For many Alaskan travelers, bears are the ultimate highlight. Pair a magnificent sighting with a gorgeous helicopter flightseeing ride and you’ll have an unforgettable experience. On this unique tour from Homer, you’ll take a helicopter ride out into one of Alaska’s gorgeous national parks to witness these spectacular creatures in the wild.
A Unique Experience
Alaska Ultimate Safaris is the only company in Homer offering bear viewing by helicopter, so the flight itself is a unique experience. From the moment you buckle in and lift-off, you’ll notice the big windows and 180-degree visibility (from every seat!). It gives you the ability to enjoy Alaska’s scenic views surrounding you every moment of the trip. The helicopter can access remote areas that planes simply can’t reach, so you have more options for finding where the bears are congregating. With tour groups no larger than 6 guests, you’ll feel like you’re the only ones experiencing the thrill of getting close to a bear.
Your pilot-guides, Eric and Kirsten, love the opportunity to help guests understand Alaska’s fascinating brown bears. When you first see these massive bruins in their own habitat, it’s almost surreal. Eric and/or Kirsten will teach proper bear etiquette that you can apply anywhere in brown bear country, and they will explain bear behaviors as they unfold in front of you eyes. With more than 17 combined years of guiding, they will help make this your adventure of a lifetime. No need to worry; your guides are experts at recognizing a bear’s body language, and know how to get you close to bears safely, without impacting their natural behavior. Watch them dig for clams, fish for salmon, or nurse their cubs. It’s an incredible experience to see them interact with each other and to work on fattening up for Alaska’s winter months.
Where You’ll Go
Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks and Preserves
Alaska Ultimate Safaris has multiple destinations inside and outside the boundaries of these parks, with all landings located on the Alaska Peninsula, home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world. From Homer, you’ll fly 40 minutes to an hour each way, seeing glaciers, gorgeous mountain vistas, and many volcanoes, including Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Augustine, and Mt. Douglas. Weather and time permitting, you’ll even take a quick trip up into the mountains and do an extra bit of flightseeing. During May, June and part of July, you’ll explore the sedge flats, an area where bears come to eat the grass while waiting for salmon to meander into shallow areas of the rivers. During July, August and September, you’ll sit right on the riverbank and see the bears fishing and clamming. Most bears are within 100 yards of the clients and many times they come so close you can hear them crunching on salmon or chewing on grass, depending on the day, the bears, and the advice of your guide.
Eric Lee comes from a long line of aviation aficionados, and it was his grandfather who sparked his interest. It didn’t take him long to climb into a cockpit—he started flying when he was just 15. His parents helped him get a job at the local airport in Wisconsin, fueling and washing airplanes, and accepting flight training in lieu of a paycheck. When he came to Alaska in 1995, he saw the Alpenglow in Anchorage (when the late-evening sun casts a pinkish glow on the snow-covered Chugach Mountains) and instantly fell in love with the 49th state. He brought with him his love of flying, starting out as a fixed-wing pilot, then grew increasingly enamored with helicopters. After years of bringing people to see bears from the Homer area, he decided to start his own business. His partner, 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. “Helicopters reinvigorated my love of flying,” she says, noting that it’s amazing to be able to show people the views she gets to see all the time. She’s so enamored with the bears that she’ll often tag along with Eric’s group if there’s room. In that case, you’ll get the advantage of having two guides. In addition to bear viewing adventures, Kirsten and Eric recently added glacier and volcano landings to their tour offerings.