Katmai Peninsula – Geographic Harbour

As we sailed to Geographic Harbour, the clouds dropped lower and lower. By the time we arrived in the archipelago, the islands were clouded in the mist, and the rain was beginning to fall.

We awoke this morning to pouring rain, and re-evaluated our plans for the morning landing. We decided to wait until the rain lessened, and occupied ourselves watching a couple tv shows about the brown bears and polar bears of Alaska, recorded by Chris Morgan, a bear biologist who lead my first trip to Alaska, back in 2004.

Eventually the rain began to ease off, and after wrapping up ourselves and the cameras in multiple layers of plastic for protection, we piled into the skiff for the ride down to the beach.

The day was a little slow getting started, with a lot of sitting around and waiting, but our patience was rewarded by a mother and her cub.

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As well as watching the cub playing, bouncing up and down on a small stick in the water, we also managed to see the mother nursing the cub, albeit through a curtain of tall grass.

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After a while we headed along a path the bears had made through the grasses, and parked ourselves by the river upstream where we had some opportunities to photograph another mum with an older cub, who was trying his own hand at fishing.

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After a couple hours the sky finally started to brighten and at around 5pm we wandered back down to the beach where we were rewarded for our patience with the most incredible close up action we’ve experienced. We were all strung out along the river bank, with very little happening, when a large bear started slowing moving towards us, walking up the river, hugging the bank. I kept expecting that when she approached, she’d move further away, into the middle of the river, but no, she walked straight past us, seemingly looking me straight in the eye, though in reality focused on the fish in the river. Thus followed an extremely exciting hour or so, with a couple bears coming back and forth almost within cuddling distance of us. Nothing beats seeing a bear belly flop into the water on top of a salmon just a couple metres in front of you. The 300mm lens I had to hand was simply far too big for the job, so after taking a couple frame filling shots, I put down the camera and enjoyed the show.

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After returning to the boat and eating a hard earned dinner, it was time to sit out on the bow and enjoy the ride to our next destination, Kinak Bay. It was a beautiful evening, with an almost full moon, and we spotted a couple sea otters along the way.

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