May 30 - June 11, 2021
Tour the sparsely populated taiga in Scandinavia’s Arctic to see wolverines, brown bears, and wolves under the midnight sun. Spend four nights in photography/viewing blinds amid these mammals’ territories to observe and photograph them at close range. Explore Lake Saimaa in Linnansaari National Park searching for the endangered and endemic Saimaa ringed seal by boat. Meander through primeval forest and vast bogs of Patvinsuo National Park. Explore the birds and beautiful scenery of Valtavaara Nature Reserve, one of Europe’s best birding spots, where you have the chance to see capercaillie (the largest member of the grouse family), red-flanked bluetail, little and rustic buntings, hazel grouse, three-toed woodpecker, and gray-headed chickadee. Regardless if you’re a photographer or wildlife enthusiast, you will enjoy fabulous views of difficult-to-see mammals on this trip!
- Spend four nights in special photography/observation blinds to watch wolverines, brown bears, and possibly wolves and white-tailed eagles.
- Discover taiga mammals and birds, like the endemic Saimaa ringed seal, forest reindeer, and Arctic birds.
- Get a feel for Finland as you travel from the southern tip of the country to its mid-northern reaches.
Itinerary Updated: April 2020
|May 30||Travel to Helsinki, Finland.|
|May 31||Arrive in Helsinki.||Hotel Haaga, Helsinki||D|
|Jun 1||Boating on Lake Saimaa in Linnansaari National Park to search for birds and endemic Saimaa seal.||Hotel Järvisydan, Rantasalmi||B, L, D|
|Jun 2-3||Discover scavenging wolverines and brown bears during two nights in photography/observation blinds.||Blinds at Erä Eero, Lieksa; Kestikievari Herranniemi Lodge, Vuonislahti||B, L, D|
|Jun 4||Walk among primeval forests and bogs of Patvinsuo National Park.||Kestikievari Herranniemi Lodge, Vuonislahti||B, L, D|
|Jun 5-6||Close-up viewing of brown bears and possibly wolves from photography/observation blinds.||Blinds at Lassi Rautiainen’s or other, Kuhmo; Hotel Kalevala, Kuhmo||B, L, D|
|Jun 7||Day of relaxation and local excursions.||Hotel Kalevala, Kuhmo||B, L, D|
|Jun 8-9||Enjoy birdwatching at Valtavaara Nature Reserve and exploring Oulanka National Park.||Holiday Club Kuusamo Tropiikki, Kuusamo||B, L, D|
|Jun 10||Wildlife watching and hiking around Kuusamo, and then head to Oulu.||Airport Hotel, Oulu||B, L, D|
|Jun 11||Depart for home.||B|
Our Trip Leaders
David 'Billy' Herman
Billy loves nothing more than sharing nature and wildlife with travelers. He has led trips around the world and his passions are mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and large insects. He worked as an educational assistant for a nature youth movement and Natuurpunt, one of the biggest nature organizations in Belgium. For the last several years he has specialized in nature photography. His enthusiasm for adventure, good food, wildlife, and beautiful landscapes will make this an unforgettable experience.
A glimpse into our journey
Arrive in Helsinki
Arrive in Helsinki where our local transfer agent will transfer you from the airport to the hotel, so you can relax and prepare for your trip. If you would like to arrive earlier, we can arrange extra nights.
Boat trip on Lake Saimaa and explore Linnansaari National Park
Drive to Rantasalmi where you will enjoy a boat trip in Linnansaari National Park on Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland and the fourth largest natural freshwater lake in Europe. A local guide will accompany you to find the rare, endemic, and endangered Saimaa ringed seal. Together with birds such as the black-throated loon, common goldeneye, and red-breasted merganser, this will be a wonderful start to your trip.
Observe and photograph wolverines and bears from blinds
Travel to Lieksa where you’ll spend two nights in comfortable blinds to observe and photograph the secretive wolverine and families of brown bears. Only a few years ago, it was almost impossible to see wolverines in the wild anywhere in the world. Fortunately, the province of Karelia, where Lieksa is located, is one of the best places to observe and photograph this giant member of the mustelid family.
Explore the forest and bogs of Patvinsuo National Park
Walk amid the unique primeval forest and vast bogs of Patvinsuo National Park, which you’re sure to remember. Finland is well-known for its mire ecosystems. Mires, also called peatlands and wetlands, can be divided into two kinds in Finland: raised bogs with thick layers of peat (10 to 20ft deep) and aapa mires with wetter, sedge-dominant habitat (peat layers 2 to 10ft deep). Patvinsuo is where the north meets the south, so you’ll find a combination of raised bogs typical of the south and aapa mires typical of the north. Raised bogs rely on rainwater for nutrients, whereas aapa mires rely on the mineral soil for nutrients from groundwater or runoff from surrounding areas. Learn about the ecology as you wander through this unique landscape.
Observe and photograph bears from blinds
Drive toward the border with Russia to the area near the town of Kuhmo, situated among territories of brown bears and if lucky, you may see the elusive wolves of this region. The vast, remote character of nature here is impressive. Spend two nights in a photography/observation blind, while keeping your eyes peeled for white-tailed eagles and common ravens suddenly abandoning carcasses, a sure sign that a carnivore is about to appear.
Day of relaxation or short excursions
At the hotel, you’ll be welcomed with a buffet breakfast, and during the day you may rest or go on short excursions with your leader. You have the opportunity to see mammals and birds including forest reindeer, Eurasian elk (the European version of moose), European pine marten, mountain hare, Eurasian capercaillie (the largest member of the grouse family), hazel grouse, and Eurasian three-toed woodpecker.
Enjoy the birds and scenery of Valtavaara Nature Reserve and Oulanka National Park
Travel to Kuusamo where you’ll discover some of birds that call the taiga home. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, nice paths, and pure air in Valtavaara, one of the best birdwatching spots in Europe. You will search for the red-flanked bluetail, little and rustic buntings, and gray-headed chickadee. At Oulanka National Park, you’ll experience rushing rivers amid the Scots pine and Norway spruce and wildflowers unique to this area. You will hopefully find black grouse, white-throated dipper dipping in the powerful waters, red-breasted flycatcher, gray wagtail, and enigmatic owl species including the Ural owl, great grey owl, Eurasian pygmy-owl, and Boreal owl.
Explore wildlife around Kuusamo and Oulu
Spend the morning in Kuusamo wildlife watching and hiking, and then head toward Oulu where you can explore the hotel’s gardens along the Gulf of Bothnia. Here you may find whooper swan, common goldeneye, common and red-breasted merganser, and abundant migrating sandpipers including common redshank, common greenshank, and ruff.
Depending on your flight schedules, you may have a short excursion before your flight home.
Explore Finland and tour the sparsely populated taiga in Scandinavia’s arctic to see wolverines, brown bears, and wolves.
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Cost & Payments
Costs (in US$)
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$6,200|
Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare, singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set trip 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 desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement. Single rooms are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed throughout the trip.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second||July 15, 2020||$1,000|
|Final||December 15, 2020||Remaining Balance|
Payments are due based on the schedule above. 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 and cancellation policy 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 trip if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.
- All leaders, transport, park entry fees, landing fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
- Accommodations for the nights of May 31 through June 10.
- Group photography/observation blinds for the nights of June 2, 3, 5, and 6.
- Meals from dinner on May 31 through breakfast on June 11.
- Transfers from Helsinki Airport to Hotel Haaga, regardless of arrival day, and to Oulu Airport on June 11.
- Boat trip on Lake Saimaa.
- Non-alcoholic beverages.
- Sleeping bags for time in blinds (if requested).
- Gratuities for included airport transfers and hotel porters.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $975 to $1,700 between the US and Finland, depending on origin.
- We can arrange extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
- Gratuities – tipping is always discretionary. However, we suggest budgeting about $35 to $70 total per participant for your leader. All other gratuities are included.
- Mandatory emergency medical and evacuation insurance. For more information see travel insurance.
- Optional trip cancellation insurance. For more information see travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation Form.
The weather should be nice, sunny, and warm. Of course, in the high Arctic you can always expect some cloudy, rainy, or cold weather. Average temperatures range from the low 50s°F (~11°C) at night to the upper 60s°F (~20°C) during the day.
You spend four nights observing wildlife in blinds, which may lead to sleep deprivation, depending on your sleep needs and habits, which require patience and a positive attitude. Hikes are generally easy with some small hills, depending on the group’s fitness level. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.
Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL) in Finland by the evening on May 31. Depart from Oulu Airport (OUL) in Finland anytime on June 11.
You spend four nights in comfortable photography blinds with single beds or bunk beds with sleeping bags (if requested) and a pit toilet. You’ll arrive in the blinds around 4:00pm and stay until around 7:00am the following morning. During the daytime and other nights, you will stay at comfortable lodges, with rest time after nights in the blinds.
Heated 9-seater minibus.
- Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our trips.
- Maximum time in nature: We try to spend as much time in nature as possible, sometimes resulting in long days, but giving you a more in-depth experience.
- Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
- Additional forms: For some of our trips, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
- Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because you are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.
- Use of drones/UAVs on trips: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AKA drones, are not suitable for use on most Cheesemans’ Ecology trips due to logistical constraints and in many cases, local and national laws or regulations. In some cases, such as on our polar voyages, we operate under environmental regulations that ban the use of recreational drones. Do not bring a drone on a trip without contacting us first
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"The 3 nights in the blinds were as advertised and we saw bears and wolverines each night. Everyone had excellent photo opportunities."
Virginia Robbins, 2019
"I definitely liked the blinds. They were much nicer than I expected. Probably the most exciting memory was at the first blind where there was less possibility of wolverines. We had seen many bears but it was only a few minutes before we had to leave in the morning that a wolverine ran into view. We saw wolverines both nights at the later blinds but that first one was an unexpected surprise. The boat trip was really good too."
Bruce Whittaker, 2019
"Cheesemans' delivered what they said they would - provided maximum time in the field with qualified leaders and guides well experienced in finding, anticipating, and explaining wildlife behavior."