• 3 Days

The Polar Bears of Kaktovik

  • Basecamp Retreat
  • Science & nature
  • 3 days; 2 nights
  • 2 to 6 travelers
  • Begins & ends in Kaktovik

There’s one place, and one place only, to see polar bears in America You have to travel to the country’s northernmost point, the very apex of Alaska’s North Slope, to the permafrost shores that stretch out on either side from the Inupiat town of Kaktovik. Take a walk on the wild side and observe polar bears in their natural habitat — from both a small boat and a passenger van — along the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You'll safely view and photograph polar bears — resting on sand spits and feasting on whale meat — in a rare and special wildlife encounter with one of the world's most experienced bear guides, Robert Thompson. The area is frequented by polar bears, who come ashore in the fall and wait for the pack ice to form, enabling them to hunt seal throughout the winter. The village is isolated and the villagers are subsistence hunters who are allotted three Bowhead Whales each year for meat. The whaling tradition is followed using harpoons and black powder charges. The whales are normally taken around Labor Day. The village residents butcher the whales and the bones are pushed to a pile where bears feed on the remnants of the whales throughout the winter. Tales of the previous night's bear sightings are mixed with hot meals for guests and villagers alike, in meaningful feasts feasts that date back for generations.

At a Glance

Creature comforts


Physical activity


Ground support



  • Ocean
  • Village Life


  • For ages 12+
  • Fluent english spoken


  • Wildlife
  • Indigenous culture

Your Local Expert

Robert Thompson

Your expert guide is Captain Robert Thompson, United States Coast Guard certified master boat operator. This designation certifies your guide may safely transport passengers in federal waters, off the coast of the Arctic Refuge. Thompson has unprecedented knowledge of Arctic animals and the region's delicate ecosystem, and is well known in environmental circles in protecting the integrity of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. Robert pioneered polar bear viewing as a viable industry in Kaktovik.

The Journey

Day 1

You'll catch a morning flight from Fairbanks to Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of about 300 located on Barter Island. Once you arrive, you will have a couple hours to get settled in before your afternoon/evening polar bear viewing adventure. When you arrive on Barter Island we will transfer from the airstrip to the Kaktovik Bed & Breakfast — a modest but cozy homestay and a guesthouse of your guide, Robert Thompson. Once there, you'll grab lunch, as well as a brief orientation for the journey. After lunch, you'll find your way to the harbor, where rustic planks lead down to open-air boats that hold a maximum of six passengers each. Here, Robert, your local guide, will give instructions on bear viewing and proper bear etiquette and then set out on his boat to see the bears. This will be a boat tour to observe and photograph Polar Bears on Barter Island. If the weather doesn't cooperate, we'll be able take a local van to the beach, which will provide an equally impressive view of the bears. Lunch & Dinner is included in Kaktovik. Overnight at the Kaktovik Bed & Breakfast. By staying in the stark but fascinating Inupiat Eskimo village of Kaktovik, at Robert's homestay, you'll learn about Inupiat native culture upclose and get a unique perspective of native life. Kaktovik’s backdrop is the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with its magnificent, snow-covered, 9,000-foot-high Brooks Range, where musk ox and reindeer, beavers and grizzlies, live in America’s last untouched wilderness.

Day 2

Today, you'll spend a full day bear viewing. You will have a 3-hour morning session and 3-hour afternoon session boat ride, with additional time spent on land photographing bears or searching for arctic foxes and snowy owls. There is a lunch break in between the two viewing sessions. You will have plenty of opportunity to get photos of these majestic animals. Conditions permitting we will look for and photograph northern lights in the evenings. Overnight in Kaktovik at the B&B.

Day 3

Today you will spend a half day Polar Bear watching from your boat. Later this afternoon you will take a flight back to Fairbanks. Overnight in Fairbanks.


  • Meals

    All meals, homecooked

  • Lodging

    Two nights at the cozy Kaktovik B&B homestay.

  • Transportation

    Day tours by boat and van to see the bears

Not Included

  • Flights

    Flights from Fairbanks to Kaktovik can be arranged on scheduled Ravn Air departures that we're happy to assist securing.

Private Departures

Private departures, for just you and your friends or family

Flexible dates

  • 2 travelers$2500 per person
  • 3 travelers$2350 per person
  • 4 travelers$2200 per person
  • 5 travelers$2100 per person
  • 6 travelers$2100 per person
Pricing depends on group size and host availability

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$2500 / person