Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska
Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska. Lodging in Anchorage on this night is not included but we’ll be happy to make arrangements for you at Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast near downtown.
Slice of Alaska - Arctic Plains, Denali and Lake Clark National Parks, and cruise Prince William Sound. Moose, Grizzly Bear, Caribou, Muskoxen, Gray Wolf, Arctic Fox, and birds from King Eiders to Bald Eagles await you in this rugged frontier land. Journey from the wide-open tundra of the Arctic Coastal Plains, south through the Brooks Range, and across the Arctic Circle. Visit Denali National Park for wildlife and wildflowers and take an exhilarating scenic flight around the highest mountain in North America. Explore the remote corners of Prince William Sound on a four-day voyage, observing Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, whales, puffins, and loons, amidst a spectacular blend of mountain, forest, and glacial scenery. Immerse yourself in Coastal Brown Bear habitat at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, a private reserve within Lake Clark National Park. Take home countless memories and photographs under the expert guidance of Alaska resident, naturalist, and professional photographer Ron Niebrugge.
Itinerary Updated: September 2016
|Jun 8||Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska|
|Jun 9||Fly from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay to meet Ron, photograph wildlife in the Midnight Sun||Hotel in Prudhoe Bay||D|
|Jun 10||Photograph wildlife in the Arctic Coastal Plain||Hotel in Prudhoe Bay||B, L, D|
|Jun 11 - 12||Travel the Dalton Highway to Wiseman, explore the Brooks Range and around Wiseman||Arctic Getaway B&B, Wiseman||B, L, D|
|Jun 13||Continue south to Fairbanks, crossing the Arctic Circle and Yukon River||River’s Edge Resort, Fairbanks||B, L|
|Jun 14||Drive to Denali National Park||Earth Song Lodge, Healy||B, L, D|
|Jun 15 - 16||Explore Denali National Park, including scenic flight around Mt. Denali (weather permitting)||Skyline Lodge, Kantishna||B, L, D|
|Jun 17||Return through Denali National Park and south to Anchorage||Susitna Place B&B, Anchorage||B, L|
|Jun 18 - 20||Drive to Whittier, board the Discovery for a four-day voyage on Prince William Sound||Discovery||B, L, D|
|Jun 21||Spend the morning on Prince William Sound then disembark and return to Anchorage||Susitna Place B&B, Anchorage||B, L|
|Jun 22 - 24||Scenic flight from Anchorage to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, photograph Brown Bears and other wildlife in Lake Clark National Park||Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, Lake Clark National Park||B, L, D|
|Jun 25||Enjoy more wildlife action then fly back to Anchorage for farewell dinner||Susitna Place B&B, Anchorage||B, L, D|
|Jun 26||Fly home from Anchorage, Alaska||B|
A professional photographer with a keen following, Ron keeps busy leading photo tours and traveling on assignment in his native Alaska and lower 48. His images have caught the attention of many including impressive clients such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many advertising agencies. Ron specializes in finding the ordinary, mixing it with beautiful natural light and creating extraordinary photography. See some of his work at Niebrugge Images.
Dean will assist during days aboard the Discovery only. Considered by many to be one of the most knowledgeable mariners in Prince William Sound, Dean's extensive involvement with a broad range of scientific research conducted throughout the sound has provided him with a well-rounded background in the region's natural history. Longtime owner and Captain of the Discovery, Dean is a master shipwright and marine mechanic with more than 40 years of full-time service in the marine trades on the Alaska coast.
Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska. Lodging in Anchorage on this night is not included but we’ll be happy to make arrangements for you at Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast near downtown.
Take the afternoon flight from Anchorage to Deadhorse Airport in Prudhoe Bay. The small town of Deadhorse (consisting of the airport, lodging, and general store) supports the oil industry here in the North Slope along the Arctic Ocean. Ron will meet you at the airport upon arrival to begin this amazing Alaskan adventure. We’ll check in at the hotel before heading out into the field to seek mammals and birds in what appears, at first glance, an unlikely place to view wildlife. Muskoxen, Caribou, Gray Wolf, Arctic Fox, and many spectacular birds make the Arctic Coastal Plain their home during the brief summer season. The oil industry’s presence results in residual heat creating freshwater pools that would otherwise be frozen. These pools are an excellent place for us to spot opportunistic shorebirds. Stay out late to photograph in the soft light of the Midnight Sun.
We’ll spend our day searching for birds and mammals in the Arctic Coastal Plain. Pacific, Common, and Red-throated loons, all in breeding plumage, are regularly seen. King Eiders, Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Warbler, and about 130 other species can be found in this birding paradise. Arctic Fox and the native Red Fox are also common visitors. A short drive down the Dalton Highway (which follows the Alaska Pipeline) may afford us looks at Muskoxen, Grizzly Bear, Caribou, and Gray Wolf.
We’ll drive the scenic Dalton Highway across the Arctic Coastal Plain and through the Brooks Range searching for wildlife and other photographic opportunities en route to Wiseman. Animals come to the plain to partake of the brief but intense bloom of life and its brilliant carpet of tundra vegetation is an excellent backdrop for photos. Caribou, Moose, and Muskoxen are often seen browsing on willows and sedges, while predators, such as wolves, fox, Snowy Owl, and Gyrfalcon, search for a warm meal.
We’ll ascend the foothills of the Brooks Range and over the Atigun Pass at 5,000 feet, the highest mountain pass in Alaska. Pass through the Koyukuk Valley with craggy peaks of 400-million-year-old limestone. Search for Grizzly Bear, Moose, and Lynx in the dense spruce forest. At the end of our 250-mile drive, we’ll arrive at our homey lodge in Wiseman. Wiseman is a historic, gold-mining community and worth the time to explore on foot. Many artifacts can be found within a short walk of our lodge. If circumstances permit, we may also have the option of a scenic flight over the Brooks Range and peaks known as The Gates of the Arctic (dependent on weather and pilot availability, cost not included).
We’ll drive south traversing boreal forest and mountain passes of windswept tundra. As we cross the Arctic Circle, we’ll stop for a photo and picnic lunch then continue looking for wildlife in the changing habitats. Further south, we cross the mighty Yukon River and continue through the White Mountains to Fairbanks.
Drive to Denali National Park and enjoy a bit of the east side of the park before heading to Earth Song Lodge. If our timing is good, we may be treated to a wonderful slide show presentation from the lodge’s owner, an excellent photographer and dogsledder.
Denali National Park exemplifies interior Alaska’s character as one of the world’s last great frontiers. Most of the park remains largely wild and unspoiled. It’s an excellent place for viewing wildlife and wildflowers from June through August, with a total of 37 species of mammals documented, including Moose, Grizzly Bear, Dall Sheep, and Red Fox. Even Wolverine and Gray Wolf are occasionally found. Notable birds include Golden Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Wheatear, and Arctic Warbler. Stony Creek is one of the special areas to explore with 132 species of wildflowers, as well as wheatears, nesting shorebirds, Long-tailed Jaeger, and other birds.
With timing dependent on the weather, we’ll have the opportunity for a scenic flight around Denali’s impressive peak. The north face of the 20,320-foot summit is only 20 miles from our lodge in Kantishna. The mountain makes its own weather and is often hidden in clouds, especially in the afternoon. Staying two nights in Kantishna provides us excellent opportunities to photograph this majestic mountain and explore the Kantishna side of the park, including Wonder Lake for iconic photos of Denali’s reflection.
We’ll depart early for what we hope will be more stunning views of Denali and great wildlife experiences traversing back through the park. We’ll travel south to Anchorage through fertile Matanuska Valley farmlands and make a stop at Denali State Park for a chance to photograph the south side of the Alaska Range and Denali from a distance. After checking in at Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast, you’ll have a bit of time to explore downtown Anchorage and enjoy dinner on our own this evening.
We’ll travel to the small port town of Whittier on the western side of Prince William Sound to rendezvous with the Discovery and begin our four-day voyage through breathtaking glacial scenery, blue icebergs, and spectacular marine life. Meet Captain Dean Rand and his small crew and set off for a colony of Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting nearby. Lush vegetation drapes the hillsides in green as streaming waterfalls cascade down the rocky cliffs. Harbor Seals hauled out on the flotillas of icebergs and Bald Eagles perched atop trees watch as the Discovery navigates the icy, blue waters. The Captain will choose our voyage route to maximize wildlife viewing. We’ll search for marine mammals such as Sea Otters, often seen sunbathing on icebergs or carrying young on their bellies as they swim. Listen to the cracks, pops, and thunderous roars of calving glaciers while the Discovery drifts silently by these active rivers of ice.
Prince William Sound is surrounded by the northern-most temperate rainforest in the world and many land mammals are also present, though not always easy to spot. We’ll hike on shore among the wildflowers and also kayak for a water-level view of the wonders of the sound. Whale watching will be another exciting and unpredictable experience as many whales, especially Humpbacks, are found in the region.
We will wake to some of the world’s most spectacular scenery with sprawling glaciers and a panoramic skyline of mountain grandeur. We’ll enjoy lunch and take in a last look at this magical place as we cruise to Whittier. After disembarking, we’ll follow the Turn Again Arm of the Cook Inlet as we return to Anchorage, keeping an eye out for the occasional family of Dall Sheep on the cliffs above.
From Anchorage, we’ll take a one-hour flight to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, situated on the coast of Cook Inlet within Lake Clark National Park. The scenic, low-level flight will end with a beach or lagoon landing for a unique experience. Silver Salmon Creek Lodge is on 40 acres of private land within the coastal region of the expansive park, offering views of the coast and towering volcanic peaks.
The opportunity to observe concentrations of Coastal Brown Bears in their natural habitat is the primary attraction of this remote wilderness area. Due to their high-protein salmon diet, Coastal Brown Bears are often significantly larger than the Interior Grizzly Bears (both are subspecies of Brown Bear, Ursus arctos). Most of our time here will be spent observing and photographing the phenomenal bear activity, sometimes even from the deck of our cabins. We’ll look for mothers with cubs as well as larger male bears as they dig for clams at low tide and forage for grass in the meadows. Patches of lupine, wild geranium, and other wildflowers will add a splash of color to your photos. As we move into the habitat of the bear, we may witness seldom-seen behaviors, such as courting, mating, and nursing. We will also keep our eye out for wolves and other wildlife that inhabit the park.
Birding around Silver Salmon Creek Lodge is excellent with an abundance of shorebirds, songbirds, and birds of prey, such as Peregrine Falcons and Northern Harriers. Small islands just off the coast host nesting pelagic birds. Horned and Tufted puffins, Parakeet Auklets, murres, eiders, and more are found here during the short Alaskan summer.
We will have the morning for one last bear viewing opportunity and to take in the wildlife and scenery around Silver Salmon Creek before departing for the flight back to Anchorage. Tonight we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner together at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, transfer by taxi to the Anchorage airport for your flight home or you may choose to stay longer to explore Alaska on your own.
Explore a slice of Alaska—Arctic Plains, Brooks Range, Denali and Lake Clark National Parks, and cruise Prince William Sound.
The Discovery is meticulously fitted to combine comfort and utility with an atmosphere of charm and style. The lower deck includes sleeping accommodations for up to twelve guests in six cabins, plus crew quarters, two bathrooms with hot showers, and stowage space. Guests can readily view and photograph panoramic scenery and marine life from the ship's complete walk-around deck and expansive windows. Unlike the cumbersome cruise ship giants, the Discovery's size enables access to Alaska's lesser-traveled, more intimate inside passages.
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$11,150|
|Single Supplement||Contact us|
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you are willing to have a roommate, there will be no single supplement charge. Single rooms are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed throughout the safari.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second Payment||July 15, 2016||$1,000|
|Final Payment||December 15, 2016||Remaining balance|
Payments will be due based on the following schedule. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.
Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.
We cover a lot of territory so expect a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Daytime temperatures usually range from 30-70 degrees F (perhaps as high as the 80’s in the south) with nights often below freezing. Both rain and snow are possible as are warm, sunny days.
We strive for frequent stops for wildlife viewing, however participants should be comfortable sitting for several hours at a time due to the distances we cover. Our voyage in Prince William Sound will include landings and opportunities to hike on shore, typically no more than a mile or two on varying terrain. Walks and hikes are generally at a slow pace with stops for observation and photography and may be skipped by anyone that is not interested or able. Kayaking is also an option. You must be able to climb up and down a steep, narrow staircase on the boat. At Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, we may walk over a mile each day on flat terrain at a slow pace. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.
Airfare (except flights listed as included) is not included in trip costs. Detailed flight information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you after registration.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska (ANC) by June 8 for overnight, then fly to Prudhoe Bay (SCC) on the afternoon of June 9. Everyone should book the same afternoon Alaska Air flight from ANC to SCC that departs ANC between 2pm and 3pm on June 9. We will provide specifics after registration. Please note: Alaska Air has, on occasion, cancelled this afternoon flight and moved people to the morning flight, so it is important to arrive in Anchorage on June 8 for an overnight (not included), to be sure you get to Prudhoe Bay the next day. For your flights back home, depart from Anchorage anytime on June 26, or later if you wish to extend your trip. One group transfer will be provided after breakfast; separate transfers by taxi (not included) can be arranged as needed.
Flights we book for you: The round-trip flights between Anchorage and Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park are included in the tour cost and will be booked by Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris.
Lodging throughout the safari is very comfortable albeit basic at times. Since we travel to remote locations, we do not have many options, but we have found excellent choices in all locations and will enjoy the rustic Alaskan feel and privacy of our lodges. Some lodges have private baths, however most have shared baths and Skyline Lodge in Kantishna has bathrooms in a separate building a short walk upstairs from our rooms (staying here is well worth it since we are able to travel deep into Denali National Park and see Denali in the morning when it’s more likely to be clear and visible). Each of the Discovery cabins has bunk beds, a small clothing closet, and drawers for your personal belongings. The two shared bathrooms provide complete facilities including a hot shower.
Seasickness should not be a problem on Prince William Sound. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Travel in our private, custom-designed van, specifically adapted for photography, including windows that open on both sides. There will be seven participants throughout the journey so there is plenty of room for photography in this ten-seater van.
Spend four days and three nights aboard the cozy and comfortable, twelve-passenger Discovery. Additional Discovery guests may join our group for just this Prince William Sound portion of our safari.
We will take a small plane from Anchorage to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge and back and also have opportunities for one or two scenic flights in small aircraft (depending on weather and availability).
"Ron is an amazing photographer and positive presence. Just excellent."
"Cheesemans' tours are run by top notch professionals who provide personalized attention and access to uniquely beautiful parts of the world."
"The trip was a pick and mix of the very best Alaska had to offer."