On this one week stay in the height of summer, long evenings and early dawns in purpose built hides allow incomparable opportunities for bear watching and photographing the wildlife of the Finnish forest.
You stay at two carefully selected locations equipped with purpose-built hides, where you keep a night vigil with a local guide to see brown bears, wolverines and wolves lured by carrion. In the day there are nature walks in the vicinity or optional trips further afield. Your expert leader will be at hand during the day to advise you and guide you around. Dedicated smaller hides are available at extra cost for professional photographers.
Although this is a small group trip, we can also tailor an itinerary to your individual requirements, or you may wish to consider our bear watching short break to Martinselkonen.
Day1: Fly to Kajaani & transfer to Martinselkonen Wilds Centre at Pirttivaara
Fly via Helsinki to Kaajani* where you will be met by your leader and transferred by road to the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre, a journey of approximately two hours. You’ll arrive quite late this evening, and immediately check in to your lodge.
Day2: Spend two nights at a forest hide to see brown bears and birdlife
After breakfast you can go for a walk in the nearby forest by way of an introduction to this ecosystem, returning to the lodge for lunch. After an early dinner, at around 16:00, you will be driven to the drop-off point in Martinselkonen Nature Reserve, then walk nearly two kilometres along a forest track to the hide for your first overnight bear watch. Outdoor clothing and waterproof walking boots are essential as much of the ground is boggy. You should also bring a waterproof jacket and a warm fleece. The hides are unheated and may get quite chilly in the early hours of the morning, so prepare accordingly and dress in layers.
The following day, there may be an opportunity to do a guided boat trip on Öllörinjärvi (Wilderness Lake) - at additional cost: A popular nesting place for birds, and elk may sometimes be seen swimming across the lake.
After an early dinner, you will be dropped off in Martinselkonen Nature Reserve, where you head back to the hide for a second overnight session.
Day4: Free morning, evening moose watch
On return from the hide early this morning, enjoy an ample breakfast back at the lodge and then you are free to relax. Once again in the morning there may be an opportunity to do an optional activity in the vicinity.
Later, after an early dinner, your guide will drive you into Martinselkonen Nature Reserve to spot moose, which often come in the evening to feed beside the small forest roads, where there is a chance of seeing these extremely shy creatures. The moose is the largest of the deer family - an adult weighs anything from 250 to 700 kilograms. Despite the large population in Finland, it still a difficult animal to see and photograph - as its dark brown colour acts as camouflage and helps it blend in with nature.
In past years there was an opportunity to visit a dedicated moose hide, but as the local moose population has declined, the best opportunity of seeing them now is during this mobile excursion. If this situation changes, the visit to moose hide may be resumed.
Return to the centre to sleep in comfort.
Day5: Transfer to Boreal Wildlife Centre at Viiksimo
This morning you’ll drive approximately two hours to Kuhmo, near Viiksimo, stopping en route to visit Petola Visitor Centre for a guided tour learning about Finland's large carnivores: brown bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine, before continuing to the Boreal Wildlife Centre. Throughout the drive it's worth keeping a eye out for wild animals such as forest reindeer, moose and birds. This evening there is plenty of time to enjoy a traditional sauna.
Accommodation: Boreal Wildlife Centre, 3-nights
Day6: Explore Boreal Wildife Centre & optional activities
This morning after breakfast at the lodge there is a guided walk in the forest. Thereafter you are free to relax, although once again there may be an opportunity to do an optional activity in the vicinity.
In the late afternoon after an early dinner - just like at Martinselkonen - you move to a hide, in the border zone between Finland and Russia. A special permit is needed to enter this area, so it's really peaceful and so good for animals. You spend the night at a hide similar to those at Martinselkonen to see wildlife. This includes more bears and - if lucky - you may also see wolf, wolverine and golden eagle.
Day7: Spend a second night in the hide
On return to the lodge the morning is free to relax, or you can always go for a walk in the forest on your own. Once again in the late afternoon after an early dinner, you head back to the predator hide for your final overnight session.
Day8: Transfer to Kajaani & fly back to the UK
On return from the hide you have breakfast back at the lodge. Soon it is time to check out and depart for the transfer back to Kajaani airport (one and a half hours' drive) and your return flight back to the UK via Helsinki.
You should note: Depending on domestic flight schedules (which are subject to change), instead of transferring to Kajaani you may transfer to another airport in Eastern Finland - such as Kuusamo (140 kilometres) or Oulu (270 kilometres) - and fly from there direct to Helsinki.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 8 daysfrom £1,895 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 8 daysfrom £1,545 pp
Single supplement: From £230
Group size: 10
Included in the price/package:
3 nights lodge accommodation and 4 nights in hides
Jani has a degree in Tourism and 20 years experience of working with bears.
He worked alongside his father from the start to develop Martinselkonen as a bear-watching centre, and in 2008 became one of the owners of Boreal Wildlife Centre when the new company was started. Jani has lived most of his life in Suomussalmi. He has been exploring these forests, and studying the wildlife in them since he was a little boy, so knows them extremely well. His favourite hobbies are mountain biking and training his Irish setter, Kiki.
This reserve is one of the best places in Europe to photograph brown bears. Hides are located in sparse coniferous forest beside a small bog and, lured by carrion, bears can be seen at night from as close as five metres away. During the day there are nature walks, with good opportunities for birdwatching.
Where: Pirttivaara, Suomussalmi
Ideal for viewing: brown bear, moose, wolverine, black grouse, capercaillie
Viiksimo is located between two nature reserves – Elimyssalo and Iso-Palonen – in an area that is a tapestry of small lakes, numerous ponds, pine heaths and eskers. Right in the midst of the Finnish wilderness, it is a great place to watch and photograph bears, wolverines and wolves.
Ideal for viewing: brown bear, wolverine, grey wolf, moose, whooper swan
Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Bear watching, Wolf watching
These hides are occupy a fantastic position two kilometres inside the forest, from where you can listen to and photograph bears at close range. Two purpose-built wooden buildings accommodate nine people each and offer comfortable seating, with basic bunk beds. Smaller professional hides are also available.