Join award winning wildlife photographer Bret Charman on a five-night tour to northern Finland’s remote boreal forest in search of Europe’s large predators.
The European brown bear has lost much of its former range across the continent, however along the Finnish-Russian border there is a wealth of untouched forest that is home to a healthy population of these charismatic mammals. Over the last 30 years local people have learned to live alongside the bears and a few pioneers have built hides to watch and photograph them.
We take a morning flight to Oulu via Helsinki. From here we transfer to our lodge in Kuhmo, by Kuikka Lake. Depending on how early we arrive at the lodge, we may be able to spend our first evening in the hides, although we are morely likely to settle down for a full night’s rest at the lodge.
Today we can spend the day exploring the area around the lodge and make use of its boats. After an early dinner we make our way to the hides to spend our first evening photographing brown bears. The walk into the hides takes around 30 minutes over uneven terrain, but isn’t overly strenuous.
There is usually some time to wait before the first bears show themselves, but with the long summer evenings there should be plenty of light for photography. We take it in turns to be on watch throughout the night, allowing others to rest between periods of activity.
Day3: Photographing wolverines
Tonight we try our luck with wolverines. These fierce predators are less brazen than bears, so patience is a must, and with a little luck we should encounter some cooperative individuals during the evening who provide a multitude of photographic opportunities.
During the day back at the lodge, we can use a rowing boat to reach a beaver dam, practice landscape photography, or go for a walk on the headland around Kuikka, where there are several nest boxes for birds and a lot of berries and mushrooms, which offer good opportunities for macro photography. During our free time, we can also make the most of an opportunity to relax in the lakeside wood-fired sauna.
The team of naturalists at the lodge will provide talks and workshops on wildlife, photography and conservation issues. Bret will also make the best of our time at the lodge to go through the photo editing process, using Lightroom and Photoshop, and demonstrating various techniques to improve our photography skills.
Days4-5: Photographing bears, wolverines & wolves
Depending on our success on the previous two evenings, we can try to photograph wolves or spend time with wolverines again. Brown bears are likely to show up while we wait for wolves, so there are plenty of opportunities to get more images of them.
Day6: Fly back to the UK
After our last night in the hides we return to the lodge for breakfast and a chance to freshen up. We then transfer back to the airport in Oulu before flying home via Helsinki.
You should note: Wildlife is extremely wary around people, and patience is an absolute must – you can be in the hide for up to 14 hours each night. The exact itinerary may change depending on individuals’ preferences and our success in the hides – if we are lucky with a particular species, individual group members may subsequently choose to spend time in whichever hide they like.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 6 daysfrom £2,395 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 6 daysfrom £1,995 pp
Bret is an award-winning wildlife photographer with a background in the wildlife travel and safari industry.
After spending a year in Australia to pursue wildlife photography, he was rewarded with success at the prestigious Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, as well as making the shortlist in Bird Photographer of the Year and Outdoor Photographer of the Year. Bret has experience leading groups in Europe, the Americas and in Africa – and has a real passion for African wildlife in particular.
Located in Finland's Kuhmo region, directly opposite the Russian border, Kuikka Lake is surrounded by boreal forest, the typical habitat of brown bear, wolverine, wolf and white-tailed eagle. The surroundings are composed of wetlands and open grassland, offering good visibility for spotting wildlife.
Ideal for viewing: brown bear, wolverine, white-tailed eagle, Eurasian wolf, Ural owl
Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Bear watching, Wolf watching
Base Camp Kuikka is a traditional Finnish log cabin situated on a promontory in Kuikka Lake, in the middle of the forest. It has just nine rooms accommodating 20 guests and offers a convivial, rustic atmosphere, with various photographic hides nearby where you can watch for bears, wolves and eagles.