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Guest report - Finland Bears

We've had loads of great feedback from our lovely guests, so we thought it would be nice to share some of their thoughts and experiences, through our new 'Guest Reports'. If you would like to submit a guest report, please just email it to us at info@wildarena.com


I participated in a 5 day photographic trip with Wild Arena to Finland to see the European Brown Bears during the 3rd week of April in the hope of seeing them emerging from their winter hibernation. The dream was to see them in their natural habitat whilst the snow was still on the ground. Other Wildlife of note would be White Tailed Eagles, Wolverine, Capercaillie and Ravens etc.


Flight to Finland

Our group consisted of only six people. Travelled to Eastern Finland to an old border guard lodge 3km from the Finnish/Russian border, via Helsinki and Kajaani. The mini-bus drive from Kajaani to our base showed the ‘land of a thousand lakes’ shimmering in the moonlight. Would we be lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis en-route?


Or lodgings were of a great standard and the accommodation had everything we needed.

The rooms were a decent size and the provided meals were fantastic providing sustenance for the adventures ahead.


Once unpacked and settled, we explored the surroundings, taking photographs of the birds feeding in the grounds and took a walk down the single track road through the trees. All the time thinking, would I catch a glimpse of my first wild bear?!

Then it was time to ensure all my batteries and camera equipment was primed and ready for our stay in the hides that evening.


Group taking small bird pictures

My wish was coming true. Snow was on the ground and we traveled to the hides for the first of three nights (5pm until 7am), set on a nature reserve where the marshland has picturesque cotton grass during Spring and Summer, via a sledge being towed by snow mobils!

The journey through the forest was other worldly as we made our way down logging tracks and then through narrow, winding tracks through the trees.


Skudo ride into the hides

The hides came into view. Four or five of them in all. We were lucky enough to have a hide to ourselves meaning absolute immersion for what we were about to witness.

Entering the hides, the Finnish guides and Wild Arena gave some safety instructions and secured the door shut for the night. We had all we needed, food, drinks, a heater for the coldest part of the night and plenty of warm clothes packed.

This was it…….


Shortly after the guides departed, I caught sight of my first bears in the distance emerging from the tree line! OMG…. a true goosebumps moment.

They meandered their way to the middle of the snow covered marshland and were approximately 15 - 20 metres, if that, in front of the hides. We had female bears with their juveniles (yearlings) and they were about to tuck into what might have been their first food since awakening from hibernation.

This was a sight to behold, like being in my own David Attenborough wildlife program!

I asked myself, did I have enough memory for all the photographs I was about to shoot!!


The Finnish twilight was ethereal and the back drop of the forest trees catching the crepuscular rays during the golden hour gave the bears a composition and backdrop that I’d only seen in books or on TV. Simply magical.

Over the next couple of nights, male bears also presented themselves amongst the females and young. The hierarchy was clear to see with the females and young keeping their distance from the males.

A sight to behold was a couple of young males squaring up to each other on their hind legs asserting their dominance. A formidable sight (and sound) to see and one that made me thankful to be in the safety of the hide.



The bears had competition for their food from the White Tailed Eagles and Ravens. This gave you an insight into their characters and the playfulness of the younger bears as they ran and chased them off which made for some great photographs!


I experienced a large male bear that walked in between my hide and the one next to me (it was probably 3 metres or so away from me!). He sauntered past, looking left and right and at one point, it felt like we had made eye contact. It felt a very primitive experience and one where I certainly felt I knew who was the apex predator! Wow!!


My third evening experienced a turn in the weather with a snow storm taking place. The snow was drifting and blowing across the landscape. Sensibly, all the animals decided to hunker down and stay where it was sheltered and so not much action took place.

This didn’t feel like a disappointment as it allowed me to experience a different environment from the previous two evenings.

It also gave me a chance to spot in the distance a Wolverine running through the open to the tree cover.


After each evening, we returned to the lodge for a some much needed sleep (if you could sleep after all the excitement!). We then shared our experiences and photographs with each other. Wild Arena imparted valuable & useful hints and tips on how to improve our photography for the following evening.


The other point to note is that this trip is an assault on the senses. Not only is it a visual feast but the noises and smells are also very much heightened!

With no distractions from the modern world such as mobile phones, you literally hear everything, every bird, every bear grunt and snuffle. Every whisper of wind blowing through the landscape.

Remember to take a pair of binoculars too because trust me, you’ll also want to just sit and watch the nights escapades as well as taking photographs.


Overall, I would rate this trip as five star!

It’s well organised, efficiently run and friendly. The experience from Wild Arena, which was almost ‘one on one’ due to our group size, was second to none.

Although there are no guarantees of what might be seen because you’re in an environment trying to watch wild animals, value for money (it is a considered purchase) it was one of the best experiences of my life.


Would I go again, most certainly!!

Thank you Wild Arena.



NB. Did I see the Aurora Borealis?….. sadly, not this time. Maybe next time.



Dan

Cheshire.

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