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  • Writer's pictureEmerald Air Service

Why We Don't "Guarantee Bears": A Philosophy of Bear Viewing

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

If you’ve spent any time looking around for a bear viewing operator in Homer or Anchorage, you will quickly find that some operators offer a “guarantee” while others don’t. We get this question often because other bear viewing operators offer such a guarantee. So do we? No, Emerald Air Service does not guarantee bears. This short article explores what this bear viewing guarantee is and how it might play out on days when bears are hard to find.

How Bear Viewing Works

Bear watching, like any other recreational animal viewing, must find said bears. In our case, we take a short 60 minute flight by float plane into Katmai National Park and Preserve from Homer, Alaska.

Once we reach our desired location within Katmai, we scout for bears from the plane at a respectable altitude before landing. The pilot and guide will be looking for bears but also for things happening on the ground that will suggest bears—habitat, fish in a stream, condition of sedge meadows, etc. After landing, we hike towards the locations where we spotted bears to enjoy watching theses amazing creatures while giving them their space. Some days bears are out and everywhere, and we can see 20 or more easily. On other days, however, it can take a lot of hiking to find them.

Brooks Falls

Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to some of the finest bear viewing locations in the world. If you have seen a picture or a video of salmon jumping up a waterfall into the mouth of a waiting brown bear, that was very likely taken from the world-famous Brooks Falls, pictured below.

Photo Credit: Melissa Karrigan

Guided Trip into Katmai Bush

Katmai also has beautiful bear country outside of the world-famous Brooks Falls. On our guided trip, we’re moving through Katmai’s bush through areas where bears congregate. This happens to be our most popular trip because it provides the quintessential bear viewing experience—enjoying brown bears in their world.

What is a Bear Viewing Guarantee?

A bear viewing “guarantee” is just like it sounds. It insures your investment by guaranteeing you will see the bears you’re paying to go see. Pretty good, right? It would seem so, but, what does it really mean? It’s a question you should ask when comparing trips. Does it mean bears are close and accessible? Or does it mean one bear a mile away? Or does it mean a bear spotted from the air while flying overhead? Ask yourself what it means to you.

You Cannot Guarantee the Wild

The principle is this: you cannot guarantee bears anymore than you can guarantee the weather. This is no theme park full of rides, or some bear version of Jurassic Park. These are wild animals and we’re in their home. We fly into Katmai and trek around their lands. Their presence simply cannot be guaranteed. If one is clever, they can find the bears. But it is what it is and we roll with the punches.

There are better times of the season than others for greater numbers of bears—but on any day you may not see as many bears as were sighted the day before. Why? Because it is a wild place and no days are the same.

Why We Don’t Guarantee Bears

A bear viewing guarantee smells of gimmicks. And here at Emerald Air Service we’re not about gimmicks, but a well-rounded, robust bear viewing experience that educates you about the bears and their world. It’s about so much more than the number of bears—it’s a privilege to spend a day in their world.

We Only Guarantee that Seeing Bears Changes You

The only guarantee we offer is a life changing experience. Adventuring into Katmai National Park, a land filled with Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears, is an experience that changes the way you see and interact with your world—and theirs.

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