A week in the magical Finnish wilderness searching for Brown bears
Reviews 4 Reviews5/5
Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely / Moderate
Group Size Small Group
As if impatient from the tortuously cold winter months, far Eastern Finland emerges from hibernation in full bloom, its fauna keen to redress the balance. Delve into the wilderness to unravel and illuminate its remarkable wildlife, watching eagerly from a hide for the arrival of Brown bears. Bears aren’t the only highlight as we get to experience the Finnish wilderness of Oulanka National Park, with its whitewater rivers, spruce forest and scotch pine. Nature rafting and a husky walk are also part of the adventure.
* All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 5 dinners
* 5 nights at Basecamp Oulanka
* All transport (by private minibus, on foot and by raft) and listed activities
* Local tour leader throughout. Group normally 4 to 14 with local leader. Min age 18 yrs.
* Airport transfers (at designated times)
* Outdoor clothing and equipment for rafting
- Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
- Two evenings spent in a hide observing Brown bears
- Nature rafting, husky walk and follow the ‘Little Bear’ trail
- Soak up the tranqulity and stillness of Oulanka National Park in summer
- Bright nights with up to 22 hours of daylight
Start Basecamp Oulanka
Land only clients should make their own way to Basecamp Oulanka this afternoon/evening. Set on the edge of the spectacular Oulanka National Park, Basecamp Oulanka is a complex of wooden buildings providing cosy accommodation in a stunning wilderness setting overlooking Juuma Lake – surround yourself completely in nature for the next five nights! After a warming dinner you’ll have the chance to settle into your wilderness home in the forest. Take a late evening walk down to the lake and marvel at the stillness. During the summer months there can be between 18 – 22 hours of daylight which ensures a colourful sky with drawn out sunsets and sunrises merging together.*Basecamp Oulanka *
Wilderness skills walk in Oulanka N.P.; visit Brown bear hide.
After a hearty breakfast in the main building, we leave for a short walk in Oulanka National Park. We’ll likely visit the Old Mill which overlooks the Myllykoski rapids, where White throated dippers are often seen. Our guide will introduce us to some simple wilderness skills, such as how to make a fire, orienteer and basic first aid.Around 4pm, after we’ve had lunch at Basecamp, we set off towards the Russian border zone for a short walk to a comfortable bear hide, where we will spend the evening anticipating the arrival of Brown bears and hopefully watching lots of bear interaction! Brown bears are very active in this area and there are thought to be some 1,500 Brown bears in Finland’s vast forests. After a long period of hibernation over winter, the bears emerge from their dens in spring, sometimes with cubs in tow. During the months of July and August the bears are very hungry and so typically become nightly visitors to the area where the hide is located as they are fed with carrion. As well as Brown bears (and hopefully cubs) there is a good possibility to see White-tailed eagle in this area.The hide is warm and comfortable, with large windows for excellent views and plenty of openings for camera lenses (ideal if you are a keen photographer). There is a kettle, compost toilet and around 10 beds with sleeping bags which you’re welcome to use if you feel tired at any point. Depending on our sightings and the amount of daylight left we will leave the hide around 11pm or 12am, walking the short distance back to our vehicle. It is important when in the hide and walking to/from the hide to keep voices to a minimum and follow instructions from the guide – we always walk in a group to minimise the likelihood of encountering a bear.*Basecamp Oulanka *
Husky walk through Oulanka Canyon
Oulanka Canyon is a steep gorge at the bottom of which the Oulankajoki River rushes through. The Oulanka Canyon Trail (Kanjonin Kurkkaus) is a 6km marked trail through the vast forest, with impressive views of the canyon. On today’s walk we are joined by husky dogs. For this activity you’ll be harnessed in pairs to one husky who will ’lead’ the walk at a reasonable pace (huskies are powerful dogs, hence why one dog is harnessed to two people). This wonderful dog breed makes an excellent companion for a hike through the wilderness! Huskies accompany us for the easiest part of the canyon trail, and after this we complete some steeper sections of the walk by ourselves.*Basecamp Oulanka *
Nature rafting on River Kitka near the Russian Border zone; guided walk through taiga forest to learn about the habitat of Brown bears; evening visit Brown bear hide.
After getting fitted out with rafting gear at Basecamp Oulanka (available free of charge) we have a short walk to Jyrävä waterfall to begin our nature rafting excursion on River Kitka. Running through Oulanka National Park to the Russian Border zone, the river winds its way through taiga forest, with dramatic cliffs and wonderful views of scotch pine and spruce forest. Traveling by raft is the perfect way to soak up the tranquillity of nature and experience the best of Finland’s wilderness. We pass over some gentle class I to II rapids as we float down the river, enjoying the sound of silence in the vast forest. At the Russian End we take a short walk to Vihvilänlamminkangas, the biggest elk destruction area in Europe which looks like a huge bonsai garden! Here we will learn about the importance of nature conservation, the old forest and its ecosystem, before a short transfer by road back to Basecamp Oulanka. This evening we have an early dinner and a second visit to the bear hide. Before entering the hide we meet a Brown bear expert who will guide a short walk through the habitat of Brown bear. On this walk we’ll be looking for and interpreting signs of activity such as marks and scratchings on the trees, as well as any visible tracks on the ground. Following this we spend the evening in the hide to watch the forests come alive once more. *Basecamp Oulanka*
Walk the famous Pieni Karhunkierros (Little Bear) Trail in Oulanka N.P.; optional evening visit to Brown bear hide
Oulanka National Park is a vast boreal forest and one of its most scenic walking trails is the Pieni Kahrunkierros – the Little Bear Trail – a 12km loop through some of the most picturesque areas of the park. Setting off on foot from Basecamp we hike on good trails, crossing suspension bridges and passing some of the larger rapids and waterfalls, including the class VI Jyrävä waterfall. Between Oulanka in Finland and neighbouring Paanajärvi in Russia, some 136,000 hectares of taiga forest, lakes and rushing whitewater rivers are protected – one of the world’s largest biomes. The flora in this area is very interesting with lichens, heather, wild cloudberries, blueberries and lingonberry bushes. This is a moderate grade walk and there are some steep sections in order to experience the best views.Back at Basecamp, it’s possible to rest and enjoy a traditional sauna this evening or you may decide to join an optional excursion to return to the bear hide once more (at an additional cost of 150 EUR). For this excursion it is possible to use an alternative hide in the same area (perhaps if you are a photographer interested in getting a different angle for your photos). *Basecamp Oulanka*
End Basecamp Oulanka
This morning our adventure in the Finnish wilderness comes to an end and land only clients are free to make onward arrangements.
Basecamp Oulanka is wilderness camp in a stunning location overlooking Juuma lake, on the edge of Oulanka National Park. It is a complex of wooden buildings providing comfortable and cozy accommodation. There are two wooden lodges providing sleeping accommodation and all rooms are fitted out with double or twin beds and en suite bathrooms. The main building provides a cozy lodge with huge windows framing the view of the lake. There is a large fire and a comfortable lounge seating area to relax in. All of our meals will be taken in this building. Also at Basecamp Oulanka there is a sauna.
Please note that there are Breakaway family groups at Basecamp during school holidays.
All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 5 dinners included
The food at Basecamp is a delicious range of local produce (Finnish food) that is all prepared on site by the in house chef. Starters consist of a salad buffet with 4-6 different choices. The main courses consist of wild game such as elk, chicken and salmon. Vegetarian options are also available. Dessert consists of lingonberries, blueberries and cloudberries that have often been picked by the chef herself. These berries are served with a selection of quark kurd, cream, ice cream, cakes and pancakes. Lunch normally consists of a hot soup with elk, salmon or vegetarian option.
This trip has been graded 2 (Leisurely/Moderate) with a safari rating of 3.
It has been designed for those who want to be completely surrounded by the Finnish wilderness, whilst having the comfort of cosy Basecamp Oulanka to return to each evening. Due to our location not far from the Arctic circle, in the summer months there are long daylight hours, which can mean between 18-22 hours of daylight with just a short twilight period. This is ideal for bear viewing.
Please note that caution must be taken when walking to/from the bear hide and in the surrounding area. We will be accompanied by a bear guide and always walk in a group. It is important to follow the advice of your guide at all times. The age limit has been set to 18 because of this activity. Facilities in the hide are comfortable but relatively simple – for instance, there are only compost toilets in the bear hides.
Basecamp provides all equipment needed for rafting such as over jackets/trousers, rubber boots and dry bags. No experience is necessary – all activities are suitable for beginners.
The included walks all follow well marked trails but there are some steep sections in order to get the best views. Mosquito protection is recommended in Finland during the summer months.
Baiting wildlife – an important issue in wildlife tourism
Baiting is a useful practice in attracting wildlife to aid sightings of certain animals in many areas around the world. It is also an approach that leads to much debate about the ethics in feeding wild animals. In some circumstances we are strongly against baiting, for example camps in Africa placing carrion to attract leopards purely for tourist sightings. However in Finland, and this particular area, we believe it is a practice that can lead to conservation benefits. Our belief is that this will help in protecting the wildlife from hunting which is wide spread in parts of Finland. Tourism is helping create enclaves where hunting is prohibited, and that growing income will hopefully lead to more protection in the future.
Tourism is more sustainable long term than hunting, and growing support locally to protect the wildlife is important in Breakaway taking this stance.