Spirit of Finland – Photographic safari tour
Spirit Journeys Wordlwide invites you on our Small Group Fixed Departure – 6th July 2018
Finnish Wildlife – Photographic safari tour offers a fabulous chance to see and photograph Europe’s last remaining big predators at the base camp of the Award-winning Finnish wildlife photographer Lassi Rautiainen, using his specially constructed hides to photograph or just enjoy the spectacular wildlife of the region. Lassi is Finland’s pioneer in the field of photo tourism and photo hide tourism. His first photos were of Bears back in 1978 and no-one knows more about achieving great images of these elusive animals.
Our focus will be on observing and photographing wild European Brown Bears, Wolves and Wolverine in what has become one of their last remaining strongholds. Nowhere gives us a better chance of success of seeing and photographing these animals.
Visiting in July gives us the benefit of the longest days and the most amount of daylight to give us the best chances of photographing these elusive animals. Be prepared as temperatures in the hides can reach 30-35°C. If we are lucky there is also the chance to see the wild forest reindeer at this time of year as well as many birds that live around Kuikka including eagles, owls, ravens, black woodpeckers, goldeneyes, teals, falcons and kites. The trip will involve long nights in the photo hides which are basic in design as their main purpose is to allow you to observe and photograph these animals, but the thrill of seeing wolves and bears in the wild more then makes up for the hours of patiently sitting and quietly waiting. We spend the days at the base camp which is situated on a headland surrounded by a stunning lake and forest and take time to rest and relax before our night duty begins again.
We welcome photographers of all levels, instruction will be tailored to suit everyone’s photographic needs and interests. Non-photographers including spouses and friends are also welcomed with enthusiasm and will equally be able to fully enjoy this trip which appeals to anyone with a love for nature and wildlife, as long as they are happy to sit for extended periods of time in the hides.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||London Heathrow|
|INCLUDED||Return International Flights from London Heathrow to Helsinki, Finland (other departure airports available at a supplement).|
Return Internal connecting flight from Helsinki to Kajaani.
Return Transfers to and from Kajaani to Kuikka base Camp.
Full Board accommodation, including all meals, tea, coffee or juice (no alcohol included or available to buy at the camp).
Shared accommodation in dormitory style accommodation with shared bathrooms – please note nights will be spent in the hides so rooms will be used to rest in during the day only.
Transfers to and use of the photography hides.
Two Photographic Trip Leaders (see Host profiles) with a maximum of 8 guests, you can be assured you will receive individual attention and assistance.
|NOT INCLUDED|| Travel insurance.|
Discretionary gratuities for lodge staff.
Visa for entry to Finland – if required.
Personal purchases & souvenirs
Optional pre/post tour add-ons or extensions.
|Pre and Post tour extensions||Post and pre tour extensions available – Please contact us for further information|
Day 1: Arrival to Kuikka Base Camp(-/L/D)
Our Adventure begins as we depart London Heathrow, for our flight to Helsinki in Finland. We will then connect with a flight from Helsinki to Kajaani Airport. On arrival at Kajaani Airport we will be met by staff from Wild Finland/Arctic Media and transferred to the base camp. This is a 165Km transfer to our Kuikka base camp, which is approximately a two-hour-drive. If we arrive early enough we will hope to head out to the hides that evening. In which case we will have dinner, make sandwiches and head out. If however, our flight is a late connection we will take time to relax at the camp, enjoy dinner together as a group and discuss our plans and photographic requirements for the coming days and do some photography around the camp of the garden birds and the lake.
Day 2-6: Overnight in Photographic Hides (B/L/D)
The days at the camp will slip into a natural rhythm based around our nights in the Photography hides. Leaving the hides at 8 a.m. returning to camp where breakfast is usually served at 9 a.m. It is a large breakfast buffet with cereals as well as a cooked breakfast, so we will feel replenished after our long night.
After breakfast, we have free time till the afternoon so we can catch up on some sleep, download and edit pictures if you have brought laptops with you, enjoy a sauna or shower and a swim in the lake, take a short hike near base camp, or photograph the garden birds around the lodge. There is free coffee or tea available throughout the day and if you start to feel a bit peckish something small to snack on on the buffet table in the dining room.
Dinner is usually served at 4 p.m. the food is hearty and wholesome and served as a buffet where you are able to help yourself. After dinner, we will make ourselves sandwiches and fruit and a flask of hot tea/coffee to be taken as a picnic with us to the hides and keep us going through the night. At around 5 pm we will leave by car, with our photography equipment and sleeping bags to be taken the short drive through the forest to the hides. Once at the hides we will get set up and settle down to patiently wait for the animals to hopefully arrive. We need to keep noise to a minimum, but you are free to sit, photograph, sleep as you wish throughout the night, as long as you stay within your hide.
Having spent the night in the hides we will be collected at around 8 a.m. before returning to base camp for breakfast.
On one day we will hope to have Lassi give us a slide show and talk about his experiences as a wildlife photographer. We will also spend time during the day discussing photographic techniques and questions that might have arisen.
Where We Are Heading
We will be heading to the base camp of Award-winning Finnish wildlife photographer Lassi Rautiainen who is particularly famous for his series of images depicting an unusual friendship between a white wolf and brown bear. Since 1991 photographers from around the world have come to Kuhmo near the Russian border to make use of Lassi’s hides to photograph Bears, Wolves and Wolverine.
The Kuikka base camp is in the municipality of Kuhmo, close to the Russian border, 60 km from the town centre of Kuhmo. There are 14 observation hides, many of which are situated in the border zone, a land area between Finland and Russia, for which a special entry permit is required.
The bears, wolves and wolverines are usually living in Russia but visit to Lassi’s ‘photo studios’ in Finland. Most of the photo hides are only a few hundred metres away from the Russian border, in the one to three kilometres wide military zone called ‘no man’s land’, a relict from the times of the Cold War. After World War II, Finland and Russia had mutually agreed on controlling their common borderline strictly on both sides. An explicit law on the border zone was compiled in 1947 and renewed in 2005. This border zone is a perfect area for wildlife photography, since you need a permit to access the zone, thus no one can disturb our photographic adventures and chase away our animals.
From the predator observation hides, you’ll be able to photograph and observe mainly bears, wolves, wolverines, eagles and black kites. But it is also possible depending on the season to see many other animals and birds around our area, such as cranes, capercaillies, black grouses, whooper swans, bean geese and owls, as well as wild forest reindeer, moose and beavers.
When waiting in the hides for animals, we need to be very quiet and only whisper, because the animals are still very shy and fearful. Often they check the ‘studio’ long before they appear on the open bog. Bears usually walk a 360° circle around the area before they dare to come out. Wolves are even more fearful, we need to observe the animals quietly when they approach. Wolverines are more cheeky, but even they are afraid of the cameras flash light, which we do not use to photograph any of the animals. When photographing birds, eagles especially, you need to avoid brusque movements with the lens, since they have very good eye sight.
Where We Are Staying
Our base camp for the week is Kuikka, a former forest workers’ residence situated in the municipality of Kuhmo, on the border with Russia. The building is a traditional rural Finnish log house, which sits on a headland, surrounded by the Kuikka lake and boreal forest. The accommodation is homely and the staff warm and welcoming, creating a sense of being part of a big family rather than with staff at a hotel. The rooms in the camp have cabin beds in a dormitory style. Due to the origin of the house, there are no single or double rooms as such, and showers and bathrooms are shared between all the rooms.
The camp is basic but clean and comfortable but we do need to fend for ourselves in terms of laundry and keeping our rooms tidy and beds made. Sheets and towels will be provided for the rooms but you will need a sleeping bag as our nights will be spent away from camp in the hides. There is drinkable running water, electricity, W-lan and Ethernet cable connection in the lodge. If needed there is the ability to use a washing machine to do a wash and there are dryers to use too. There is also a lakeside sauna with a wooden stove, an important tradition within Finnish culture and one we highly recommend. There is a small souvenir shop in the dining room, where it is possible to buy some of Lassi’s wonderful photography books.
Kuikka is surrounded by a fabulous lake with the typical Finnish clear brown water, and a great place for a swim, particularly after a sauna. There are three rowing boats you are welcome to use, a worthwhile experience and the view is extraordinary. On the headland around Kuikka, there are lots of garden birds and red squirrels and if you are lucky you may see the beavers on the lake.
Near base camp there are 16 photography hides, each accommodating 1-5 people in 4 different settings: forest, small lake and open landscapes. All the hides are slightly different in look and design, their fundamental function being to allow you to sit, observe and photograph the wildlife, not to be luxurious. They range in comfort from having basic beds to sleeping on the floor, a separate toilet or alternatively access to a covered area at the back of the hide where a basic long-drop toilet is located for your use during the night.
The hides have been designed so that a tripod isn’t needed, rather you are able to install your ball head directly by screwing it onto a wooden mount board. In front of your camera there will be an opening in the fabric, through which you can put the lens outside, it helps keep the midges out. Whilst you watch through the window above.
The hides allow us to view and photograph Bears, Wolves, Wolverines, Eagles and Ravens as well as many other birds, although as is normal with all wildlife photography nothing is guaranteed.
Fiona moved to Africa just after finishing school and for just under 5 years she managed a Game Lodge in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park. During this time Fiona’s passion and knowledge of the intricacies and rhythms of the natural world became deeply embedded in her soul. She left the lodge to pursue her love of wildlife photography, travel and writing and has spent the past decade doing just that. She enjoys nothing more then sharing her love for nature and wildlife and can often be persuaded to recount tales from her various adventures.
Raj has travelled extensively throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa.
Raj has developed his photographic skills working as an Automotive and Motorsport photographer covering several endurance car series and formula 1. These skills he has found are readily transferred to his true passion of wildlife photography and capturing those action shots whether its a predator hunting or a bird in flight. He also has a love of photographing the night sky which has fascinated him since childhood.
Fiona’s photography is instinctive and creative which couples perfectly with Raj’s knowledgable technique driven approach.
We understand and celebrate that everyone’s eyes work differently and that people ‘compose’ the world through their eyes in very different ways. Our job on safari is absolutely not to tell people how to compose their images, but to allow them to explore compositions that appeal to them. In fact seeing our groups different interpretations at the end of each day is one of the best parts of our job. We will offer our experience to help you translate the image you see to the image you achieve.
We want you to leave us ignited by our passion for nature and more importantly for life, inspired by what you have seen and done and with memories to last a lifetime.
We Believe in Sustainable Responsible Tourism
For many years Fiona lived and worked in a South African National Park, which we still have close ties to now. She witnessed first hand and was often involved with working to tackle the challenges faced by the people tasked to protect the wildlife and the important habitats they depend upon. As a result we continue to actively support conservation initiatives around the world. We derive a lot of pleasure from spending time with these animals and in these environments so we believe that as photographers we have a responsibility to do all we can to help and support the continuing conservation of these animals and places and inspire others to do the same.
How Joining our trip will have a positive impact.
We will be making a donation on behalf of the group to Bear Trust International, a non-profit organisation, working to conserve all 8 species of the world’s bears, other wildlife, and habitat. They believe that wild bears in their natural habitat are key indicators of ecosystem health. Their ability to sustain themselves is, therefore, critical to wildlife. Bear Trust strives to reinforce ecosystem viability through habitat conservation and education projects that build on timely research, in the hope of conserving wild bears for future generations. to find out more about their work you can visit their website https://beartrust.org/
By visiting this area and country we also help to support the photo-tourism model, showing that the presence of bears and wolves can be positive and bring economic benefits to local people and economies.
- We highly recommend ensuring you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
- Please be aware of the reduced luggage allowance on the small aircraft transfer from Helsinki. It is advisable to use soft holdall style bags, this reduces weight and makes them easier to transport.
- If you are interested in possibly extending your trip, we are happy to help discuss, plan and book any extensions you may wish to consider.
- A comprehensive packing list will be provided on confirmation of your booking.