& the BROWN BEARS of KATMAI NATIONAL PARK
Featuring a private bear guide, two pro wildlife photo instructors,
& Patrick Barron of Blue Barron Photography & MGoBlog
AUGUST 12 - 20, 2024
Conjuring up images of the last wild frontier, Alaska is one the most incredible—and largely unvisited—jewels of the United States. Teeming with wildlife and rugged, spectacular landscapes, the experience of visiting this incredible region cannot be overvalued.
Our voyage takes you to the edge of “settled” Alaska—much farther than the cruise ships navigating the Inside Passage—and then nudges you over, dropping you into pristine Katmai National Park. Our destinations in the park can only be accessed by ship and float plane—both of which we’ll use—and are far from the beaten track.
With our expert Bear Guide, ship’s crew, and two Photo Instructors (one of them your Tour Leader) taking care of you every step of the way, we’ll explore the Katmai Coast by foot and small skiff, enjoying an incredibly intimate experience with the majestic brown bears, bald eagles, otters, sea birds, etc. that call this majestic area home. The wildlife here is never hunted and has been protected for almost 40 years, so their fear of humans is practically non-existent.
You’ll experience this wildlife in an intimate way few other humans ever will, going home with more than just spectacular photos.
MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 2024
Fly in to Kodiak, AK*
Overnight at hotel in Kodiak
TUESDAY, AUGUST 13
Private flight to Katmai National Park
Embark Dream Catcher
Begin bear viewing in the afternoon!
Overnight aboard Dream Catcher
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14 – MONDAY, AUGUST 19
Bear viewing, exploring by skiff, kayaking, etc,
Enjoy photo workshopping aboard Dream Catcher
Overnight aboard Dream Catcher
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20
Return via private flight** to Kodiak in time for
afternoon flights out.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
*Kodiak is quite easy to get to, and with standard-sized planes (often via a simple connection in Anchorage, and sometimes even via direct flight from a few West Coast hubs). **Please note we are exploring the possibility of sailing back to Kodiak instead of returning by float plane (we would sail on the 19th); this should be largely decided no later by the end of 2023.
A TYPICAL DAY ABOARD THE DREAM CATCHER
Expedition travel photography is all about flexibility. We'll take advantage of the conditions and adapt our plan on the fly to make sure we have the best opportunities to capture the wildlife and grandeur of Katmai National Park in all it's glory!
A typical day actually begins the night before when our guide, Erik, lays out the plan for the following morning, in conjunction with the Captain and crew of The Dream Catcher. Assuming conditions remain as expected, we'll try to stick to the plan.
Usually, this will mean an early breakfast followed by a morning excursion for bear viewing/shooting, or perhaps a skiff ride to explore coves and inlets, looking for bald eagles, otters, bathing bears and more!
Return to the ship for lunch and a rest...perhaps some time to unload your memory card or do group image reviews.
Head out again in the afternoon for another excursion, extending until early evening, depending on conditions and light. Or perhaps do some kayaking and/or relax on the ship!
Dinner aboard The Dream Catcher, usually with a recap of what we saw, what we shot, photographic questions/concerns and how to correct them, followed by a briefing for the following day!
PHOTOGRAPHY NOTES & TRIP LEADERS
THE EXPERIENCE: While the images we will return home with are undoubtedly the main focus (pun intended), the intimate experience of being so close to these animals as they go about their lives; feeding, playing, fighting, living...is an unforgettable and indelible feeling. You'll not only come back with images not possible when seeing brown bears elsewhere, but you'll know that you connected with these animals and this place in way few humans are able to experience.
DESTINATION: Alaska is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and Katmai, in particular, is a feast for the lens! Photographing bears, otters, bald eagles, puffins, etc., is always amazing, but to have the added bonus of such a spectacular landscape in which to do it is surreal.
TIMING: Mid-August is shoulder season of sorts, with cubs still present and golden-colored bears a possibility, while fishing bears have already begun to feast in anticipation of the cooling weather to come. The weather tends to be best for photography and conditions on the water are calmer than at other times of year.
SMALL SIZE: With a maximum of 10 travelers, this journey is a perfect size for imagers looking to get away from the larger photo tours, be nimble on our feet, adapt to changing situations, and take advantage of all that small groups provide.
BEAR GUIDE: Our Bear Guide, Erik, grew up in the Kachemak Peninsula and has been guiding small groups in bear country for over a decade. His experience, knowledge, and ability to predict the movement of the bears—many of whom he knows by name—is a major boon to our group. Not only can he get us in the position to achieve excellent images but he is able to safely manage the group around these wild animals with a comfort and confidence born from years of success. He is a veritable bear whisperer!
SHIP: Cozy, warm, comfortable, and most importantly, able to get into the nooks and crannies of Katmai that larger ships simply aren't able to, The Dream Catcher is a perfect vessel for a small group of shutterbugs to explore this stunning region. You'll love Captain Rob, Sky, and their wonderful crew!
If I'm not a serious photographer, or don't even consider myself a "photographer;" is this trip for me?
YES. While photography is the thing that draws many of us in, you'll benefit from all of the same things photographers do: proximity to the animals, an expert guide to inform us about the bears and other wildlife, and the ability to access areas impossible in larger groups. As long as you wish to have an intimate experience with the incredible animals of Katmai—and the land itself—this tour will be for you.
I'm an experienced photographer. Will I benefit from what you're offering?
As an experienced photographer, you'll appreciate the ability to get close to the wildlife with the knowledge that your guide and tour manager are not only making sure of your safety but also attending to the various details of the trip, allowing you to concentrate on shooting. With our small ship and experienced guide, we'll put you in position to get shots other operators simply can't offer.
Professional Photographer, Instructor
Originally from Michigan and currently living in Colorado, Patrick fell in love with nature photography, and especially wildlife photography, after a trip to Yellowstone in 2016. After this trip, Patrick made it his goal to visit and photograph every U.S. National Park, visiting every corner of the U.S. Having completed this goal this past year, Patrick now spends a lot of his free time photographing critters in Colorado, Wyoming, and during some of his annual trips to Alaska. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Patrick also flies back to the midwest in the fall to photograph his beloved Wolverines for MGoBlog. While an aerospace engineer at his day job, and also an avid aviation photographer, Patrick's passion is in exploring and learning more about the outdoors. If you're not careful, he will definitely talk too much about coyotes.
THE DREAM CATCHER
The Dream Catcher may appear as if it's a yacht—and it certainly is a comfortable home for our exploration of the Katmai coast—but make no mistake that this vessel was designed to handle the rigors of Alaskan waters. From fishing charters to bear viewing to scientific research, the Dream Catcher operates with comfort and class.
The Dream Catcher's combination of small size, safety, and comfort make it an ideal choice for our trip. We're able to access areas of Katmai that larger vessels can't get to, while still enjoying a comfortable, spacious environment, on a safe, stable platform. Captain Rob Hulse—an Alaskan resident since 1965—knows these waters and coastlines as we might know our local neighborhoods. He holds a 200ton USCG Master License and is a USCG certified instructor for the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association. We're in excellent hands!
Over 1500 sq. ft of interior space
3 guest decks (plus flying bridge)
6 guest cabins, each with private head (i.e. their own bathroom)
2 indoor lounges, fore and aft on the main deck
Commercial galley and dining area, featuring large viewing windows
Rear covered deck and storage area for expedition gear (chest waders/shoes/etc.)
Chest waders for all guests
Included use of washer and dryer
RATES & INCLUSIONS
$10,490 per person, based on double occupancy.*
Trip registration is limited to 10 participants total.
*This rate is based on current inclusions and will apply with 10 participants on the program. If fewer travelers are signed up, a small group supplement of $490 will be added to each group size count under 10 participants, to a minimum of 6 participants (and a maximum supplement of $1,960).
HOW TO REGISTER
DEPOSIT AND PAYMENTS
A deposit of $1,500 per person is required to confirm participation.
A second deposit of $1,500 per person is due by February 15, 2024.
The trip balance is due in full by May 1, 2024.
Payments can be made by check, wire transfer or by major credit card.
Payments by credit card are subject to a 3.3% fee (although we will waive the fee on the initial $1,500 deposit).
Cancellations of confirmed reservations are refundable minus a $500 per person administrative fee until December 15, 2023. but later become non-refundable within 9 months of embarkation. For additional trip terms click here.
We require participants to have travel insurance that at least covers emergency medical evacuation. This can be obtained after booking the trip. Click here to view details on the options offered via our partner Travel Insured International.
INCLUDED IN TRIP COST
1 night hotel stay in Kodiak, AK
Roundtrip from Kodiak to Katmai National Park (via float plane and ship)
7 nights aboard The Dream Catcher
All meals throughout the trip, as noted
Professional Bear Guide exclusively for our group while aboard The Dream Catcher
Professional Tour Manager & Photo Pro, Temu Nana, as your personal host in Kodiak and aboard The Dream Catcher, offering photographic guidance throughout the trip
Photo Instructor Patrick Barron offering photographic guidance throughout the trip
All excursions during our time on The Dream Catcher, including skiff rides and kayaking (conditions permitting)
Chest-waders and boots that fit all sizes
Laundry while aboard The Dream Catcher
Detailed pre-departure information to prepare you for the trip (including our new private trip site for trip participants only)
A pre-trip briefing & orientation via Zoom
Gratuities to all crew, guides, hotel staff, etc. for all included activities
Airfare from your home to/from Kodiak
Personal items & and other items not specifically mentioned above
Travel insurance (basic required, comprehensive recommended: see here for details)
Single accommodations (although a single can be reserved at the hotel in Kodiak for $150)*
*Regarding single accommodations onboard:
Reserving an entire cabin onboard as a single from beginning will require paying a 80% supplement on the trip rate. Since we realize that is quite expensive, as an alternative, we may be able to offer this at a lower cost once we the trip starts filling out and we are able to assess exactly how cabin space is being used by those signed up. If you express interest in this when you register, although we can't guarantee it, we may reach out to you at a later date with an alternate onboard single supplement cost that you could choose to accept or decline at the time.
PLANES AND HOTEL
FLOAT PLANE FOR THE SCENIC FLIGHT TO KATMAI
For our private, scenic flight to/from Katmai, we will use float planes—primarily DH Beavers that accommodate up to 5 or 6 passengers. Depending on group size, a second plane may be a smaller Cessna 206, accommodating up to 3 or 4 passengers. Our air charter operator partner could not be more experienced & professional.
Above: DH Beaver float plane
Left: Temu's stunning float plane flight in to Katmai NP during his 2019 scouting trip.
HOTEL IN KODIAK
Kodiak's accommodation selections are limited but we will be staying in one of the two most comfortable options available: either Kodiak Compass Suites or the Best Western Kodiak Inn. Both are in the center of the cute little town, and within walking distance to options for food, etc.
Please note that this trip will require a moderate level of physical activity and ability.
Daily activities may include:
Embarking/disembarking the small skiff/inflatable for explorations by boat, or to go ashore
Dry/wet landings on shore. Note: there will be no piers or structures at our landing sites, simply pristine national park!
Uneven, possibly rocky, muddy, and/or slippery ground underfoot while ashore. Adequate balance will be required to navigate these areas.
Walking up to two miles (at a leisurely pace) with your gear, and in chest waders (provided for you).
Crossing streams (with assistance) that may come up to mid-thigh.
Moving around a small boat while it is underway and affected by ocean swell/motion.
WEATHER RELATED CONTINGENCIES
Weather in/around both Kodiak and Katmai NP can be variable, changing quickly. While we intentionally chose trip dates that increase the chances of favorable weather, please be aware that inclement weather could possibly affect our trip—primarily the floatplane charter between Kodiak and Katmai NP.
If weather delays our scheduled travel from Kodiak to Katmai NP, we have contingency plans in place as well as hotel reservations for an additional night in case we need to use them.
If weather delays our scheduled travel from return from Katmai NP to Kodiak, it's possible we'd have to stay an extra night onboard the ship or in Kodiak—which itself would require changing your return flights (to Anchorage or elsewhere). To account for this possible contingency, we will also hold hotel reservations for the night of our return to Kodiak, in case we need them.
Please note that hotel, food, and any other costs incurred for an extra night will be at your expense (though travel insurance can help offset or fully cover these).
FLIGHTS [from your home, to Kodiak, AK, and back]
Getting to & from Kodiak, AK will be your responsibility, though we will provide flight guidance so that you can book flights. While registered travelers will receive more comprehensive info—including specific flights to consider + contact details for a dedicated flights partners that can assist with reservations, if welcome—below are some basic parameters to consider:
For ARRIVAL: Trip participants can arrive Kodiak, AK (airport code ADQ), no later than the evening of Monday, August 12th.
For DEPARTURE: If weather does not delay our return to Kodiak as scheduled, participants should be able to make connecting flights out of Kodiak August 20th*. (We recommend an afternoon departure, in case of delays.)
*In light of weather, we strongly recommend that participants purchase changeable airfare and/or trip insurance with travel delay coverage (see below). If flights need to be changed, a decision will be made while you are onboard, and we will help you with this process.