If you’re considering going on one of the wonderful bear tours offered by a top specialist wildlife travel company, you might be rather surprised at your choice of destinations. Finland is one of the lesser-known destinations for bear tours but it offers many wonderful opportunities for sighting these impressive creatures.
The Brown Bears of Finland
The Brown Bear is, in fact, Finland’s national animal, however there are thought to be only around 1000 left in the country-consequently they are now a protected species. Because the animals inhabit areas very close to the border with Russia, it is actually the Russians who have reinforced the Finnish efforts to conserve them.
On organised bear tours to Finland, you will visit the vast wilderness that constitutes the habitat on the Russian border with Finland. Martinselkonen Nature Reserve is one of the most popular places to see the Brown Bear. At 300km from Oulu and 100km from Kuusamo it is very much out of the way and is the ideal place for the animals to exist without fear for their safety. On a good night, those hoping to see these magnificent creatures might be fortunate enough to encounter up to 15-20.
When to Go
The best time for sightings is from the middle of April to the beginning of June when the bears have just woken from hibernation, and then from the start of July until the middle of August when they’re concentrating on feeding. The time in between is rutting time and, as they’re not so concerned with foraging for food they are not as easily seen.
What to Expect
There are various bear tours on offer, but the best should include transport, accommodation and an expert guide. While on the trip you will spend time in special ‘hides’ in the evenings when the animals are at their most active; these hides are the perfect sites from which to observe the animals. Photographic opportunities abound and there is plenty of space in the hides for the entire group to observe and photograph at the same time. They are also equipped with bunk beds and a toilet should you want to rest while waiting for the action. Martinselkonen also offers several hides for professional photographers, which accommodate two or three people at a time.
During the day most itineraries will offer ample time to explore the local area, keeping your eyes open for some of the resident birds such as the Ural Owls, Siberian Tit and Pied Flycatcher.
If you’re considering one of the excellent bear watching tours on offer, make sure you add Finland to your list of countries to consider-you won’t be disappointed.