Brown Bears – Finland

Brown Bears  – Finland
  • £1095.00 /person
  • Deposit: £250.00
  • Location: Suomussalmi, Finland
  • Dates:
    • 25 - 30 June 2018 - Tour 1
    • 30 June - 5 July 2018 - Tour 2
  • Duration: 6 Days
  • Leader: Janette Hill
  • Group Size: 10 Max
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Overview

Come to the Finland Russian Border to take images of the magnificent European Brown Bear and cubs in the Taiga Forest.

Stay at a family run wilderness centre with long hours of wildlife watching in the light northern summer nights. Purpose built hides provide the perfect spot to watch the shy European Brown Bear from large males to mothers with their cubs.  The forest is also home to the Siberian Jay, White Tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle and Black Kite.

This location is one of the best places in Finland to photograph and observe wild Brown Bears in their natural habitat.   Multiple bear sightings are common in the summer months. You are likely to see bears foraging, playing, climbing trees (especially young cubs) and all manner of natural characteristics although remember that they are wild animals so nothing is guaranteed.

During each day you can also walk in the forests, spot Fieldfares, Redwings and the many Finches that habitat in the forest. You can also watch birds at the feeding station at the centre. Guides are available throughout your stay to answer any questions about the bears and other wildlife that you may have. Janette is also on hand throughout your stay to chat about all things photographic and anything else you may wish to discuss.

Client Testimonials

What You'll Learn

  • All about Brown bears and their behaviours
  • How to photograph them
  • The joy of watching bears in their natural habitat
  • Hints and tips for bear photography
  • Information about, ISOs, Apertures and Shutter Speeds as required
  • Information about Lightroom as required

Gallery

Client Testimonials

  • Belinda

    “This summer I went on my first holiday with Janette to see the brown bears in Finland. This is a wonderful trip which I would highly recommend. You will see lots of bears, it really is a photographer’s dream. There is the opportunity to spend the night in 3 professional hides, which, while rather snug and basic, are well worth it as you get to see the bears in a variety of backdrops.  In addition to the photographic opportunities, which are numerous, you also get the benefit of Janette’s considerable experience. I have been on a number of photography holidays/courses and I can honestly say I have never learnt so much especially in relation to editing in Lightroom. Janette tailors her approach effortlessly to the experience of each member of the group and is always on hand to give advice and tips. She has an open and encouraging style, which in my experience is not always the case with tour leaders on these types of holidays. I came back with some stunning photographs, an increased confidence in using Lightroom and some truly wonderful memories.”

     

  • Katherine

    The brown bears of Finland – staying at the Markinselkosen Wilds Centre – was  just utterly amazing with an abundance of bears and cubs – I managed to  capture these adorable bears and was totally entertained by the antics of the cubs.   Janette was just brilliant (so down-to-earth),  gave me some good tips and advice on how to take THAT photo.  Hasten to say I came away with some amazing photos of bears and sunsets.
    It was such a brilliant trip which far exceeded my expectations and Janette with her knowledge of bear photography and of the family run Markinselkosen centre just made it.    I would highly recommend this trip to Finland – not only for ideal photography,  the entertainment/antics of these adorable bears but for the various “hide” settings.    I will certainly be booking another trip with Janette”.

  • Mike V

    “With a good friend I spent 4 days this month in different hides photographing  Brown bears in Finland.  It was a most wonderful experience getting so close to these magnificent animals which allowed me to take some interesting photographs as the bears went about there daily business of searching for food in the forests and meadows in a most beautiful setting. It was certainly a visit that I will never forget”

  • Tori A

    “I am just back from my second trip with Janette and I am currently planning my third. I hope this says it all!    Janette is a super relaxed, fun person to tour with and my trip to Finland was just as described on her website.    There were so many bear sightings, and Janette was always on hand to give photography tips.   I am so happy with my images.    I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend tours with Janette. I’ll see you on the next one, Janette!”

  • Jackie B

    “I have just returned from Finland, photographing brown bears in the Taiga forest.   Such an amazing experience seeing these beautiful animals in the wild.   Thank you Janette, for your knowledge and humour.   You made the trip very enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone”.

  • Richard

    “This was my second visit to Martinselkenen with Janette and I look forward to going again next year.   Martinselkenen is a great place to see and photograph bears as they visit in  significant numbers and are so used to the hides they approach really close.   There are hides in different contexts providing different possibilities for compositions.   The staff are very helpful and experienced.   Going to this centre with Janette has been a great experience.   She knows the centre well and has lots of experience of photographing the bears there so is able to offer very helpful advice and support.   I have come away both times with many images of bears and with very pleasant memories of  the visits with Janette.   These holidays are hard work with nights in the hides but also a lot of fun. Roll on 2017”.

  • Jim W

    “What a great trip to Finland!  The Bear viewing was incredible, the camp was pristine and the surroundings picturesque. Janette was happy to assist whenever required with sound, but not pushy advice.

    I must also say I was very impressed with Janette as a person. Its easy when things run smoothly, but you find out about a person when things go wrong. With one person’s baggage missing and a lost passport, Janette was calmness personified and showed herself to be a real trooper.

    Thanks Janette”

  • Danielle

    “I recently went with Janette to Finland on the bear photography course. I had an amazing time and was incredibly lucky with the near perfect shots and conditions I managed to get even if at times it was a little wet underfoot!

    I saw loads of bears while I was out there and even got to see mothers with Cubs. Although the hides are by feeding stations all the animals are wild and you get amazing chances to see natural behaviour. The accommodation was an amazing standard and all the staff were friendly.

    I will most certainly be going on another trip.”

  • Richard K

    “I really appreciated the time and support you gave to us exemplified by the way you helped on chasing my luggage and Jim’s duplicate passport. Your style is very much ‘customer’ focussed which was great. Although not needing a lot of technical support during the trip I knew you were always available for questions and advice.  I thought the accommodation and catering etc at the centre was good and the staff very helpful.   It was a very good trip which I really enjoyed.  Thank you”

  • Olivia

    “I’ve just returned from a trip to Martinselkenen with my partner and the experience exceeded my expectations. Before the trip, I was anticipating long hours in cold hides, waiting for a fleeting glimpse of a bear. However, on our first night in the main hide, I was pleasantly surprised when the bears arrived in numbers and stayed throughout the course of the evening. (This was also the case on our last night in the evening hide.) During our time at Martinselkenen, we also spent a couple of evenings in the swamp and forest pro-hides, which provided a more dramatic setting in which to photograph the bears that wandered through (if a slightly more challenging environment in which to do so). I also found the daily walks through the ancient forest to the hides a unique and memorable experience in itself.

    Janette and the staff at the attractive, family-run centre are friendly and experienced, and I would have no hesistation in recommending this trip to anyone. We’re already looking forward to our next trip with Natural Wonders Photography”

     

  • Peter M

    “My first visit to Finland, Lots of bears and a variety of hides.   Janette’s  help and knowledge of the location made good photographs easier.   I look forward to my next visit”

  • Julian

    “Photographing brown bears in Finland is an amazing experience that I can highly recommend.  We saw many, many bears from a different hide each night, so plenty of background variety in the shots. I’m really happy with the images that I got.

    And the accommodation was also very good, and the staff helpful. Janette is very experienced and has put together a fantastic and hugely enjoyable photography trip, I look forward to booking further trips with her”

Description

This really is  great opportunity to see Brown Bears at close range.  The location is very peaceful and purpose built to provide great viewing platforms.    The first day is primarily spent settling into your accommodation in the wilderness centre.  All rooms have their own toilet and shower.  Please note that many of the rooms have en-suite facilities but there are some rooms were the toilet and shower is not en-suite but they are for the exclusive use of the room occupant.    They are very clean.   An evening snack is provided at the centre.

Day 2 begins with breakfast at the dining area of the centre.  During the day you have free time to walk in the forest or watch the birds at the bird feeding station.  Janette will also be available to answer questions that you may have and to discuss photographic techniques.  Throughout an English speaking guide will also be available to tell you about the bears and deal with other queries.  Dinner is served at 3pm as at 4pm we depart for our first night in the bear hides.

Transport is by car or minibus and then a short walk into the forest to the hides.  The walk is over a woodland floor so at times may undulate but it is no more than about 30 minutes to the hides.  By 5pm you will be settled in your hide, with snacks and drinks ready for the night ahead bear watching.

Hides are purpose built with toilet facilities and bunk beds to sleep in if you need a nap at times.  The bears are attracted to the hides by a careful program of summer baiting over several years.  This makes these particular hides one of the best and most reliable in Europe for bear sightings.    The time of year also provides 24 hours of light so it is light enough to watch bears throughout the night if you choose to do so.

You are likely to see large males, mothers and cubs sometimes as close as 2 metres from the hides.  Getting close to the big males is a great experience.   At about 7am the next day you leave the hide and transfer back to the wilderness centre for breakfast.   The day is then free for you to do as you wish.  There are walks to do but most people tend to snooze ready for the next night in the hide!

Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 are the same, free time during the day to do as you wish followed by a night in the hide watching bears and other species that may appear returning to the centre in the morning for breakfast.   Your evening on day 5 is likely to be in the Evening Hide but depending on your flight times you may have the chance to spend a night in the Main Hide or one of the Pro Hides.

On day 6 we transfer back to the airport ready to fly home to London.     We will leave early for our journey home.  Please note that the departure time back to the airport will be determined by your flight time.

Optional Extras

An extra £140.00 per night will place you in a professional bear hide each night (for 1 person)   If 2 persons share a pro hide the price is £70.00 per person per night.    The difference is that the pro hides are smaller and more remote.  They are strategically placed by a swamp, a forest and the shore of a small pond to enable photographs from a different viewpoint.  Please say when booking if you would like to book a pro hide for the night as these do tend to get booked up quickly. Each hide has 6 windows to position your cameras.  They are smaller with just 1 or 2 seats and a place for sleeping.  Toilet facilities are provided.  Snacks and drinks are supplied.

3 hours can be spent on an optional BirdWatching Trip at £65 per person with a minimum of 4 people per trip.  An English speaking guide will take you to popular birding spots to try to see Siberian Jay, Woodpeckers, Osprey, Divers, Waxwing, Cranes, Goldeneye and Whooper Swan.    Let as know at the time of booking should you wish to book this.

You may also wish to book a Boat Trip for £65.00 which is a lovely relaxing way to see the magnificent landscape of  Finland.   Sometimes a bear can be seen from the boat also which is another great photographic opportunity.

 

  • Included
  • Transfers from Kajaani to the centre
  • Brown Bear Watching from purpose built hides at the centre
  • Accommodation
  • All meals (except lunch on days 1 and 5)
  • An English speaking guide
  • Photographic Tuition as required
  • Guide Fees
  • All transport throughout your stay
  • Excluded
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Optional tours (Bird Watching Trip 3 hours) (Boat Trip 3 hours)
  • Pro Hide use (optional extra)
  • Day 1
    • Fly to Kajaani and transfer to the wildlife centre
    • Evening snack provided
  • Day 2
    • Spend the day at leisure taking photographs of the local wildlife (birds, red squirrels and the like) chill out or go for a walk along many of the forest tracks directly from the centre. There is a walk to an old disused water mill which is great for macro photography and landscapes.
    • Birdwatching
    • Optional Bird Watching Trip (3 hours)
    • Optional Boat Trip (3 hours)
    • Brown Bear Watching from Main Hide
  • Day 3
    • As above
    • Brown Bear Watching from Main Hide or from a Pro Hide in the Swamp, Pond or Forest locations (optional extra)
  • Day 4
    • As above
    • Brown Bear Watching from Main Hide or from a Pro Hide in the Swamp, Pond or Forest locations (optional extra)
  • Day 5
    • As above
    • Brown Bear Watching from the Evening Hide.
    • You will also have the choice of a Pro Hide or the Main Hide but this will depend on your transfer and flight times the next day.
  • Day 6
    • Transfer to Kajaani and fly back to London
  • Will I see Brown Bears?

    Yes, yes, yes!   Although wildlife is unpredictable we  expect you to have several bear sightings including mothers with their cubs.  From the main hide it is not unusual to see up to 40 different bears throughout the night.  We have had 100% success rate so far.

  • What happens on the first and second day?

    When you arrive at the centre you will be offered a snack and a hot drink.   You will then settle into your room for the night.

    Breakfast is at 8am every day.  At 9am we will have an informal chat about the day and deal with all of your questions and queries.   After that the day is pretty much your own.  Tea/coffee and cakes are available at 12noon and the main meal is served at 3pm.    Between times you may take a forest walk, take photographs of the birds from the bird feeding station, take an optional bird watching trip, boat trip or just chill, it is entirely up to you.

    At 4pm you will depart for the hides ready for your first nights bear watching.

  • How long is the transfer?

    It is about 2 hours transfer time from Kajaani to the centre.

  • What is the food like?

    Breakfast is a buffet style with breads, cheese, ham, eggs, tomatoes and cucumber.  Porridge and jam is also served.  Cereals and yoghurt is available.

    At noon tea and coffee is available with cake.

    At 3pm you will have your main meal.  Finnish cuisine is simple and basic with fresh salad, bread and drinks followed by a pudding.

    In the hides you are provided with snacks, tea, coffee, water and biscuits.

    You may want to bring a few snacks with you in case you get the munches!!!

    You will not go hungry!!

     

  • What is the walk like to the hides?

    The walk is along a forest path which, in places, is covered by wooded walkways.   It is an undulating path and has normal forest debris along it including tree roots.  If it rains it can be muddy and boggy and so it is best to bring wellies or good walking boots that are waterproof so that your feet remain warm and dry.    It is about 2km long.

    The walk to the pond hide is slightly shorter but definitely wetter and boggier.  Waterproof boots/wellies are recommended

  • How fit do I have to be?

    You will need to be able to carry your photographic equipment along the 2km forest path to the hides.   Other than that there are no great physical demands and so a reasonable level of fitness is all that is required.

  • What is the climate like?

    Just like watching wildlife, the weather can be unpredictable.   Generally it is warm at the time that we visit BUT it can be very cold at night whilst in the hides.  If it rains you will also be exposed to the elements.  You will need to ensure that you bring warm clothing and a waterproof jacket.   A layered system is best in order that you can take layers off, or add layers as temperatures fluctuate.    There may also be bugs and mosquitoes to contend with so remember anti bug spray and anti itch cream in case you are bitten.

  • What are the hides like?

    There are a number of hides at the centre.  There are two main hides which are well equipped with bunk beds, a toilet and room for about 10 people.   It overlooks the main feeding area for the bears which is a clearing in the woods.   These are the hides that you will use for the duration of your stay unless you decide to book a pro hide for 1 or 2 of your nights stay.

    There are 3 areas for the pro hides.  The marsh hides, the forest hides and the pond hides.  They are all different and provide different photographic opportunities.

    The marsh hides are located at the edge of an open clearing that is usually covered with cotton grass.  It has wooded area around it.  The bears can approach from either side, the front or the rear!   It provides great opportunities for environmental shots especially if the bears approach from the front and walk through the marsh towards you.   It is very pretty.

    The forest hides are located a little further up from the main hides.   They are positioned in areas where the bears will be very close.   Sometimes they are so close that you can hear them sniffing the hides and breathing outside.

    The pond hides are located in a different area and overlook a large pond.  The bears will, in the main, be on the other side of the pond and so if it is not windy you will have the opportunity to obtain reflection type shots.  The hides are also in a great position to watch the sunset and sunrise.

    To spend a night in any of the pro hides it is important to let us know so that they can be booked in advance for you.  They are at an extra cost but worth it!

     

  • What Camera Equipment will I need?

    This will come down to personal choice and be determined by how much you can carry.   If you can carry your kit, bring as much as you can!

    If you struggle with weight bring a smaller lens and teleconverters or extenders.    Generally you will use anything from a wide angle to a long prime up to 600mm.

    For Nikon users the most versatile is the 200-400mm lens with a teleconverter.   For Canon users the 100-400mm with extender, or of course the new 200-400mm Canon lens with built in extender.

    Please note that in the forest hides you are unlikely to need anything longer than 200mm.  This is simply because the bears are so close to you that the longer lenses are not required unless you like to take eyeball and nostril shots of the bears!

    A wide angle and macro lens is only needed if you like to take these types of shots and intend to do some of this during the day or to use the wide angle lens in the forest pro hide.

    If you do not have a DSLR please do not worry.   You will still have the opportunity to get great shots with a compact zoom or bridge camera.

     

  • Will I need a tripod?

    Yes and no!   You will not need a tripod in the hides.  The pro hides in particular are small and it is difficult to place a tripod in them.   In all of the hides plates are provided for you to attach a tripod head so please bring this with you.

    At the centre there is a bird feeding station which attracts local birds including Siberian Jay, Woodpeckers and Bullfinch.  A tripod is best to take photographs of the birds from the tent hide that is by the feeding station.  Red Squirrels also frequent the bird feeding station so you can take images of them also.

    You can also go on a forest walk from the centre during the day so you may wish to take your tripod with you for landscape or macro images.  It is entirely up to you.

  • Should I bring a tripod head?

    Yes, if you have one.  All hides have a plate fitted for you to attach a tripod head to.  Don’t worry if you do not have one though as bean bags are supplied.  Although not the best bean bags in the world they will help to steady your camera.  You may wish to bring your own bean bags but remember that you would need to carry it to the hides.

  • My friend/partner does not want to take photographs but would like to see bears. Can they come on the trip also?

    Yes of course!   Bear watching is good fun and very interesting.  Everyone is welcome to come and see the bears.

  • What clothing do I need?

    The weather can be unpredictable just like wildlife.  Despite the time of year it can be very cold at night.   Layers and warm clothing are recommended.

    The path to and from the hides whilst normally dry can get very wet and boggy, especially if there has been rain.   You will need waterproof boots/wellies to keep your feet dry.

  • Why would I want to use a pro hide? How does a pro hide differ from the main hide?

    The pro hides are a great opportunity to obtain images of bears from different locations with different backdrops from reflection type images in the pond hide to bears in an open field of cotton grass and in a forest setting.   From the pro hides you can spend time watching bear behaviour including cubs playing, sometimes bears swimming across the pond, bears fighting and bears up trees.   The bears will visit the pro hides throughout the night and you will have plenty of time to compose your images in the different natural settings.

    The main difference between the pro hides and the main hides, apart from the locations, is the size.   The pro hides are designed for a maximum of 2 people.    You can hire one for your own use or share with a friend.   They all have sleeping facilities, a toilet, sleeping bags and a mattress.    They are very cosy!

     

     

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