The camp is located at a delightfully remote spot on the Alaska Peninsula: at the apex of the 15-mile-long Chinitna Bay, at the southern edge of Lake Clark National Park, and 30 miles from Katmai National Park. In other words, this is rich bear country, with a huge bear population that’s been largely uninterrupted by many travelers or air traffic. It’s bordered by two salmon-bearing rivers—a natural bear magnet—and you can see Iliamna volcano and other mountains in the distance.
This experience is meant for a maximum of three couples or six people, with a minimum stay of two nights. You begin by getting picked up in Homer, then flying about 40 minutes (by helicopter to the lodge.) The next day, you typically head out on a fly-out adventure for bear viewing or other activities, then spend the morning of day 3 (or whatever your last day here is) around the camp before heading back to Homer. No matter how long you stay, each full day of your stay includes a fly-out adventure, weather permitting. There are so many options for adventures that you could stay here for two weeks and never do the same thing twice.
Cool Dome Accommodations
Your cabins are a unique blend of back-to-nature bliss and high-tech comfort. The dome units—12 feet high and 250 square feet—are set on wooden platforms with private decks and bay windows. Inside, the domes have Pergo-wood flooring, cozy throw rugs, a queen-sized bed with luxury bedding, lamps, and a propane fireplace. You have a small sink in your dome for washing up (with nearby hot-water showers) as well as a few electrical outlets for charging devices.
All of the domes are connected by wooden walkways, and lead to the public spaces—namely, the Common Dome, where guests gather to discuss the next day’s adventures, and to enjoy meals (all included in your stay). Snacks are available here throughout the day, but otherwise breakfast is served around 7– 8am, and lunch is packed to go for the day’s excursions (or served at the camp between noon and 1), followed by dinner between 7 and 8. Beer and wine are not included, but you can bring and store your own, and the on-site chef can cater to your dietary needs.
Since you are living amongst the bears to a certain extent, there is some subtle security too. There are electric fences around the domes and public areas, and you’ll get some bear-education orientation so that you’ll know how to get around the lodge area safely.
Where the Bears Are
Indeed, bear-viewing can be done as simply as walking out the front door of your dome and watching bears wander through the meadow or fish in the river. Bears are here from the beginning of June to the middle of October, with a spike in sightings from mid-August through September, when the salmon runs are in full swing. (Bears can also be seen during spring, but they tend to be a little farther away.)
You can also see more bears by going on an excursion with your hosts, who also operate the Homer-based Alaska Ultimate Safaris. They have years of experience doing bear viewing excursions, so they know the spots to take you. That may mean Chinitna Bay in Lake Clark National Park—just a 5-minute helicopter flight—or along the coastline of Katmai.
Hiking, Rafting & More
And you don’t have to limit yourself to bear-viewing. While staying at the camp, you can go paddle-boarding, kayaking, salmon fishing, or guided hikes that overlook many places with overlooks of the bay, valleys, and waterfalls. Or, talk with your hosts about taking a flight to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, going rainbow trout fishing, or on a hike to see glaciers and volcanos. You could also go ocean kayaking, river rafting or, depending on the time of the season, berry picking or Beluga whale-watching.
About Your Guides
Eric and Kirsten, the husband-and-wife team behind Alaska Ultimate Safaris, are both accomplished pilots who met while learning to fly helicopters. Kirsten was born in Fairbanks and worked as a bush pilot for many years in rural Alaska, then operated medevacs out of Anchorage and Fairbanks. Wisconsin native Eric first started flying at 15, came to Alaska more than 20 years ago, and began working as a bush pilot. When Eric launched Alaska Ultimate Safaris, he tailored trips to those experiences that he and Kirsten enjoy themselves: bear viewing and glacier and volcano landings. In fact, the two even got engaged at the summit of Augustine volcano!