2009

MARTINSELKONEN – FINLAND – BEARS

OVERVIEW
I went to Martinselkonen in Finland with NatureTrek on their special photography trip.  We flew from Heathrow to Kajaani via Helsinki on the way out and from Oulu back to Heathrow again via Helsinki on the way back.  When we arrived at Kajaani there was transport to take us to Martinselkonen and the whole journey from the UK and back was quite pleasant and not too tiring.  The accommodation was basic but quite acceptable as were the meals and the two guides were very knowledgeable and friendly.

Next to the accommodation was a bird feeder setup which attracted a number of different species and  was obviously setup with photography in mind.  So any spare time we had was spent photographing the birds here.

The first night we needed to get a good nights sleep as the next two nights will be spent in the Bear hides which do have a number of sleeping places and sleeping bags, also drink and biscuits were provided as was toilet facilities but this was obviously basic and once you are in the hides then you in them until the morning – no getting out because this is BEAR country.

In the morning we went out looking at the local wildlife and getting ready for our first night in the hides.  A short(ish) walk through the forest and we came across the two hides we would use for the next two nights, each night in a different hide.

You DO need insect repellent as the mosquitoes are bothersome at this time of year, I also had a net to go over my head/cap to keep the pesky things at bay.

PHOTOGRAPHY
The hides have an opening for photographing through and bean bags are provided but they are not really quite big enough but it saves you taking your own with you.  There is no space for tripods or 500mm lens in these hides so I took a 100-400, 70-200 and a wide angle lens.  I used the 100-400 (f5.6) mostly but when the light dropped (during the summer it doesn’t actually get dark as you are quite near the Arctic circle) I switched to the 70-200 f2.8 although that wasn’t always long enough.

This was the oldest, biggest Bear and it was obvious that the other Bears gave him all the respect he deserved even though he was past his best and our Guides said that they didn’t expect him to last many more years as he was quite old in Bear terms…

Food is put down for the Bears every night so you are almost guaranteed an appearance, we had a maximum of 17 Bears at one time.  After about 11pm the Bears disappeared but as this was my first night I didn’t sleep and was always looking around to see if anything else was around.

There were 5-6 young Bears, two were labelled by the Guides as ‘Delinquents’ as they had had to put a small fence around the hides to try and stop them getting too close and causing damage to the hides.  Here a young Bear got a little frightened when a big Bear came too near…

In the morning we retraced out walk back through the forest to a vehicle to take us back to the accommodation.  I turned down the days activities (another look for local wildlife) in favour of a sleep, when refreshed I took some more photos at the Bird Feeder.  There is also a ‘wild’ but tame (and old) Reindeer that stays near the accommodation, he is not stupid as he gets a lot of attention…

Next night in the hides was very much same as the previous except I did get a bit of sleep as we would be travelling back to UK in the morning.

Example of what the bird feeder can attract…

I enjoyed this trip and seeing Bears up close was quite thrilling, however if I went again I would make sure I had access to the ‘professional’ hides which we didn’t use this time, the Bear activity is less there but the photographic opportunities are greater when they do appear, but an appearance isn’t guaranteed.  So perhaps a night in the regular hides to experience that and then a night (or 2) in the professional hides would be my advise.

I am going to photograph the Bears in Alaska during the Salmon run this year and my Martinselkonen trip was a very good ‘first experience’ for me, but Alaska will be somewhat different and exciting.

Youtube video of some photographs from my trip…

A useful link…

http://www.martinselkosenerakeskus.com/avaussivu_english.htm
http://www.naturetrek.co.uk/wildlife-holidays-in-europe/detailsdb.asp?ID=406

…and a YOUTUBE video by someone called ‘rickew” …