Seeing a black bear up close is, on one hand quite scary and the other hand amazing! Where to see bears in Alaska? How can you get up close to a bear without it attacking you? Where is the best place in Alaska to see a bear?
Which is the best port in Alaska to go bear watching? This is a must-see experience when going on an Alaskan cruise and Ketchikan to the place to see black bears.
In Ketchikan, Alaska (USA) in the heart of the rainforest surrounded by the greenery of hemlock, spruce and Alaskan cedar trees by a stream full of spawning salmon. This is where the black bears gather to feed on salmon to get ready for hibernation.
You can safely get up close and watch them feed, walking around the stream and forest and taking a nap!
Best Tours to Go Bear Watching in Ketchikan Alaska
You can go on bear watching tours with the cruise line or privately. I went on a tour with the cruise line called the ‘Bear Country & Wildlife Expedition’.
It was a small group tour (around 8 people) with a naturalist. We were given a safety induction as were not at the zoo, we were going into the bear’s environment.
If you had food in your backpack it had to be taken out and put in a locked box away from the bears, otherwise
We were told to keep quiet and to keep together, no wandering off on our own and always follow the guide.
We walked through the forest up to the elevated boardwalk, which was the viewing platform area which was a wooden walkway above the stream and the forest ground. This way we were safely away from the bears but close enough to see them.
What happens on the bear watching tour?
Our naturalist tour guide was keeping her eyes open for bears, eagles and other wildlife. We were extremely lucky the day we went as, as soon as we were about to walk through the forest to the viewing platform our guide spotted a bear in the long grass.
Then when we started walking along the boardwalk and we saw another bear in the stream looking for salmon to eat. Then one
We continued to walk slowly around the boardwalk that is a trail around the forest. It is so peaceful and all you can hear is the birds tweeting away if you closed your eyes you would think you were listening to a meditation app.
One bear got very close and look up at me, I was a little scared! But then it ran off with a salmon in its mouth into the forest to eat what he had just caught.
Like I said we were very lucky to see so many bears and it is not guaranteed to see any bears, as you are in nature
When is the best time for Seeing Bears?
Go early in the morning – go on the first tour available. We went at 7 am and it was an early start but worth it.
Go on a wet day, if it is raining you have a higher chance of seeing bears as they like the rain. If it is a sunny warm day, you may not see any bears as they do not like warm sunshine.
The best time of year to go bear spotting is late august to September as they are getting ready to hibernate, so they eat a lot of salmon for the winter months to pass by.
What else may I see on the tour?
On the walk through the forest, you may see salmon, bald eagles, ravens, seagulls and other birds. You will see lots of trees and plants. At the end of the trail, we went to a historic sawmill to see master native carvers carving a totem pole.
Totem poles features are completely hand-carved and a work of art. The poles are made from Alaskan cedar trees and painted with household paint as the original method would not last very long!
There were also rescued wildlife that could not cope in the wild anymore due to injuries. We saw bald eagles, an owl and reindeer.
What to Wear When Bear Watching
Wear comfortable waterproof walking shoes/boots, as you are walking through the forest on uneven paths. Wear layers and a waterproof jacket as the tour will go on if it is raining.
The main thing in Alaska is to wear layers, wear waterproof shoes and a jacket and be prepared for rain or shine, warm or cold. Always better to be prepared.
My favourite clothing items for Alaska are:
- The North Face Fleece Jacket – I have had mine for nearly ten years and it still looks like new! It washes well and goes with everything. I wear it under a warm jacket if it is especially cold or as a jacket if it is a warmer day.
- The North Face Gloves – I have had mine for five years and they keep me warm and I can use them without taking them off to use my iPhone and camera as they are not bulky, and they have the special material that you can use on touch screens.
- Uniqlo Quilted Jacket – This my favourite brand of lightweight jackets as they roll up into a little bag, so you can take them anywhere. They are very warm, and they are waterproof, and they come in nice colours.
- Northwest Hiking Boots – These are a new item to my Alaska uniform and they are very lightweight and that is essential when travelling as they must go in your luggage. They come in nice colours and they are very comfortable, warm and keep the rain out.
- Bart’s Bobble Hat – Love these hats as they are not itchy! They have a fleece lining, so they are soft and comfortable to wear.
- Cashmere Scarf – Cashmere is the best as it is so soft. I bought mine in Edinburgh and it is by Lochmere.
- The North Face backpack – A backpack is essential in Alaska for bringing water, camera’s, layers and an umbrella. Once it is on your back it is out of the way and better for your back.
- I always bring a few pairs of jeans, thermal leggings to go underneath for cold days, thermal tees, sweaters and an umbrella. My cold cruise packing guide is very helpful if you need ideas on what to bring on an Alaskan cruise read more here.
- Anker portable battery – I do not leave the ship without this as my phone battery never lasts very long between taking photos, videos and using my 4G. This portable phone charger quickly charges my phone.
Black Bear Roundup
- Best time to see black bears is late August to September.
- The best port on an Alaskan cruise to see black bears is Ketchikan.
- Go early in the morning to see the bears.
- Dress in layers and wear waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket.
- Remember sighting is not guaranteed as the bears are in their natural habitat not in a zoo.
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