Bear Watching on Kodiak Island – Viewing the World’s Largest Omnivore

Referred to as the Emerald Isle due to its luscious landscape and pristine waterways, Kodiak Island is an expansive wilderness located off the Gulf of Alaska. With a landmass larger than Cyprus, this outpost is an ecological treasure where wildlife-viewing dreams come true. Beyond Kodiak’s seven rural communities, the island is a road less haven best known for its fishing, landscape, and wildlife. No trip to the Emerald Isle is complete without seeing its very own gargantuan sub-species of bear, Kodiak bears! Read on to find out what you can expect when bear watching on Kodiak Island.

Kodiak Island, otherwise known as the Emerald Isle:

Kodiak Island is the second-largest island in the United States, and one of the most untouched. The low population density of around 6,000 people means that there are very few paved roads. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge covers two-thirds of the island – it’s a prime wildlife spot! You can find all species of Pacific Ocean salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden, and many other prized fish. It’s also a nesting ground for 250 species of bird, and home to otters, voles, bats, and of course, Kodiak bears! Often cloaked in fog and allure, this haven is a nature-lovers utopia.

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: a scenic river and mountains.
When bear watching on Kodiak Island you can expect plenty of views like this!

About Kodiak Island Bears:

The pride and joy of the region, Kodiak bears evolved after Kodiak Island broke free from the mainland 12,000 years ago. The largest recognized subspecies of bears, these behemoths can weigh more than half and tonne and can reach a height of 11 feet tall when standing on their hind legs. Kodiak bears are omnivores – they also feed on vegetation such as roots, grasses, and blueberries. The island’s isolation, abundant numbers of salmon, and luscious ecosystem are what has allowed the bears to grow to such a spectacular size. You could say that it’s a bear paradise on earth!

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: a sow Kodiak bear and her cub in a river.
A Mamma Kodiak bear and her cub.

The Lodge:

Despite their tremendous presence, Kodiak bears are rather shy around people. It can be difficult to view them if you’re in a large crowd, and they rarely linger around any of the roads on the island. With a whole region of remote wilderness to wander, you can’t blame them! This is one of the reasons why the Kodiak Brown Bear Center (KBBC) is the best place to view these legendary mammals – there is no civilization for miles around.

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: floatplane on a lake in front of the mountains.
The KBBC is located on a picturesque island and is accessed via floatplane.

Access to the KBBC is granted via a short floatplane flight from Kodiak City. This is sure to be a highlight of the trip, it adds a new perspective to just how vast this island is, and you’ll see some stunning vistas along the way. Upon arrival at the lodge, you’ll have a safety briefing where you will learn how to interact with the bears if they wander on to the campus. They are regular visitors here after all! There’s an old Alutiiq saying that says “if you respect the bear, the bear will respect you”, and the KBBC lives by this truthful mantra. Offer bears the opportunity to do the right thing and they will.

The KBBC is managed by the Kodiak-area Regional Native Corporation, a group that seeks to honor and protect the native culture and lands of the island. You will have exclusive proprietary access to the 112,000 acres of untouched wilderness that are managed by this purposeful group. You could walk for days and find no evidence of humans, it’s just you and the wide-open Alaskan landscape! To further add to the isolation, the KBBC luxury lodges are located on their very own remote island. You can expect panoramic views of the bay and surrounding knolls – it’s quite the sight. Guest numbers are limited to six at a time to ensure exclusively private viewings of a species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Moments such as these are precious, and it’s our pleasure to share the best bear watching on Kodiak Island!

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: man on deck in front of eagle and Kodiak bear.
It’s not just Kodiak bears (in the background) that visit the KBBC, eagles like to hang out on the deck as well!

The cabins are simple yet comfortable dwellings with luxuries that cannot be found for miles around. Think hot showers, wireless internet, and high-end coffee makers. The lodge serves the finest family-style food around, and you’ll often find yourself eating freshly caught salmon and halibut and foraged delicacies local to the region.

Your time at the lodge is yours to spend as you please. Of course, the Kodiak bears remain front and center, but it’s also a great place to relax and unwind in nature. Since Kodiak bears often roam the campus, you may not even need to leave your lodge to have some unforgettable days bear-viewing. Other activities include catch-and-release fishing from the dock of Karluk Lake, learning more about Alutiiq culture, taking a traditional banya (an authentic Alutiiq steam bath), and hanging out by the campfire with the staff and other guests.

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: a sow Kodiak bear and her two cubs on grass.
When bear watching on Kodiak Island you may see Broken Ear and her cubs – they’re frequent visitors of the KBBC.

Watching Kodiak Bears at a speed that’s right for you:

Viewing bears in nature is never guaranteed. However, the KBBC is situated in the heart of the bear country, and your local guides have an intimate knowledge of the bears and their surrounding habitat, so it’s safe to say that your chances are excellent.

When it comes to viewing Kodiak bears the KBBC staff ensures that you’ll be undertaking activities at the right speed for you. There are many different methods available for seeing the lumbering megafauna. Hopefully, you won’t even have to leave your lodge! It is common for the Kodiak to walk between the lodges, and this is the easiest way of having an exclusive and private bear watching experience. The KBBC is located on a small island, so all other access is granted via the 30-foot catamaran. This is an adventure in and of itself, and not one that will be forgotten – soaring across the open waters of Karluk Lake is a truly invigorating experience! Your guides know all the best viewing spots, from the short walks to Thumb River to the immersive hikes along O’Malley River, there’s an experience right for you. As always, the bears are watched from a safe distance respectfully. It’s not uncommon to find many fishing at a time, and due to their size, you can’t miss them!

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: hikers walking through green foliage.
There are plenty of hikes just your speed.

Bear Watching on Kodiak Island:

Bear watching on Kodiak Island offers a true Alaskan experience, and then some. It’s an authentic refuge begging to be explored. With classic Kodiak scenery, some of the most comfortable lodges in Alaska and unique bear-viewing opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else on earth, this destination offers exclusive and unforgettable experiences. At Entrée Destinations, we craft bespoke journeys that are tailored meticulously for our guests. We only do authentic, and if you’d like to find out more about Kodiak bear viewing, please fill out our short Plan Your Trip Form. Alternatively, if you’d like to discover more adventures such as these, read our blog on the best bear watching in Alaska.

Bear watching on Kodiak Island: picturesque lake reflecting the mountains and blue sky.
Enjoying the stunning views of Karluk Lake is a highlight of any stay at KBBC – just look at that reflection!