Discovering Brown Bears in Finland
Nordic Travel Specialist, Mark, tells us about his bear-watching experience in Finland.
“Nestled on the edge of the Russian border, my night in a bear hide was an unforgettable experience…”
Before our night of bear watching, dinner consisted of a meal of salmon soup followed by meatballs and mashed potatoes with a creamy tomato sauce. On average, a night in a bear hide lasts for approximately fourteen hours and ALWAYS starts with a full stomach. To help you through the night we were also provided with a ‘snack pack’ which contains sandwiches, chocolate bars and a flask of hot water for tea or coffee.
Following our supper, we were guided down to the cluster of hides around 700 metres from the visitor centre. It is recommended that you douse yourself with a generous amount of mosquito spray as the observation hides are dotted around fecund swamp and lake land. Before we set off, Ari suggested that we spent the night in ‘Hide 4’ which is located on the opposite side of the pond to where the bears emerge from the woods and neighbouring Russia. This is also ideal to have the same eye level as the bears and provides excellent photo opportunities. For those taking part in one of the specialist photography courses such as Photographing Wild Brown Bears, you will find yourself in several different hides that offer more choices for creative photography.
Before entering our hide we were told that under no circumstances should be vacate before 7am. This rule is to ensure that the bears have finished feeding and roaming in the area. The hides themselves were basic, with bunk beds, a couple of shelves for camera kit and an eco toilet. The front of the hides are draped in green canvas with adjustable apertures from camera lenses.
No sooner had we settled in, when the first bear ambled in from the distance. What a sight: a huge mass of fur and power and only a few metres away. Throughout the night we were treated to eight or nine spectacular sightings including a wolverine skulking through the grass. Each night is different and during some stays you might be lucky enough to see wolves, elk and eagle owls. Sightings also vary from season-to-season, with springtime more likely to produce bear cub sightings. During the spring, wolves were more active to the human eye as they feed on carrion emerging from the receding snow and ice. Autumn viewing requires a few more layers but is offset by the autumn foliage and chances of observing the bears mating rituals.
A really special night that was exciting and a little scary too!