in Fairbanks.
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  • Please have your departure flight leave from Fairbanks on the 7th/21st of September or later if you plan on staying afterwards.  It is possible to depart on a red eye flight on the evening of the 6th/20th (really early morning the 7th/21st), and not spend this night in Fairbanks.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

  • Your safety while on the trip is my top concern! Most activities will be dictated to some degree by the weather and safety is always paramount, however, it is important to remember that a good part of this trip takes place in the wilderness of the Brooks Range, far from hospital services.   Although I will take great care to ensure your safety, accidents do happen.  For this reason I require that you have insurance to cover you while traveling. There are many insurance companies offering travel insurance these days so a good way to find the right policy for you at the right price, is to visit a website such as www.insuremytrip.com.  This service will match the right policy to your needs and price.  They offer insurance from companies such as MEDEX, American Express, Global underwriters, AIG and many more.  Travel insurance will also cover a number of other potential problems with your trip, for instance, if you must unexpectedly cancel or interrupt your trip the cost of your trip will be refunded, lost baggage protection, and medical bills incurred while traveling are all usually included in an insurance policy.   Make sure you purchase a travel insurance policy that does include evacuation coverage in the unlikely event that you do need to be medi-vacced from a remote location.
  • Remember, hiking and exploring in a wilderness environment does contain inherent risk, so use common sense!  Please think before engaging in any “risky” behavior and know that I will be giving safety briefings throughout the trip
  • Common sense behavior around Polar Bears is of critical importance for the safety of both you and the polar bears.  You will be briefed on appropriate behavior around bears before visiting Kaktovik and while in the field with the bears
  • Security-wise there’s not much to worry about in Alaska.  Every place we visit does not experience regular crime!

MONEY:

Cash or credit cards work just about everywhere in Alaska, however, in the more remote parts of Alaska (that we visit) NO ONE accepts credit cards!  If you want to buy any kind of native art work or other souvenirs to take home I would recommend carrying some amount of cash for these purchases as credit cards will not be accepted in any of the remote locations we visit.

TELEPHONE SERVICE:

There is standard phone and cellular phone communication-service in Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay and the native village we visit; however, in Wiseman phone service is limited to a coin less pay phone.  Talk to Hugh for emergency contact numbers.

Laundry:

Laundry is available on days 1, 4 and 10 (Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay) and may be available in the Native Village.

Climate:

You are traveling to the high arctic in fall!! Keep in mind the arctic has ever changing weather with temperatures that can swing from below freezing to warm in a matter of hours at this time of year.  Expect daytime temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s (perhaps as high as the 60’s) with nights below freezing.  Both rain and/or snow are possible as well so think layers when packing starting with a waterproof and windproof outer shell with layers of wool or fleece underneath.  Warm hat and gloves are essential as are liner gloves for photography!   Be prepared for rainy cool weather.  Dressing in layers is very helpful as you can remove or add as the temperature dictates.

LUGGAGE:

Please take into consideration that you will be traveling by van and be living in a small space. Please use soft-sided duffel bags and limit your bags to one medium sized bags per person and a camera bag.  On the flight to and from the Native village you will be limited on your luggage weight!l

FOOD:

  • All meals are included in the cost of the trip.

-Please notify me of any special dietary requests, food allergies or food preferences

WHAT TO BRING:

Depending on your own needs, the following is a suggested packing list:

CLOTHING:

Being prepared for all weather conditions by dressing in layers is the key to comfort, and packing smart is the key to being prepared.  Starting with a thin base layer of either capilene or merino wool works best.  Products such as Patagonia capilene base layer and/or Icebreaker or Ibex merino wool work great.  I prefer the merino wool products, as the merino wool is soft on the skin and takes on no body odors.  This allows for wearing these garments longer between washes.  On top of your base layer you want a medium weight polar fleece or merino pullover, and a heavier weight zip-up fleece to go over that.  People who suffer more from the cold should consider a lightweight down sweater or jacket to put over these layers.  The final “top” layer should be a waterproof (either Gore-Tex or equivalent), breathable jacket that acts as both a rain coat and windproof layer.  You can finish your layering with some kind of warm hat and gloves.  For those doing photography a pair of thin fleece gloves work best so you can operate all your camera controls with gloves on!  If you have any questions on the gear to bring or on the gear list please contact me!

  • Sneakers one pair for light walking and travel days
  • Waterproof boots A good comfortable and waterproof boot is mandatory.  The ground we walk on can be wet and if you want to hike across the tundra to see muskoxen etc your feet will stay warm if they are dry!  Boots such as Muck Boots (Arctic sport) and Sorrels work great, but gore-tex insulated hiking boots will work
  • A pair of light slippers, clogs or sandals For wearing in the lodge in Wiseman and Native Village
  • Gore-Tex (or equivalent) jacket Lightweight Gore-Tex jacket for wind and rain protection (outer layer)
  • Gore-Tex (or equivalent) Rain pants
  • Lightweight down jacket Layered under your Gore-tex jacket this keeps you warm on the cool nights and during the day if we are waiting for bears
  • Sweater or fleece jacket for the third layer and cool nights
  • long-sleeved shirt or midweight fleece pullover for the second layer, 2 of these are nice if you get one wet or dirty you have a backup
  • Base layer shirts 2 or 3 base layer light weight capilene or merino wool shirts either short or long sleeve
  • Base layer underwear You will want one base layer of long underwear (capilene or merino wool) in case we get a really cold day.  These do not take up much room!
  • Long pants 2 pair of lightweight long pants.  Some of the new lightweight quick drying material pants are fantastic for this.  They are light enough to hike in yet provide a windbreak and some insulation
  • Socks 5 pair of medium to light weight merino wool socks
  • Underwear I’ll leave this to you to decide how many pair you need!
  • Warm Hat Ski hat
  • Warm Gloves Warm ski gloves
  • Thin fleece gloves For photography
  • Bathing suit there’s a hot tub at the B&B in Fairbanks so if you want to use this, bring a swim suit!
  • Dress is always casual, so no dressy clothes are required!

OTHER GEAR:

  • Walking-stick If you have weak ankles, or feel unsteady on uneven ground these are great for walking on the tundra
  • Base ball cap or wide brimmed sun hat Good for the sun or rain
  • Small day pack Useful for carrying extra clothes, water, binoculars, camera etc. on hikes and for keeping these items together in the van on travel days
  • Sunglasses A must for Alaska this time of year
  • Binoculars I do have a few pairs to loan out, but if you have your own that you are used to bring them.
  • Water bottle I provide bottled water, but encourage people to use refillable water bottles to reduce our waste.  You can use one of the bottled water bottles and just refill it
  • Small battery operated alarm Clock This is important if you want to rise early for good light etc, plus we have some early morning departures!
  • zip-lock plastic bags Good for carrying dirty or wet clothes or keeping things dry in your back pack
  • A Headlamp  A headlamp is important for night time activities such as photographing the aurora.  The headlamp leaves your hands free for working a camera while you photograph aurora borealis.  Please get a headlamp that comes with a fold down RED lens.  Many  headlamps today such as Petzl, come with a fold down red lens, this is to preserve your night time vision when you need to use the light and so you don’t blind your neighbor!
  • Your regular toiletry kit
  • All personal prescription meds and favorite remedies. Whatever you usually need (Consult your physician.).  Remember we will be isolated from stores and pharmacies most of the trip, so stock up on your usual meds
  • Small basic First Aid Kit I carry a more comprehensive First Aid Kit in the van, but I recommend that you carry a small kit with your basic needs in it.  This would go along with favorite remedies and prescription meds.
  • extra pair of prescription glasses,
  • Earplugs Most every place we stay is quiet, but just in case there is an annoying noise, this is not a bad idea!

CAMERA GEAR:

  • The Camera gear you chose to bring is dependent on what you own.  If you have any questions about the most appropriate gear please contact me.  I use Canon equipment and I keep a few lenses on hand to rent to trip participants, including a 500mm f/4.0 IS (with matching 1.4X and 2.0X extenders) and a 400mm f/4.0 DO IS.  I also have wide angle lenses for Northern Lights photography (Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 and Zeiss 21mm f/2.8).  In addition I have a few high quality carbon fiber tripods with RRS ball heads for rent.  Please contact me in advance to discuss availability and price. 
  • A tripod is an absolute must for aurora photography.
  • A tripod head: A ball head such as a RRS BH55 or BH 40 is perfect, gimble heads such as whimberlies do not work well for this trip, because they are too bulky and heavy
  • RRS or Equivalent “L” bracket is important for photographing the aurora.  Often vertical compositions are the best for aurora, in order to capture more sky.  I have watched too many people struggle while trying to orient their camera in the vertical position by rotating the camera on their ball head to find the slot where the ball drops into the vertical.  An “L” bracket alleviates this problem and allows you to compose a vertical composition much more easily and efficiently especially in the dark!  A bonus is that “L” bracket also acts as protection for your expensive digital SLR!
  • A beanbag I recommend a Kinesis photo gear bean bag.  I would also recommend you purchase this beanbag from Kinesis with the lightweight filling material to save on weight in your luggage.  (I have a few of these to loan to trip participants, contact me in advance)
  • Telephoto lens 300mm or longer for wildlife and birds
  • Tele extenders Preferably matched with the lens
  • Spare camera body If you own one.  I’ve seen many cameras come to grief on trips and I hate to see anyone on a trip without a camera, who wants to photograph!
  • Longer range zoom For wildlife and landscapes (70-200mm, 100-400mm etc.)
  • Medium range zoom For people and landscape (24-105mm)
  • A fast (f/2.8) Wide angle zoom For landscapes and aurora (16-35mm)
  • Lots of extra memory cards
  • A digital storage device Such as Epson, Hyperdrive, or laptop computer  If you plan on shooting more than you have card space for this is important.  We also do photo review throughout the trip for critical focus and composition.  A laptop is the only way to effectively review photos
  • Battery charger and spare battery
  • Polarizing Filter
  • Cable release for aurora photography
  • A camera back pack to carry all this gear I recommend the Kiboko bag made by Gura Gear .  These bags come in different sizes, are light weight, very durable and weatherproof and will fit all the above mentioned gear
  • A telephoto lens camera pouch I recommend the Kinesis line of telephoto lens pouches; see the L511, L522, L611 and L622 at: www.kgear.com

REMEMBER, this list is only a general recommendation and that personalization of the list should be considered by each individual according to her/his own needs.

In addition I recommend that you DO NOT PACK the following items in your checked luggage:

  • All airline tickets and travel documents
  • Credit cards, money
  • Anything of any value
  • Luggage keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Prescription glasses
  • Camera gear
  • Prescription medications
  • A light change of clothing
  • Your light hiking boots
  • Rain jacket          

Books on this region of Alaska:

Arctic Village, Robert Marshall

Arctic Wilderness, Robert Marshall

Shopping for Porcupine, Seth Kantnor

Ordinary Wolves, Seth Kantnor

Two in the Far North, Margaret E. Murie

INCLUDED IN THE TRIP PRICE: TBD*

  • Airport transfer in Fairbanks on day one and day 11
  • All accommodations in Alaska from night one to night 10, including; Fairbanks, Wiseman and Native village.
  • All meals from dinner on day one to breakfast on day 11
  • All transportation on the trip including airline flight to Native Village
  • Beer and wine at Wiseman
  • Boat rides for viewing and photographing polar bears (weather permitting)
  • Bus rides for viewing and photographing polar bears

* In the unlikely event that our flight from Kaktovik is altered or cancelled due to weather, an additional fee of $450 per person will be charged for each additional night we spend in Kaktovik. This fee covers our accommodations and allows us, in spite of the uncontrolled circumstances, to continue photographing. We apologize in advance if this additional fee becomes necessary, but travel in Alaska’s Arctic can involve extreme weather. 

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Flights to and from Fairbanks to your home in the lower 48.
  • Alcoholic beverages are neither included nor served in Native Villages or Prudhoe Bay
  • Money for purchases of souvenir items
  • Scenic flight seeing if you choose to do this activity
  • Tip to guide Ron Niebrugge: Gratuities are highly personal in nature and are earned not expected

PAYMENT SCHEDULE:  TBT

  • Non refundable deposit of $1000 per person is due on booking trip
  • Half of the trip price minus the $1000 deposit is due by March 15th
  • The remaining half of the trip is due by June 15th
  • Cancellations are refundable until June 15th minus the $1000 deposit, after this date payments are refundable dependent on your space being filled by another traveler
  • If cancellations are made after Aug 15th I will make every effort to get your money back, but rely on filling your space.  For this reason I would recommend trip insurance if you believe that there is any chance you may have to make a last minute cancellation.