What do a sun bear, a sloth and a polar bear have in common? Despite living in vastly different habitats – think of lush tropical jungles versus barren Arctic tundra – they have some similarities. Learn what these threads are on Nat Hab bear-focused expeditions from Alaska to South Asia, Churchill to China.
In this summary of Nat Hab’s bear adventures across the globe, we include our wildlife tours that include significant opportunities to see bears. Watch grizzly bear cubs sling on a riverbank in Alaska. See giant pandas and moon bears up close in Sichuan. Marvel at a polar bear’s paws the size of a dinner plate as it runs alongside our Polar Rover in the Arctic. And catch a glimpse of American black bears in our country’s favorite national parks.
On all these trips, of course, there are countless other wildlife to see, whether it be orcas and bald eagles on Canada’s far west coast or Asian elephants and Bengal tigers in India. Our small group sizes, experienced natural scientists and passion for wildlife conservation ensure that your experience is not only revealing, but also responsible. Here you can see our favorite bears in the world.
Grizzlies in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
We soar by bush plane into the deep Alaska desert at Cook Inlet, the ice-clad Aleutian Range and Lake Clark National Park. It is here in these remote surroundings, amidst active volcanoes, massive glaciers and pristine beaches, that we first get a glimpse of the mighty brown bears who make their quiet home here. From our sustainable bush camp on a historic farm within 4 million protected acres of the homelands of the ancestors of the Dena’ina people, we head out to one of the world’s most famous destinations to see bears. From an elevated platform and even from the camp, safely protected behind electrified wires, we can see this coastal version of the inner grizzly bear (same species, Ursus arctos) chews its food and communicates through shoots, spun and growls. Whether it’s mother bears with their spring cubs in May or fierce males – up to 1,500 pounds! – Fishing for salmon later in the summer, the possibilities for seeing them are endless.
More Grizzlies in Katmai National Park, Alaska
Experience a rare encounter with Ursus arctos– The largest coastal grizzlies in the world – while partying with mussels, clams, rod and spawning salmon in Katmai National Park. This summer’s generosity produces these arresting brown bears from Alaska that stop you in your tracks while you safely observe them with your expedition leader, an expert bear naturalist. There are no roads along the coast of Katmai, so instead we sail from bay to bay aboard the 73-foot Natural habitat Ursus, to find the best opportunities to see bears and photograph. With only eight guests in our company, it is easy to move undetected without intruding on the bears’ natural habitat. See how these magnificent beasts, North America’s largest land predators, lead their frolicking young along the shoreline, expertly catching a spawning salmon in their huge jaws or even dosing sluggishly in the shade.
Polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba
What at first feels like an illusion becomes an eye-opening reality when you realize that the slowly moving shadow on the large surface of the tundra is a huge polar bear. From the elevated outdoor platform of our Polar Rover, you will be rewarded with a seat in the front row as the large, tousled, cream-colored bear moves across the country, in silhouette towards the horizon – or wanders over to the Rover, which stands just below you below the steel grate floor and shows as much curiosity as we are. The world’s largest concentration of polar bears is gathered here in Churchill while waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze to every year. While watching the big bears interact, from alert mothers and energetic cubs to young males playing and fighting, your Nat Hab expert naturalist will interpret the bears’ behavior and explain how they thrive in such a harsh environment.
Spirit Bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia
To see a special spirit bear is a breathtaking experience that I was fortunate to have while visiting Milbanke Sound in British Columbia. Your own Nat Hab adventure for Great Bear Rainforest, hidden in the distant valleys of the Coast Range on Canada’s far western edge, reveals this pale bear of native legend. Only a few hundred of these bears live in isolation under thousand-year-old cedar and sitka spruce up to 350 feet tall. We look for them with local Gitga’at guides, First Nations people who have lived here among the bears and the rainforest for millennia. The mysterious, creamy white Kermode bear, also known as the “spirit bear”, feeds on the rich salmon streams in the temperate rainforest (one of the largest areas left on Earth). The region is also home to eagles, orcas, wolves, black bears and grizzlies, which we all hope to see as we cross south down the Douglas Channel and into the Coast Range.
Giant pandas in Minshan Mountain, Sichuan, China
Take us into the last wild habitat giant panda– The great rivers, deep gorges and lush forests Minshan Mountains in Sichuan Province. With our exclusive access to animal reserves, we are able to enter a remote, rarely visited national park reserve, where very elusive wild pandas live and breed freely. We also have the chance to volunteer in the care of giant pandas and photograph them up close at three world-renowned panda research centers. While we are here, in little visited wilderness enclaves supported by the World Wildlife Fund, we will see rare Asian black bears (or moon bears), golden snout-nosed monkeys, shaggy takin, Chinese goral, blue sheep and exquisite birds, including golden pheasant. Our unique, carefully crafted itinerary reveals the rarely seen panda habitat and a side of China that most visitors never see.
Sun bears in Borneo, Malaysia
Our exploration of the world’s third largest island – Borneo – takes us into the ancient rainforests, jungle rivers and waterfalls that house a variety of leaping, darting and crawling wildlife. We see endangered orangutans, flying lemurs, leaf monkeys and wild gibbons. If you are attracted to bears, your favorite day may be the one we visit Sun Bear Conservation Centerdedicated to the care, rehabilitation and release of orphans and prisoners sun bears. Take an exclusive private tour with the founder, whom CNN called a “Superman rescuing Malaysia’s sun bears”, or one of his close conservation colleagues. This is the world’s smallest bear species, and although it has a rich habitat on Borneo, it is endangered (if not extinct) in many areas of the Asian mainland due to deforestation and poaching.
Black bears in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, USA
Join us on another Nat Hab nature trip Yellowstone or Glacier National Park and you will surely catch a glimpse of one American black bear. While we often think of massive grizzlies or wonderful polar bears when we think of “bears”, the black bear (the smallest of the continent’s three bear species) is often overlooked and underestimated. They are incredibly adaptable and able to expand their range, so even though you will hopefully see one on a walk in Nat Hab National Park, you can just as easily see one in a holiday cabin or in a mountain town. We will be looking in the northern part of Yellowstone, from Elk Creek to Tower Falls and from Mammoth Hot Springs north to Indian Creek. And in Glacier National Park, we have our binoculars at hand around Avalanche and St. Mary Lakes and along the many glacier trails. As with all our Nat Hab tours, we also take you to rarely visited places where the opportunities for wildlife (not crowds) are more abundant.
Lazy bears in India
meet sloth bear on a Nat Hab India departure and you will see that it is not a sloth at all! It was misclassified in the 18th century, probably due to its woody habits and long claws. Known for its thick, tousled fur, which varies in color from reddish brown to black, the sloth bear is found in the tropical lowland forest in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. On a Nat Hab trip to the Indian subcontinent, we will hopefully get up close and personal with these fascinating bears as we explore three of the country’s best national parks, including Kaziranga and Bandhavgarh. Also look for Bengal tigers, unicorn rhinos, Asian elephants, barking deer and more on safaris in open 4 × 4 vehicles through these varied habitats.
meet the bears of our world on any of these immersive Natural Habitat tours.