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“Set your expectations somewhere below adventure and you might like it”

Alaska Bear Adventures
Ranked #1 of 63 Outdoor Activities in Homer
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Bears Are Our Passion! At Alaska Bear Adventures with K-BAY AIR we focus all our considerable knowledge and experience EXCLUSIVELY on Your Alaska Bear Adventure. Others offer Bear Viewing as a sideline.... As a family operated business, we "live" Bear Viewing 24 hours a day from mid-May to early September. We fly bush planes to the best places in the world for Guided Wilderness Bear Viewing.Fly safely, View Safely.Please read our reviews.
Reviewed 17 March 2014

The good: I will start by saying the Pilot/guides were very nice. We got lucky and had great weather so we could do some flightseeing of a volcano.

The bad: We had to wear these hip boots for the "adventure" instead of are normal shoes. When we landed on the beach (Cool) we walked 75 yards down the beach to one viewing area to watch the bears eat grass. (we went in late June and that is what the bears do then. Salmon runs are very specific and only last a few days so unless you plan ahead you will watch the bears act like cows). After about 30 mins we walked another 75 yds past the plan to another viewing area to see the same bears from a different angle eat more grass. I would have been fine wearing saddles and more comfortable. I was expecting an adventure when their website said we had to be fit enough to hike 4 miles and were going to wear boots. You do get to see bears and there are no cages and in reality that is the only way you will see them in the wild around there is at sights like this were people fly in and the male bears are chased off so the mothers with young are not afraid.

The ugly: We paid for the 7 hour "adventure" thinking we would get a chance to get deeper into bear country with more time, so logic said. However from wheels up at the airport in Homer to wheels down in Homer our trip was 4 hours and 2 minutes. I emailed the booker to say that the pilots must have been confused and that I had a great time but wanted a refund of the extra time we paid for that was not included. She replied shortly saying that there would be no refund and that the pilots left the bear area because of safety reasons. I being on the trip was surprised to know that there was a safety concern since that was the first I had heard of it so I inquired. She informed me that the tide was rising and the pilots did not want to run out of beach in order to make a safe take off. That is a great thing. However anyone can search for tide charts online for years in advance. Alaska Bear Adventures are professionals there is no way the rising tide "surprised" the pilots and they had to make a safety call on the spot. They scheduled the flight time, they knew when they had to take off from the beach, and they knew full well we were not going to get a full 7 hour adventure we paid for. In my mind that is an underhanded way to suck money out of tourists. There is no way they should have allowed us the option of paying for 7 hours that day.

17  Thank Fred j
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
AlaskaBearAdventures, Owner at Alaska Bear Adventures, responded to this reviewResponded 20 March 2014

Hello Fred

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I am aware of the trip you are referring to and will address it below. However; we do not have a “Fred J” on our calendar for any day in 2013. We will gladly investigate this issue further if you would like.

Let me help provide some additional information and education for our other guests and Trip Advisor staff regarding your description of our trips.

We strongly recommend you wear hip waders and yes, some days we walk 3-4 miles. You may wear your own footgear, but on most days you would get wet to your knees. We have daily experience in the Alaska wilderness and thus recommend to our guests what will keep them most comfortable on their trip.

Since this is a wilderness trip, and not orchestrated, we do not know where the bears will be. They may be close to the landing area or they may be a couple of miles away. The walk to see the bears may be very short as on your day or it might be in the back meadow requiring crossing the creek several times. The bears are wild creatures and are in different locations each time we travel to see them. Yes, some days we walk a long distance and see a few or many different bears, and some days we may walk a short distance and see a few or many different bears. Each trip is very different as expressed by other TripAdvisor Reviewers who have gone multiple days with us. You are correct, the bears are not in cages and this is not a bear zoo. Bear behavior in a wilderness setting is unique each trip.

In late June the bears will not be catching and eating salmon in the coastal creeks of Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks. We do inform all of our guests this at the time of reservation. Late June is an excellent time to view bears doing many different activities other than catching salmon. In late June the bears will be digging for clams, grazing on sedge grass (as on your day), and are in the middle of mating season. I am unsure where you informed that at this location people fly around and chase off the males bears. This is just not true. There are many male bears in this location especially during late June since it is in the middle of mating season. Late June provides one of the best times to see bear – bear interaction.

When flying to remote areas of Alaska Wilderness and landing on the beaches there are many different natural conditions that must be considered to ensure passenger safety. Tides are a big factor for our company or any company that lands on the beaches across Cook Inlet. Yes, we are aware of the tide chart well in advance of all trips. However, we cannot predict all weather conditions that may affect customer safety. The areas we fly to are over 100 miles from Homer. Alaska weather conditions change very quickly. On the day of your trip the winds and low cloud cover increased quickly. High winds can change the height of the water significantly in a short period of time. We do not expect customer to be aware of all weather conditions that need to be monitored; that is our job. It was definitely a safety issue to leave earlier on the day of your trip. Safety is our number one priority. Good job to the pilots for not bringing any concern to passengers in this situation.

Our 7-hour trip allows 3 hours on the ground with the bears. The additional time is flight time and safety preparation. Flight time varies due to location of best bear viewing for that day - between 40 minutes and 80 minutes each way. Seven hours is the full duration of the trip including preparation, travel time, and 3 hours on the ground with the bears. This is stated in the confirmation notice and is clear throughout booking process.

We were aware at the end of the trip on June 22nd that the trip was not up to our standards. Although we did see bears on your trip we needed to shorten it for safety reasons. We therefore offered a complimentary repeat trip to all customers who went on the day of your trip. Some people took us up on the offer and as shown in other TripAdvisor reviews had a great second trip.

It is our standard to provide an excellent bear viewing trip for all guests while keeping everyone safe in wilderness Alaska. If you would like us to investigate this further please email us at alaskabearadventurs@gmail.com.

Thank You
Dee Hughes

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344 - 348 of 669 reviews

Reviewed 14 March 2014

This experience rates in the top two or three of a 70-year life of global travel. Neither of us can find the words to describe how extraordinary it was. Set aside all imagined worries and go along with Michael and his team for something superb that you will never ever forget. Equipped with waders, absolutely no food and some sound guidance from the team, ten of us left in two small aircraft for a spectacular 40-minute flight across the gulf to the remote Kanai National Park. Magnificent coastlines, great ice fields, abundant glaciers, remote islands and snow capped volcanoes kept our eyes and our cameras busy. Then swooping low over flat grasslands with a chain of volcanoes as a backdrop, and landing on the soft grey sand of a beach. After a repeat run down of the safety measures - really just keeping close together to appear to be a single larger creature - we set off in a close crocodile line down the beach and eventually up the estuary of a small creek. And there, maybe 500 metres away, was a female brown bear lying comfortably by the waterside - with a cub! To everyone's astonishment (except Michael and his colleague, of course), we walked steadily towards her, splashing through shallow tributaries, until we were about 30 metres (yes, that's not a typo) from her, and sat down in a group. She took a look at us, decided we were not worthy of further attention, and went back to sleep, whilst the cub peered over her back at us. About twenty minutes passed by when she suddenly stood up and ambled into the creek, leaving the cub close to us! She caught and ate a salmon, then came back to the cub. Shortly afterwards, a much larger brown bear approached us from behind, walked by 5 metres away (yes, we measured the distance to his huge footprints afterwards) and plodded into the river to fish. For the next 3-4 hours, we followed these two bears, the cub and eventually another female, up and down the creek watching them fishing, or the cub playing. Michael took dozens of photographs, which he does on every trip, and answered our numerous questions - he's been doing this daily for years. He had no weapon at all - just a small flare, which has never been used. The bears in this area have never been hunted and are not afraid of, nor aggressive towards, humans - but they are still wild and Michael treats them with great respect. The trip home was another highlight, lifting of the beach, gaining height, then suddenly seemingly just scraping over the top of a slope and finding oneself virtually inside the flooded crater of one of the volcanoes. The day out was superb, almost an 'out-of-body' experience - could it have really happened? At the end of the trip, Michael told us that all of the photos he took are on the company's website for all to see and download if you wish - and they will stay there. You can also look at thousands of others, from all the trips done previously (and since) over the years. If you only do one thing in Alaska, do this - and don't be afraid - there's not need to be.

5  Thank Jules8Perkins
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 January 2014

Our early July bear watching adventure to Katmai with K-Bay Air started with a check in at their Homer Spit offices for weigh in the afternoon before our trip. We were told to be at their hanger at the Homer airport the next morning at 8am sharp - not 7:45am, not 8:15am. So we arrived a few minutes early and parked down the end of the airport road. The reason for the exactness is that the gate to the K-Bay hanger is always locked, so they have to come out and let people in. We pulled in right at 8am, grabbed our gear, and headed into the hanger. After a quick briefing and outfitting with some snazzy hip waders we headed out to the planes. We knew the planes sat 5 plus the pilot, with a 250# per person weight limit. I was around 270 when I booked, and got their ok for that. What we didn't expect was to get split up. Bev ended up in the lead plane with the owner of K-Bay Air, Michael, and I ended up in the second plane, with Aex, who was to be our guide for the day as well. She had 5 people in her plane, but we only had 3 in ours. Granted we were three big guys, but with two open seats, I was surprised that we couldn't fly together. That said, safety first!

On the other hand, these Cessna 206 planes were TINY inside. When they say that they seat 5 plus the pilot, they mean five tiny clowns that could fit in a shoebox. While I'm not a fan of flying, it wasn't the flight that stressed me so as much as the tiny cramped quarters. I was wedged in there pretty good, and few minutes into the flight it felt like I was developing a leg cramp. If I had, there would have been no way to stretch it out, so I sat there terrified for most of the trip that I was going to seize up at any moment. So in-between panic attacks, I tried to focus on taking photos, checking out the views between the clouds of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains as we headed SW from Homer towards Katmai. As pretty as it was leaving the Kenai, I wasn't prepared for how exotic (the massive glaciers) and lush (surreal shades of green everywhere) the approach flight along the Katmai coast was going to be...

We saw all sorts of games trails crisscrossing the thick meadows between the mountains and the coastline, with the occasional speck of a Brown bear to help build the anticipation. We even saw some out on the beach doing some clam digging. A bit further down the coast we reached famous Hallo Bay. We were able to see the overnight camping area as the plane continued south a bit, then banked left for our landing on the beach!!! The landing was cool as we touched down, yet we were still rolling along at a decent clip when Axe cut the plane sharply to the right, and the left wheel half buried itself in the soft sand, bringing us to a quick, if effective halt!

The first order of business before heading out was an all out in nature pit stop. This may be the only time in our lives that this will happen, but while the men were sent down to the waterfront, our guides climbed the berm at the top of the beach to make sure there were no bears taking a relaxing snooze by the soothing sound of the waves breaking on the beach. Then the ladies who needed to headed over the top to rest. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I was my wife, even after the area being given the all clear!

That business attended to, we all headed over the hill and towards the interior. The backdrop was surreal as there was a thick, low cloud cover overhead, with lush, waist high + grass in a variety of green hues. The air was thick and expectant, moisture heavy, yet it never rained on us while we were there. To the right and left, mountains towered above the coast in the distance, and straight ahead there was a distant rock outcrop at the back of the coastal plain, with a fog shrouded glacier descending from the misty clouds well beyond. The salt grass plains were bisected by meandering creeks and streams that crisscrossed the grassland.

We made our way inland, using the game trails created by the bears as they had been making their way through this coastal areas for weeks, searching for the sweetest grasses and marking out their territories. It was both cool AND creepy! Aex told us that when moving, we were to stay in a single file line and not spread out, and that if anyone wanted to stop and take photos, that was fine and just let him know. Just do NOT stop and let the group separate from you. Aex informed us that despite how huge the bears were, if they were bedded down in the grass, you could almost step on them before you would see them.

Once we came upon a bear to watch, we would spread out in a line facing the bear, and then take a knee. If a bear became aggressive, he would tell us to stand up, and make ourselves as big as possible. If all else failed, he would light up a magnesium road flare, which he said absolutely terrifies a bear and sends it running in the opposite direction. As I was bringing up the rear of our little bear snack train, I was tasked with checking behind us in case a bear popped up that we could "view". Instead of spotter I called it rear guard protection/first line of defense from an end around ambush!

So, despite my proclivity to take a LOT of photos, my wife & I followed the rules. That said, not everyone in our intrepid little band did. There were two couples in our group of 8 (plus Aex), that were from overseas and English was not their primary language, and communication during the day sometimes proved challenging. The first couple in the group didn't have a problem lagging behind, but the poor gentleman did have a tough time walking and staying on his feet, slipping and falling several times during our adventure, and he was not a young man. In all seriousness I was worried we'd be carrying him back to the plane before the day ended. The gentleman in the second couple apparently had a death wish, as he spent a good part of the day off and on stopping without saying anything or wandering away from the group. It was so bad at one point, I gave up my rear guard duties as I wasn't going to become bear dinner thanks to his foolishness. Towards the end of the walk, Aex made the two of them move to the head of the line right behind him. Bev called it putting them in the bear watching version of "time out".

Before we found our first bear of the day, we found plenty of bear signs. In one of the many shallow pools of water that dotted the landscape, we massive bear tracks in the mud in the bottom of many of them. Moving further along, we found a spot where a VERY large bear had bedded down in a shallow depression near the grass line. While it was interesting to see the spot, what made the memory indelible was the big piles of bear dung scattered around the spot in a semi-circle. It was explained to us that it was a bear way of marking off the area as theirs so another bear won't take their bed. I'm SO glad that people don't follow the same process...

Moving just a bit further along, we came upon another tour group and...our first bear of the day! As alone as we were 100+ miles from Homer, there were three other similar sized groups working their way through the same area. So while it was stunningly quiet, we were not completely alone out there. It was awesome the see our first wild brown bear at this range, roughly 150 feet or so. After a minute or two, the bear stood up, turned it's rear towards us, urinated, then laid back down and appeared to go to sleep. While we would never let down our guard during the day, the bear couldn't have done more to make us feel as though she could have cared less about our being there, which kept the adrenaline from becoming overwhelming. Since the other group was still there, and the bear was out for the count, we moved on in search of more encounters!

Now that we'd broke the ice, we started to see bears all over. Several were way away from us to the south, but we circled counterclockwise away to the right. A short while later we happened upon a blonde female bear. Her coat was much lighter than most of the other bears we saw, which were for the most part much darker. This bear was less than 100 feet away - but we'd get closer yet!!! Aex next led us into the river for a short while, then moved ahead just a bit to scout around the bend. He came back with a smile and had us cross the river and move up on the far bank. Down around the bend in the river, a large male was laid out, sleeping in the middle of the riverbed. We moved a bit closer, but the big bear never stirred...

Here was where we were able to pause a moment to get some good photos ops, including photos of each group with the bear in the background. While we had already seen a lot of bears, they had all been spread out so far. Now we were going to start to see several bears together in fairly close proximity...to each other, and us...

We were still circling counterclockwise, but headed deeper into the grassy plain, the tree line and the large rocky outcropping in the distance growing larger. Aex asked me to glass the rocky ridgeline with my long camera lens as he said there was a resident wolf pack, whose den was located nearby. He said that it wasn't uncommon to see the mother bring the pups out on the rocks to look down upon vast plain below. Unfortunately, no such luck today. However, the bears were adding up! We were approaching two tour groups. One of the big males we were watching was slowly but surely grazing his massive self towards the closest group

Time was cruising right along, and the next thing we knew it was lunchtime! Before we actually broke out our own lunches, we watched a big male settle in for his. This was one of the most amusing things we saw the whole trip. The big bear was walking along grazing when he stopped and sat down. We had merged with one of the other groups, and their guide said if we were lucky, we'd see just how lazy a big bear could be. When asked to elaborate, he went on to explain that this particular bear was so lazy sometimes that he would actually lay down on his stomach to eat. Better yet, once he was cleaned out the area he could reach, he would DRAG himself forward a few inches at a time, and continue nibbling the sweet grass. Lucky us, we got to see it up close!!! It’s one of the nice things about going with guides who have experience and know what they're doing, including being tuned into the habits of the animals they regularly see.

Finally, we stopped for our own lunch break. So how far did we go from the closest bear (the biggest male we saw all day!) to make sure we didn't tempt the bears into sharing OUR lunch foods? Somewhere between 50-75 feet...

seriously...

There was a large, weather-worn tree trunk truck lying across the top of a small rise right near the big bear. The 9 of us spread out, sitting side by side, quieting unpacking our lunches, all the while watching this massive, magnificent creature. So, famed for its skills as one of the most dangerous predators on earth, here we sit, 9 meaty meals (me the most), the absolute stillness broken only by the sound of the bear tearing and eating the sedge grass. A bit later I was looking over my shoulder, across one of the many streams bisecting the area, and saw two young males starting sparring. To say that this outing was a singularly transcendent moment in my life would still be an understatement. If you have ever thought about doing this kind of trip - don't - just book it!

About lunch: In case you were wondering, there were only two rules about what we could bring for food.

1) NO FISH! No fish, ever. Even though the salmon wouldn't start running for a few more weeks in this area. We did NOT want to confuse the bears.

2) Nothing crumbly. The cardinal rule was to make sure that there was NO trace of food left behind, so that the bears would not learn to associate people with being a food source.

We had one more fantastic experience on our lunch break. As I was finishing up my sandwich, I spotted movement WAY off in the distance, a wispy white figure making its way through the tall grass. I picked up my big camera and lens and found to my delight that it was a wolf - a first for us! For the next 5 minutes or so, we watched the wolf move a fast trot, covering the better part of a mile or more in just a short amount of time. Finally reaching the very back of the grassy plain, the wolf climbed up on the driftwood marking the transition zone into the forest, the wolf paused, look over its shoulder at us, and then vanished off into the woods...

Lunch over, we were headed back to the beach and the planes, but still managed to see a few more bears along the way. One more river crossing to go!!! Just after the river crossing, Aex held up the group. He was rummaging around on the ground, like he lost the keys to the plane or something!!! Fortunately he was forging, not searching. He came back to the group with a handful of sedge grass. He offered each of us a piece to try, so we could have a truly visceral bear-like experience. It was, as he aptly described, both a bit salty and sweet. I wouldn't want to eat a bowlful, but I could see if added to a salad!

One more cool moment just a bit before we got back to the beach was a spot where Aex showed us where a really big male had walked though the area we were in. He showed us the big depressions in the ground where the bear had walked, grinding theirs massive paws into the ground to literally leave an impression on/for others to see and in theory fear. Then it was back onto the beach, with time for another "pit stop", photos of each group by the planes, then it was off to Homer! It's absolutely amazing how short a distance those little Cessna 206s need to take off!

The flight back was generally uneventful. Cloudy for most of the flight, the clouds began to thin out as we completed the run across the Cook Inlet and entered Kachemak Bay. We were able to have a much clearer view of the shoreline below the Kenai Mountains. The water looked totally different under the brighter light of midday, a bit deeper and richer shade of blue in the deeper water. Then...finally...yes, we returned to find sunshine warming the Homer Spit! After nothing but thick, solid cloud cover, the bright sunshine was a welcome sight. Most people we talked to said they hadn't seen the sun in weeks!

Aex brought the plane down effortlessly, and after reaching the K-Bay hanger, I was able to finally extricate myself from my tiny tin can back seat (where I was also in charge of life raft deployment had we landed in the water at some point). I was relieved to be back on the ground safe and sound! He was a great guide and pilot, and was kind enough to pose for pictures with us before we went in and turned in our waders. That was the only time my wife didn't have a smile on her face - she LOVED her waders! A fantastic experience to say the least – words really don’t do the experience justice – hence my long review in an effort to at least ry! Thanks again to Aex and the rest of the team at K-Bay Air for helping us have an amazing time viewing bears in the wild – an experience we’ll never forget, and that we hope to have again the next time we visit Alaska!

15  Thank WalleyeLJ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 December 2013

My wife and I went on one of K Bay's bear viewing flights on August 26, 2013. We had a full plane- our guide Jared and 5 "visitors". Jared was a great pilot, flying down low as we went to Katmai so we could see moose, bears, and the great scenery. As soon as we landed and got out of the plane, the first bear came wandering by, just checking us out.

Jared led us around the area and we saw numerous bears, inluding a mother bear with a cub. Jared was an exceptional guide, he made us feel safe and at ease and answered all our questions (even the dumb ones!)

Near the end of our stay, we all sat down on the beach and watched about eight bears at one time. They were trying to catch fish, trying to take fish from each other, and generally just doing bear things. I think we saw over a dozen bears total.

As other reviews have said, this was truly the highlight of our 2-week vacation to Alaska. I highly recommend theis tour.

4  Thank Dennis D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 November 2013

This was the high light of our 2-week tour in Alaska. Worth every dime. Our pilot was excellent, the view was awesome, and the bears simply crazy and unbelievable. We went to an Africa Safari trip last year, this is as good as our Africa trip. Both trips were once-in-a life time experiences, except this one is much closer to home and easier to plan/execute. Being so close, face to face with the brown bears was just incredible.

1  Thank Jen_Xia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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