Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain - 2024 01Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain - 2024 01Join me in the northern Yukon Territory for one of the most amazing wildlife photo safaris on the planet! Photograph grizzly bears (brown bears) in one of the wildest and most intimate settings possible.

The Bear Cave Mountain camp is at the core of the Ni’iinlii’njik (“where fish spawn”) Territorial Park, located a little south of the Arctic Circle in the northern Yukon Territory. The area is extremely remote (2+ hrs by helicopter from Dawson City) and strictly managed.

Our trip is in run conjunction with guide Phil Timpany at Nakina Adventures, who has over many years worked closely in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to develop the Bear Cave Mountain camp and bear viewing business.

Phil has been coming to this area for 30-years and knows the personalities and family lineage of many of the bears.

Only 28 people get access to Bear Cave Mountain each autumn during grizzly bear viewing season, 7 groups of 4 individuals.

 

Grizzlies of Bear Cave Mountain

A unique and exclusive photography safari

 

Friday, October 11 to Tuesday, October 22, 2024

Ni‘iinlii Njik Territorial Park & Wilderness Preserve, Yukon

1 space left - reserve now to secure this spot!
 

CAD $20450 (about USD $16850; £12050 using May 2021 exchange rates)

All-inclusive price covers: all transport, meals, and accommodation after arrival in Whitehorse, and all Canadian sales tax

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

Note that I also have Bear Cave Mountain safaris running in autumn 2022, 2023, 2025, and 2026 - see my schedule for details

 

 

Join me, Murray Rudd, in the northern Yukon Territory for one of the most amazing photo safaris on the planet!

Photograph grizzly bears (brown bears) in one of the wildest and most intimate settings possible.

The Bear Cave Mountain camp is at the core of the Ni’iinlii’njik (“where fish spawn”) Territorial Park, located a little south of the Arctic Circle in the northern Yukon Territory. The area is extremely remote (2+ hrs by helicopter from Dawson City) and strictly managed.  

Our trip is in run conjunction with local guide Phil Timpany at Nakina Adventures, who has over many years worked closely in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to develop the Bear Cave Mountain camp and bear viewing business.

Phil has been coming to this area for 30-years and knows the personalities and family lineage of many of the bears.

Only 28 people get access to Bear Cave Mountain each autumn during grizzly bear viewing season, 7 groups of 4 individuals.

This Bear Cave Mountain safari is limited to a maximum of 4 individuals: 3 guests and myself.

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Who is this safari for?

This safari is meant for adventurous photographers who want a profound and personal wilderness experience.

We will capture images that reflect the up-close and very personal encounters we have with these amazingly intelligent bears.

In addition to the grizzly bears, we may also see wolves, caribou, moose, martens, and even wolverines. 

Physically, this is a relatively easy trip with walking on forest paths of distances up to about 1-km to shoot locations.

 

Grizzly winter portraitGrizzly winter portraitGrizzly bear in a snow storm, Fishing Branch River, Yukon, 26 October 2018. This is an almost smiling female grizzly watching for salmon (she was about 20 ft distant at this point).

Above: a female grizzly portrait shot from about 20-25 ft (7-8 m) distance
 

Below: Bear Cave Mountain camp - our home for 7-nights (notice the bear prints on the boardwalk)


 

Our safari schedule

Our overall schedule is built around a core shooting schedule that includes 6 full days and 2 half days at Bear Cave Mountain. To get in and out of the Yukon, we allow 2 extra days at each end so that we have flexibility in case of weather-related travel complications in Dawson City.

Day 1 (Friday 11 Oct 2024)

Arrive Whitehorse International Airport (airport code YXY); overnight at the Coast High Country Inn (single)

Day 2 (Saturday 11 Oct 2024)

Fly from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the early morning. We have a full day free to explore and photograph the historical buildings of this famous gold rush hub and the local trail network; overnight at the Aurora Inn (single)

Day 3 (Sunday 11 Oct 2024)

In the morning we head out by helicopter, passing through the spectacular Tombstone Mountain range and open tundra, to Bear Cave Mt, a 2+ hour flight (watch for caribou herds on the way); after arrival and lunch, we will be out on the shore of the Fishing Branch River for our first photo session; overnight at Bear Cave Mt camp (shared cabin)

Day 4 (Monday 11 Oct 2024) to Day 9 (Saturday 19 Oct 2024)

All day photography on the shores of the Fishing Branch River; overnight at Bear Cave Mt camp (shared cabin)

Day 10 (Sunday 20 Oct 2024)

After our final morning photo session, we wait for the chopper to arrive and whisk us back to Dawson City; overnight at the Aurora Inn (single)

Day 11 (Monday 21 Oct 2024)

We fly from Dawson City south to Whitehorse in mid-afternoon. Friday evening we will have a farewell dinner in Whitehorse; overnight at the Coast High Country Inn (single)

Day 12 (Tuesday 22 Oct 2024)

Depart Whitehorse for national and international connecting flights

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

 

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Above: on the way in, we have one full day to explore and photograph historic Dawson City

 

Below: up close and personal with grizzly bears

 

 

What's included?

Once you step off the plane in Whitehorse on October 11th, all food, accommodation, and tour expenses are covered 

Transfers to/from Whitehorse airport to hotel

Hotel accommodation on Day 1 (Coast High Country Inn standard room, single accommodation)

All meals starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with farewell dinner on Day 11

Round-trip flight Whitehorse-Dawson City with Air North

Hotel accommodation on Day 2 (Aurora Inn standard room, single accommodation)

Group helicopter flight from Dawson City to Bear Cave Mountain

All meals and accommodation (shared log cabin) at Bear Cave Mountain camp

Accommodations on the way out: Days 10 (Aurora Inn) and 11 (Coast High Country Inn): 

All park access and guiding fees

Canadian sales tax is also included in this all-inclusive package price

 

Not included:

Canadian tourist visa, if needed

Travel and evacuation insurance

Airfare to get to Whitehorse

Tips and gratuities

Personal gifts and spending

Alcohol

Food other than with regular meals

Excess baggage charges (see the FAQ)

Any costs to compensate for delayed / cancelled flights

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Above: our ride taking off from the shore of the Fishing Branch River

 

Below: our experiences with the grizzlies are 'unfiltered' (no hides, no baiting - we are out with the bears in their world)

Fishing Branch photography set-upFishing Branch photography set-upI've had a number of people ask me about how we were shooting at the Fishing Branch River (Bear Cave Mountain). Our main viewing area for the week (for 4 photographers) was along a flat bit of an isthmus between the Fishing Branch River (off to the right and behind) and this side slough, where there were around 150 chum salmon spawning. The bears came down trails just behind the bear in the stream most often, but sometimes came down another path just behind where I was sitting (at most, 2 m from my head!). The bears used all this part of the stream for hunting salmon and occasionally walked right past in front of us (3 m or so). This picture was shot at 16mm on a full frame camera, so you can figure from there how close the bear was in reality (about 5 m at the moment) - given the speed at which they could accelerate that would be the equivalent of a second or so to lunch over our way. We rotated positions each day we were there - while we all agreed there that it was to get different vantage points, I'm not entirely convinced that it wasn't to share the risk of being at the sharp end of a charge ;-). Taken at Bear Cave Mountain, Yukon Territory, 27 October 2018.

 

What should you bring?

You will receive a recommended kit list from me prior to departure. We will have some strict weight limits on the chopper flight, so you have to be very selective in the camera kit you bring (see FAQ). In brief, you should bring:

– two camera bodies –

– a tripod and head –

– wide-angle, mid-range, and telephoto lenses –

– a laptop computer or tablet, charging and storage devices –

– warm clothing (if needed, winter boots and winter camo suits are provided by Bear Cave Mt camp) –

 

Click here to express your interest for this safari

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Above: snack time - once bears catch a salmon they typically head into the woods for a few minutes for their snack, then get back to fishing

 

Below: moose are also common along the Fishing Branch River (and caribou herds sometimes move through the area)

 

Below: a northern timber wolf wading across the Fishing Branch River Wolf in a riverWolf in a riverA timber wolf halfway across the Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 28 October 2018.

 

FAQ

How safe is this trip?

This safari has a number of risk factors. First, and probably foremost, is that we are flying on relatively small turboprop planes and in helicopters in the Arctic. Weather conditions in this part of the world can be challenging but northern pilots are famous for the flying skills.

At Bear Cave Mountain, we are out on trails and on river shores in very close (5-m or 15- to 20-ft) proximity to one of the world's greatest predators. Fortunately their favorite food is salmon eggs, so they should be healthy, happy, and fat bears at this time of year.

Still, they are potentially dangerous and we always have a local guide with us who carries a shotgun and is always watching our local environment (bears can be amazingly quiet coming out of dense bush). In all the time that photographers have been visiting Bear Cave Mountain, it has never been necessary to shoot a bear. Because of the protocol in place to manage human-bear interactions (e.g., using only specific viewing sites where the bears know they may see humans, by avoiding quick movements and loud talking, and by being extremely clean at our viewing sites, not leaving any food scraps that might get bears associating humans with feeding opportunities), grizzly bears are essentially indifferent to photographers in their presence. Humans are not viewed as competition for salmon, nor as a threat, so we aren't really worthy of any effort whatsoever by the bears! They have better things to do!!

I have added some unedited videos of the trip in, which helps give you an idea of some of the flavor of the tour (and some of the risk factors). Click here to get to that page.

Will we see ice bears on this safari?

Bear Cave Mountain is most famous for 'ice bears.' This 2024 safari slot is in mid-October, so we should have some 'ice bears' during this week as temperatures start to drop to the -10 to -20 C range typical for this time of year. 

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Below: a mid-October 'ice bear'

Ice mist grizzly bearIce mist grizzly bearA grizzly on the bank of the Fishing Branch River. Taken on a cold October morning, near the Arctic Circle, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018.

 

Why do grizzly bears gather here?

The Fishing Branch River is quite unique in that it has warm spring water percolating up through the gravel beds where chum salmon spawn. This is an extremely late run of salmon that have adapted to the unique conditions here. For grizzlies, this is like a pre-winter buffet that allows them to gorge on very nutritious salmon eggs prior to waddling up the side of the mountain above, where there happens to be caves perfect for their overwintering slumber. Earlier in the viewing season, there tends to be more bears exploring more fishing sites. Later in the season, there tends to be fewer bears doing regular 'rounds' of preferred fishing sites.  

 

Claws!Claws!Claws of a grizzly bear, Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 27 October 2018.

 

What kind of camera(s) should I bring?

Bring a camera(s) that you are comfortable with, that is reliable, and that can fire quick bursts for bear fishing action. This trip is also suitable for photographers shooting video. In my view reliability is the most important factor to consider. The last thing one would ever want was a camera malfunction on a trip like this. Personally, I stick with DLSRs for this reason (I bring a Canon 1DX ii as my primary body, with a second DLSR as back-up). Bringing a mirrorless and DLSR would also be a good combination.

You should consider three lens options: a medium to long telephoto; a mid-range zoom or portrait lens; and a wide angle. On my last visit to Bear Cave Mountain, I brought my Canon 200-400mm with internal extender (so 200-560mm range) plus an external 1.4X extender. I found that this reach was overkill and all my best images were shot between 250mm and 500mm range. Bears behave differently each year, however, so in some years a longer lens could be useful. Personally, my plan for the future safaris will likely be to bring my 300mm f/2.8 with a single 1.4X extender.

Last visit I brought my Canon 85-mm f/1.2 portrait lens. I used it for shooting some video and for close-up details of bear claws (above). I found it a little short, so next trip will more likely bring a lightweight 70-200mm f/4 or a 100-mm f/2.8 portrait lens. For a wide angle, you might consider something in the 16-mm to 35-mm range (there can be some stunning sunsets at Bear Cave Mt and a wide-angle is also useful for shooting in Dawson City).  If you are shooting on a cropped sensor, consider that I was on full frame cameras and adjust accordingly.  

Also bring a sturdy tripod and head. Even if you prefer to shoot hand-held action shots, the tripod can be useful just as a place to keep your camera handy (we will be sitting for some long periods).

What clothing should I bring?

Expect winter conditions in mid-October, as we are just 100-km (60-miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Bring multiple layers, durable pants (e.g., soft-shell), a warm jacket, hat, and mitts (I like fingerless gloves inside mitts in which I can also roll back the ends and get my fingertips free). Bring waterproof outerwear in case it rains or gets really cold. Bear Cave Mountain camp will supply warm winter hunting camo suits and winter boots. You should be counting on temperatures dropping to as low as -25 C  (-13 F) overnight with days hovering around the -5 to -10 C mark. Each cabin has a small woodstove that keeps sleeping conditions warm most of the night. You may want to have some synthetic base layers for sleeping.  

How much stuff can I bring?

You have two considerations: the Dawson City scheduled flight and the helicopter ride. Officially the Air North flight has some pretty severe gear restrictions, especially for carry-on (10-kg). You have 20-kg of checked bags allowed, with overweight charged at around CDN $2.75 per kg. In practice, it seems that hand baggage does not get closely scrutinized but that is a dangerous thing to count on when traveling with expensive camera gear. You may want to consider packing up most of your camera kit in a hard case for the trip to Dawson and bringing only a portion in a camera carry-on pack. You can leave the hard case at our Dawson hotel during our time at Bear Cave Mountain. We need to exercise common sense with regards to the helicopter flight as well as it also brings in fuel, food, and other things needed for camp operations. Technically we will be on a weight limit so you should only count on camera kit plus clothing. Basically think of one camera backpack fully loaded and one moderate size duffel bag.

Do I have to spend all day sitting on a river bank?

It is possible to spend part of the day at the camp should you wish. Our camp is actually a shoot location: grizzlies regularly wander through camp and rub their backs on scratching trees adjacent to our cabins. Many photographers, however, will want to stay out on the river all day, where we may end up sitting in the bush or snow for many hours. When out all day, we bring a packed lunch and have lots of water, coffee, tea, and snacks along.

 


 

What is the food like?

At Bear Cave Mountain camp, our local guides do all the cooking. I can attest the food is hearty and delicious! Vegetarian and vegan options are available if you let me know ahead of time they are required (I am vegetarian).

Do we have internet access?

After we leave Dawson City, we have no internet or cellular connections. The Bear Cave  Mountain Camp has satellite internet connection for emergencies only, and I always carry a Garmin Inreach satellite communication system. If you are not bringing your own Inreach or equivalent, I can provide my contact information for you to use as a point of contact for urgent text messages to/from home . 

What are accommodations like?

In Whitehorse and Dawson City, we stay in comfortable hotels and have single accommodations. At Bear Cave Mountain camp, we need to share the small log cabins - we will endeavor to keep things to same gender but depending on who books in what order, we may need to consider some mixed gender sharing. Bear Cave Mountain camp has a simple shower facility with water heated by wood stove. Toilet facilities are primitive (an outhouse is down a trail, about 25-m from the cabins - an interesting trek at 3 a.m. in bear country!).

 

Sleeping quarters at Bear Cave Mountain camp  


How much does it cost to get to Whitehorse?

If you book your travel early, airfare can be very reasonable to Whitehorse. For example, Los Angeles and Toronto return tickets to Whitehorse for autumn 2020 were in the USD $500 range when booked in the Spring. Late bookings will be substantially more expensive. Whitehorse is serviced by Air Canada, WestJet, and Air North. For most people arriving from a distance, I strongly recommend booking with Air Canada: if you encounter delays on your trip, the odds are much higher with Air Canada that they will be able to reroute and still get you to Whitehorse more or less on time. 

What happens if I have a medical emergency while we are at Bear Cave Mountain camp?

Should we have a medical emergency at camp, the only evacuation option is helicopter. That means that you should have travel insurance that includes helicopter evacuation charges. Because helicopters cannot fly in all weather conditions, it is possible that a medical evacuation could take some time. Our local guides are trained in first aid and I am a trained Wilderness First Responder - our training is, however, meant to help stabilize people sick or injured in remote locations, not to provide ongoing medical care or advice. 

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes. Besides providing you with compensation if you need to cancel your trip prior to departure, good travel insurance will help you if you have problems on your journey to Whitehorse or on the safari.  I suggest that you consider a policy with Global Rescue to cover evacuation expenses and a policy for adventure travel medical treatment (when traveling personally I often use World Nomads).

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Below: packing for the flight to Bear Cave Mountain

 

When are payments due?

The initial payment of CAD $1000 secures your space for the safari and is applied to your 50% deposit. The balance of your 50% deposit (CAD $9225) is due 18-months prior to departure, by midnight Atlantic time on April 11, 2023. Your final balance of CAD $10225 is due 6-months prior to departure, by midnight Atlantic time on April 11, 2024. 

What happens if I need to cancel?

If you need to cancel up to 12 midnight Atlantic time on April 11, 2023, I will provide a full refund less your CAD $1000 deposit. There are no refunds after 11 April 2024. I strongly advise that you arrange travel insurance at the time of your booking to ensure that you are able to get compensation in the event of health or family emergencies.  

I know things happen in life and that this is a very expensive safari, so should you need to cancel late I will certainly make every effort to fill your spot with another photographer. If I can fill your spot, I will refund all payments made less your CAD $1000 reservation fee.  

Do I need to pay Canadian sales tax?

Yes. However, the Canadian sales tax is already build into the price of the safari, so the price you see is the total amount of what you need to pay.

If comparing safari prices with other tour operators, please keep in mind that there are no other extra charges once you reach Whitehorse, either for sales tax, or for food, accommodations, or the Dawson City flight.

How do I pay?

You can transfer your payments directly to my bank account. You can pay by credit card if you wish, but there would be a 9.5% surcharge on the safari price to cover online credit card booking fees.

Does the trip need a minimum number of people to guarantee it runs?

Yes, I need 3 photographers to run this trip. If we are short and you have paid a 50% deposit, you will be offered the opportunity to cover the cost of a vacant space(s) or will receive a full refund of all monies you have paid. 

What happens if Tendrel Images cancels the trip?

If for any reason I need to cancel the safari, you will receive a full refund of all monies you have paid, including the CAD $1000 reservation fee. 

I cannot make the trip in 2024 - can I come in other years?

Yes. I have a double 2-week slots booked for 2023 (20 Sep to 08 Oct) and the season finale in 2026 (19 Oct to 06 Nov). In 2024, I have a unique opportunity from Oct 04-15 for four experienced photographers to travel together without me as a photo guide (the safari immediately preceding this one). In 2025 I have the final slot of the season, prime timing for ice bears.

I am also offering grizzly bear photo safaris in early-August in the Taku Wilderness of northern British Columbia; on those 6-day tours I can take a slightly larger group. This tour is a relatively more economical way to have a very personal experience with grizzly bears.

 

 

I hope you can join me in the Yukon!

Winter grizzly monochromeWinter grizzly monochromeA 3-year old male grizzly on the bank of the Fishing Branch River, Yukon Territory, 23 October 2018