The United States Forest Service recently awarded Above & Beyond Alaska a 10-year permit to operate guided day trips by kayak around Admiralty Island, a highly protected area where an estimated 1,800 brown bears — the largest concentration in the world — roam free. In fact, Admiralty Island has more brown bears than all the lower 48 states combined, causing the native Tlingít people to call the island “Kootznoowoo,” meaning “Fortress of the Bear.”
Although several other outfitters offer bear-viewing opportunities, Above & Beyond Alaska is the only company permitted to offer guided brown bear viewing trips by kayak. This allows travelers access to areas that are hard to reach on foot and also might allow visitors to Admiralty Island a chance to get even closer to the bears (and other wildlife, such as the eagles that are pictured) without disturbing their habitat. Above & Beyond Alaska is certainly living up to their name, and has put together a tour that starts in Juneau with a 25-minute floatplane flight followed by a sea kayak excursion that offers two different viewing experiences: either a rugged trip to Windfall Harbor, where bears can be seen frequenting streams from the kayaks, or a slightly more tame outing to Pack Creek, a popular destination where travelers can spot bears from a viewing tower.
The seven-hour tours will be available May 15 through September 15, with peak season falling between July and August when salmon are spawning. Rates start at $569 per person. For more information on Admiralty Island, see the above video from PBS.
Photo courtesy Above & Beyond Alaska.