Anan Bear Observatory
A friend with a Nordhavn 40 sistership told us about Anan Bear Observatory, saying it had been his best memory of his Alaskan trip.
We were therefore intent on checking it out.
The observatory is on a river where all 5 species of Alaskan salmon come to spawn, which brings in all the bears from the local area .
At the height of the season, when both bears and salmon are present you need a reservation to get in. Since dogs are not allowed ashore -for obvious reasons- and the anchorage in front of the park is poor, I elected to stay on board with Princess to keep an eye on the boat and keep Princess company.
Di would be Enfin's representative to the local bear community. She was both excited to meet bears in close proximity, and completely terrified. She read all there was to read about bears, which in my opinion didn't do much for her nerves.
We spent the night about 6 miles away in safe cove with good anchorage, and made our way to Anan in the morning. There, we put the tender in the water and to Princess' utter confusion we set off ashore to drop Di off. I gave her our portable VHF so she could call me to get back.
I gave her my last advice about bears: Keep a couple of salmons in your pocket to make friends with them, put some honey on your exposed skin so you smell good, an don't make too much noise. She said I wouldn't make it as a bear park ranger. Oh well.
We were welcomed in the park by a ranger at the mouth of the river. I dropped Di off and went back to Enfin. Soon I had Di on VHF telling me there were no bears and no fish so she might get back.
I was disappointed for her.
Then, only a short while later I heard her excited voice starting to tell me all about the bears, what they were doing, fishing, their names and habits. The joy in Di's voice was just infectious and I had a big smile in the pilothouse, knowing Di had surmounted her fears and was just enjoying the moment.
The bears were only feet away, Di describing it as "Enfin's length" so 40 feet away with absolutely no meaningful physical separation whatsoever. If the bears wanted to change their diet, it'd take all but a few seconds to get a red wearing, slow running Di. It seems salmons are just better.
Photos will never replicate the full live experience, but are probably still the best way to transmit how close the bears come to the few humans. Keep in mind that none of these photos are taken with a big photo zoom camera, but with a completely standard mid range Samsung Android phone.
No photo trickery here, just bears and humans doing their thing.
Eventually Di called back, asking if it was OK to stay "a little bit longer". I had planned this as the only event of the day, and had planned to return to the same anchorage as yesterday, so we had all the time in the world for Di to enjoy this unique experience.
Hours later she called me saying she was starting the short trek back to the mouth of the river. I set off in the tender to meet her, and got her back to the boat.
She was still on an adrenaline high, excitedly telling me all there was to know about every bear she met, and wanting to share her experience with me. I really enjoyed her communicable joy.
A great day overall and highly recommended stop on the way to see the glaciers.