The Wild Brown Bear Centre: Close encounters of a wild kind
By Joanna Nylund | Photos: Kyle Moore
Kuhmo, in the wilderness of East Finland, is a place of pilgrimage. The wildlife here is exciting and abundant, with many large mammals calling the region’s deep forests their home. One company catering to pilgrims flocking to see the wild animals up close is The Wild Brown Bear Centre, specialising in photography safaris with bears, wolverines and wolves.
The centre has a total of 21 different hides suitable for both photography and observation. The area offers a great variety of terrain, giving the photographer an excellent opportunity to capture the wildlife against various backgrounds. Meals and accommodation are offered in a beautiful lodge on the edge of a large lake, located only a short walk away from the hides.
Into the Wild
Make no mistake about it: this is animal country. The centre is located in the very heart of the wilderness, home to a large variety of wildlife as well as interesting flora. From small migratory species right up to the kings of the forest, the European brown bear, there are plenty of experiences here for nature lovers to savour.
The Wild Brown Bear Centre was established over 15 years ago by Ari Sääski, a Finnish naturalist. The centre caters mainly to wildlife watchers and photographers, but the area is also ideal for hiking, with numerous trails to be enjoyed in the summer months.
Peace for animals, shelter for humans
The animal watching itself always takes place from the safety of a hide. Built to blend into nature and to allow people to see the animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them either by smell or sight, the hides are placed in ideal locations for getting close to the animals. The Wild Brown Bear Centre boasts a total of 21 hides, located just a short 700-metre walk from the main lodge, that are accessible along wooden paths. Four of these hides are specifically built for wildlife observation. Larger than the hides intended purely for photography, they offer seating for up to ten people. The observation hides are equipped with bedding and full amenities. The hides are designed to allow the use of tripods and ball-head assemblies for your camera or binoculars.
There are 17 hides built specifically for photography. Dotted around the landscape, they can be found in a small wetland areas, near a small pond and inside a pine forest clearing. With photography in mind, the openings are situated at the bears’ eye level.
Every hide has been carefully designed and placed to offer the enthusiast a once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting close to the bears, wolverines and wolves frequenting the area. As the animals can walk right up to the hides, wide angle lenses are as useful as telephoto ones.
Enjoying nature in comfort
The centre is housed in a former border control centre, transformed into a rustic, cosy lodge. What is unusual about this type of holiday is that nights are mostly spent wildlife-watching in the hides, and rooms used for sleeping and recuperation during the day.
The lodge is fully equipped and has an auditorium as well as meeting room. Meals are served in the dining hall. For some well-needed rest and relaxation, the centre has two saunas available: one electric, the other a traditional smoke sauna ideally situated by the lake.
Springtime in Bear Country
Ideally for the wildlife photographer, winter lasts a long time in these parts. The snow begins to fully retract only in May. In April to May, bears can be seen on both ice, snow and wetland as they roam the area in different weather conditions. Snow helps reflect the available light, making for well-exposed photographs of the animals.
During May, it is possible to see mother bear bring her second-year cubs into the area, which makes for interesting observations of family behaviour.
Midnight sun…and bears
If you travel to the Wild Brown Bear Centre between May and August, you will be able to enjoy the superb conditions provided by the inextinguishable midnight sun. Twenty four hours of light allow for wilderness photography throughout the night, when the animals are active. The green foliage, beautiful light and general inquisitiveness of the exploring bears make for some excellent shots. Nighttime temperatures are still quite low, allowing for misty mornings to stunning photographic effect.
The fascinating taiga forests of Kuhmo also offer potential sightings of many other species, such as moose, wild forest reindeer, red foxes, lynx, weasels, beavers and stoats, to name a few. Birdwatchers have a field day spotting owls, goshawks and golden and white-tailed eagles, all residents of the forest. In wintertime it is also possible to spot grouses.
For more pricing and useful information, please visit www.wildbrownbear.fi
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