Watch out – bears!

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I haven’t been very active on my blog lately, but boy do I have a story for you now! I finally crossed this amazing experience off my bucket list, that is observing wild bears in the Finnish nature! As the COVID-19 situation makes traveling abroad impossible, it was a good time to take some time off exploring Finland’s greatest offering.

I went to Suomussalmi, which is close to the eastern boarder of Finland in July 2020. There is a place called Martinselkonen Wilderness Center that organizes bear watching in safe environment. The viewing happens inside of a simple wooden hide, and the wild bears are attracted to the site with food (typically meat or fish). Although the organizer cannot guarantee that you will see bears, since they are wild animals and come and go as they please, they give almost 100% chance for seeing some. I think we saw about 30 (!) different bears during one watching, which lasted from 5pm to 11pm.

The timing to watch bears was excellent as the nights are bright in the summertime, and cottongrass was blooming in the swamp areas, beautiful!

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Just look at this fella, doesn’t he look happy?

We observed this very gentle looking greeting between a male and female bears, kisses were exchanged in European style. It was great watching the different interactions, how some of the males drove other (competitors) away and how the younger bears showed their respect to the elder by circling around the place before getting their share of the free treats offered. Although there were some very impressive huge size male bears, the cutest were by far the bear cups.

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These three were happily playing around and didn’t seem to have any care in the world while their mom was eating.

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I wonder what this story is about..

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Usually the mom bear instructs the cups to climb to a tree if there is anything threatening.. however these two were up to their own shenanigans, climbing up just for fun and play.

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This one is almost too cute to be true, doesn’t he look like a teddy-bear? Even though these cups look adorable, you really have to follow the instructions of the guide and stay quietly inside the hide. Leaving the hide and facing mom bear with cups could be dangerous. Many people are scared of bears and hiking in the forest in the areas where bears live, but putting these hides aside, the chances to see a wild bear in the nature are limited. As soon as the bear notices you, it will very likely choose to go away. Bears are curious, but not so curious that they would want to meet in you in person. Most likely a bear has seen you in the forest many times, even though you haven’t seen any!

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Visit to Martinselkonen really exceeded my expectations and I wish I could have stayed there more than one evening. Make sure you book your trip in advance! I definitely recommend putting this on your bucket list if you visit Finland during summertime. There are also other wilderness companies that offer bear watching, such as Wild Taiga, Wildlife Safaris and Erä-Eero.

Different organizers offer overnight viewing where you stay in a private or a group hide overnight with basic bunk bed (well, you don’t go there to sleep but to watch animals) and dry toilet/outhouse. I did an overnight stay this July also in a different place to watch wolverines, I’ll tell you more about that later.

As I hadn’t booked accommodation from Martinselkonen, I drove to Paltamo where my travel partner stayed playing golf. Even the drive from the bear watching place was an experience of its own, driving in the nightless night when mist was covering the swamps and blooming cottongrass, reindeer and foxes were occasionally running on the road (good way to stay awake!) and clouds were reflecting from the calm lakes and ponds. Totally worth the drive up North-East from the capital!

I’m nowadays more active in Instgram than here, so if you want, you can follow my account at instagram.com/lumottumetsa.

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