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Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Photo Safari (Gold Creek Lodge)

14 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1: Fairbanks, Alaska 
Our Alaska photography adventure begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's thriving "second city" that retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons, paddlewheelers and mining camps on the edge of town. This evening, meet your fellow travelers and Expedition Leader, who is not only an expert naturalist but an accomplished nature photographer, specializing in Alaska's legendary wildlife.

Days 2–4: Denali National Park
Denali National Park, larger than the state of Massachusetts, is one of the world’s great wilderness preserves. Denali, which means "The Great One," is the native Athabascan name for this 20,320-foot mountain that is the highest peak in North America. Its ice-clad summit looms over the tundra and taiga below that provide habitat for grizzlies, wolves, moose andcaribou. Every photographer who travels to Alaska wants photos of the elusive mountain, and we position you for the best odds of getting them. From our lodge base 90 miles inside the park, we are much closer to the mountain than most visitors ever get, especially those on standard bus tours. Deep within the Denali wilderness, we have time and space to encounter and photograph these dramatic landscapes, away from throngs of other people. Hiking, nature walks, biking, fishing and optional flightseeing—a must for photographers—are available. The climate and environment of Alaska's interior at this latitude is harsh much of the year, and it takes a vast amount of habitat to sustain animals. Wildlife encounters thus tend to be fleeting, though always thrilling.

Day 5: Denali / Alaska Railroad / Talkeetna 
Depart for the park entrance this morning by road, keeping an eye out for moose, caribou, grizzly bears and other resident wildlife often visible from the road. At midday, we board the Alaska Railroad for a classic train journey through Alaska’s rugged Interior. Our route through the Alaska Range climbs above tree line over Broad Pass, then descends to follow the Susitna River to the historic village of Talkeetna, where we disembark to spend the night. This rustic town, founded over a century ago as the district headquarters for the new railroad, sits at the confluence of three rivers and enjoys a striking panorama of Mt. Denali and adjacent peaks. An outdoor recreation mecca, Talkeetna today has an economy that thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. It is also the main base for climbing expeditions to Denali. After dinner, there's time to stroll the compact downtown, whose old log buildings dating to the early 1900s have been designated a National Historic Site. 
 
Days 6 & 7: Talkeetna / Girdwood
Leaving Talkeetna, we continue south, eventually reaching the coast and following Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s premier ski area, where a host of exciting summer activities is also available. Set in a lush glacial valley in the Chugach Range southeast of Anchorage, Alyeska offers nature and luxury in tandem. Explore the northernmost temperate rain forest in North America that surrounds our deluxe accommodations at the Hotel Alyeska, or choose an optional tram ride to the alpine summit with vistas of the ice-bound peaks and inlet far below. On Day 7 we'll photograph iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River before returning to Girdwood. Dinner is not included on Day 7, to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.  

Day 8: Kenai Peninsula / Fox Island 
This morning's drive showcases the magnificent scenery of the Kenai Peninsula as we drive south to the fishing town and port of Seward. Once we reach the harbor, look for floating sea otters—frequently spotted here—as we prepare to board a boat to Fox Island, a private outpost on the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park. The island's secluded location reveals a pristine side of Alaska that most visitors miss. The waters around our lodge offers excellent sea kayaking, and an easy paddling excursion late this afternoon is likely to reveal some of the area’s prolific marine life.  Keep your camera handy during paddling breaks to capture possible shots of Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and black bears wandering ashore.

Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park—Private Cruise
Iconic images of Alaska are on display today aboard a private chartered yacht cruise as we weave our way through a marine realm where vestiges of the Ice Age still linger. Kenai Fjords National Park provides unparalleled opportunities for photographing marine life, and our small boat allows us to approach at close range. Common sightings include orcas, Dall's porpoise, a large colony of puffins and myriad other seabirds. Towering tidewater glaciers grind their way to the sea's edge, and we may be fortunate to capture thrilling images of blue icebergs calving with a huge splash, leaving floating bits of ice drifting in the fjords. Following our all-day outing, we return to Fox Island for one more night in the peaceful seclusion of the Kenai wilderness.

Day 10: Seward / Anchorage
After a last morning in the wild environs of Fox Island, we cruise past waterfalls and icy peaks to reach Seward once more. In this lively port town, we'll have lunch on arrival and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center on Resurrection Bay. While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the center also features a public aquarium and is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. From Seward, we retrace our route northward, with the mountain ranges of the Kenai Peninsula rising one after another as we traverse Moose Pass and cross some of Alaska's richest salmon rivers. Returning to Anchorage by late afternoon, we have the rest of the day and evening at leisure. We've opted not to include dinner so you can choose one of the many outstanding offerings available in Alaska's largest city. Consult your Expedition Leader for suggestions.  

Days 11 & 12: Katmai National Park—Brooks Falls 
It's hard to imagine that anything could top all we've experienced so far, but for most wildlife photographers, today is the ultimate highlight of our Alaskan adventure. Katmai National Park is home to the world’s largest population of brown bears, and it takes some effort to get here. We fly by small plane to King Salmon, then by floatplane to world-renowned Brooks Lodge, one of the very best places to view these coastal grizzlies in their natural habitat. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, photograph this classic wildlife spectacle at close range. On our June and July departures, when the salmon are running upstream to spawn, we may get photos of bears vigorously fishing, attempting to catch salmon as they leap from the boiling falls into giant waiting jaws. Later in the summer, we're likely to see even more bears in the area, though not primarily in the falls catching fish.

Day 13: Katmai / Anchorage  
After one more opportunity to photograph the famous bears of Katmai, we fly back to Anchorage, arriving in the afternoon. At a farewell dinner this evening, join our Expedition Leader to celebrate our Alaskan adventures.

Day 14: Anchorage / Depart
Our Alaska photo safari comes to a close this morning as we transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
Map
All This Included
Special photo departures are guided by Expedition Leaders who are not only expert naturalists but nature photography pros, versed in helping guests attain memorable images of Alaska's legendary landscapes and wildlife. The focus and pacing of the trip is geared toward photographers of all ability levels, with flexibility inherent to adapt to changing light and weather conditions to maximize photo opportunities. A small group assures exceptional personal attention and coaching from our Expedition Leader, plus plenty of space for your camera equipment.
  • Accommodations including private island in Kenai Fjords
  • Services of Nat Hab's professional Expedition Leader plus local guides and lodge staff
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 13 (except dinner on Days 6 and 9)
  • Most gratuities
  • Airport transfers on Day 1 and final day
  • Kayaking fees at Fox Island
  • All special permits and entrance fees
  • All taxes
Highlights
  • More Chances to See Wildlife: Our wide-ranging itinerary gets you proximate to more wildlife in remote locales—including close-up photo encounters with the brown bears of Brooks Falls!
  • Go Deeper into Denali: Spend two nights in genuine wilderness at a backcountry lodge deep inside the park—close to North America's tallest mountain and far from crowds.
  • Stay on a Private Island: Cruise Kenai Fjords aboard our chartered boat, surrounded by glaciers, seabirds and marine wildlife, and stay in quiet isolation on private Fox Island.

Accommodations
Fairbanks: Springhill Suites Fairbanks
Denali National Park: Kantishna Roadhouse or North Face Lodge
Talkeetna: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
Girdwood: Hotel Alyeska
Kenai Fjords National Park: Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge
Katmai National Park: Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge
Anchorage: Anchorage Marriott Downtown
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 14 Travelers.
  • Bears are attracted to the Brooks River at various times during the summer, and their precise location depends on seasonal movements. More bears (and fewer tourists) tend to be on view in late August and September than in late June and July, and they are found throughout the area rather than primarily atop the falls, where they congregate earlier in the summer.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from start and end point of trip, interior airfare ($1,095, to be added to your invoice and subject to change through day of departure), dinner on Days 6 and 9, alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance and required medical evacuation insurance.
  • Internal Airfare cost: $1095 on Gold Creek Lodge 2019 departures; $1495 on Gold Creek Lodge 2020 departures.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate. The activities on our Alaska wildlife adventure are diverse, requiring general mobility and fitness. The longest required walk is two miles roundtrip over a relatively flat wooden boardwalk to reach Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, where we observe the brown bears. Trail surfaces for our various walks vary from pavement to uneven natural terrain. While all travelers must be able to walk at least two miles, some longer hikes are available for those who desire. Our kayaking activity on Fox Island involves paddling for approximately two hours in conditions that are typically quite calm. We stress that travelers are not required to participate in every activity, but all participants must be able to walk at least two miles.
  • Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge, a fly-in wilderness lodge near King Salmon, offers deluxe accommodations and includes a scenic 20-minute floatplane ride to reach Brooks Falls.
  • This Alaska adventure begins in Fairbanks and ends in Anchorage. Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska by 4 pm on Day 1 of the program in order to attend a 6 pm orientation followed by a 7 pm welcome dinner. You are free to depart Anchorage anytime on the final day.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.