Situated two kilometres inside the forest, around 10 minutes drive from the Martinselkonen Wilderness Lodge, these purpose-built hides provide a fantastic location to watch and photography bears at close range.
Two purpose-built, wooden, main hides occupy a fantastic position in a forest clearing: the larger one has ten comfortable coach-style reclining seats, while the adjacent smaller hide has seats for nine people. Conditions are basic: each hide has bunk beds where you can rest (sleeping bags and pillows are provided), and a dry toilet; pro-hides (see below) have no proper toilet, only a bucket. In June and July there are a lot of mosquitoes, but these are generally not a problem inside the hide.
Both hides are equipped with sound amplifying systems so you can pick up external noises easily, and camera ports that allow unobstructed photography. If you wish to take photos of the highest quality, you can book one of six professional hides on payment of a supplement. Due to limited availability, these must be reserved in advance:
200 metres from the main feeding site is a boggy area, where the oldest pro-hide – for up to three people – is located. Roughly 100 metres away is a second pro-hide, also for up to three people. Each hide has six camera holes. From here you can photograph bears in a more open area against a background of old-growth forest, which offers better lighting than in the forest. In early spring, the snow remains longest on the boggy area – so this is the best spot to photograph bears in a snowy environment.
The newest pro-hide, which takes three people, is beside a small pond in an open boggy area, around 30 metres from forest cover, so lighting is good. It stands on a route bears use to approach the feeding site, around one kilometre from the two main hides, but only half a kilometre’s walk from the drop-off area.
The forest site has one pro-hide for two people, and another for three. Both lie roughly 50 metres from the main feeding site in coniferous forest consisting of pine and spruce trees. The smaller pro-hide has four camera holes, whereas the bigger one has six. Visibility is up to 40-50 metres.
The first bears often appear soon after 17:00, so you need an early dinner to have sufficient time to get to the hide and settle in. In the long days ofspring and summer this still leaves plenty of f daylight for photography. The bears may stay around until the following morning, so you cannot leave the hide until around 07:00 – as you have to wait for them to disappear into the forest. Your local guide will advise when you can emerge.
Photography: the bears get very close to the forest hides, so anything from a wide-angle up to a 500 mm telephoto lens will do; a 70-200 mm telephoto lens is good choice. In the hides beside the bog or the pond, you don´t really need a wide-angle lens – the best choice is probably a 70-200 mm telephoto, or longer lens. There is no need to bring a tripod, however you may wish to bring a tripod head – which you can attach to a board in the hide. There are bean bags in each hide. Although you can change lenses, try to do this only while the bears are at a distance, to avoid disturbing them by making a noise or a sudden movement.
Bears’ eyesight is fairly poor, but they have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, as well as hearing, so don’t wear any perfume or mosquito repellent before entering a hide for the night. Smoking is strictly forbidden en route to and from, and inside the hides, as well as at the lodge, as the smell of cigarette smoke may alert bears to human presence and scare them off.
Although the bears are wild, they are not, however, very shy. Nevertheless you should always communicate with your fellow photographers in a whisper, rather than audibly.
The only access is on foot, so you need to be reasonably fit.
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