The kings of Kamchatka.

It’s high time I said a few words about the kings of Kamchatka. Brown, self-powered mammoths with all-wheel drive, which you need to treat with the utmost caution should you ever meet any…

To the inevitable question upon returning home – ‘Did you see any bears?’ – we answered in the positive. The bears saw us too, but since bears don’t do cameras – and were anyway far more interested in the masses of fish in the rivers – they took little notice of us: a quick, sated glance over in our direction and off they shuffled. We, on the other hand, took lots of notice of them – with our Kamchatka newbies doing most of the photography.

You might think it’d be a bit risky taking pics of bears out in the wilds – no matter how satiated they are. And you’d be right. But from where we were observing them the dangers had been taken fully into account: low-current electric fences separate the beasts from the humans; in fact, they surround the living/observing areas completely, like this:

Some of the best pics were of the bears in the river (the Kambalnaya) at mealtimes. Sometimes whole groups would form – probably in the best spots for fishing. We once saw a full 12 bears all together splashing away as they pawed at the salmon. I sometimes wondered how any fish at all could possibly pass one of these walls of bears. Then I remembered just how many fish there are here – zillions!

Now for a few close-up shots:

And it’s not just the bears that are photogenic here…

Meanwhile, the bears just keep on fishing and eating and fishing and eating…

Tempers sometimes flare:

Moms teach their little ones all about life (here: mostly fishing, probably):

Looking at these 200-300kg giants, how they move around, run, or just sit on the rocks by the river much as dogs would… the photographic portraits you can get… I think I’m starting – finally! – to ‘get’ why photo-tourists spend a lot of money on bear-photography tours around Kamchatka during which they get helicoptered from special place to special place and sit for days on end clicking away on their Nikons… I see it now: bears are just the coolest, cutest animals ever. Watch out pandas!

Indeed, there are a great many professional photographers who use up terabytes of memory on their beloved bears. And if you want to check out the work of one such master – check out Igor Shpilenok‘s bear blog.

As for amateur pics – check out mine and those of A.D. and S.S.:

But you always have to remember that – though the coolest and cutest species ever – they are, after all bears – so you’ve got to stay vigilant and never forget the dangers. And if you need reminding, various signs help you out:

For bears not only have impressive muscles, they also have sharp teeth and claws:

…But they just add to bears’ charm!

Other mammals we saw – and snapped – were seals! They too were big into fishing for their sustenance – at an estuary of one of the rivers. So many of them too. Never seen so many all together. The rich supplies of fish here really do draw the crowds ).

Totally unexpected were the wild horses roaming here!

Someone had brought them here eons ago, something didn’t work out, and then the someone let them go free. They survived, got used to living in the wild, and multiplied, and now a herd of horses drifts across the tundra meadows of southern Kamchatka.

Our meeting with the wild horses was both brief and unnerving: one foggy morning, quite unexpectedly, the whole team appeared from nowhere – running right at us! Thankfully it turned away at the last minute and galloped off somewhere else. We were so taken by surprise that not one of us was quick enough in whipping out a camera; therefore, alas – no pics (.

And on that note, I’ll end this mammal-themed post. But I’ll be back tomorrow with the next Kamchatka-2018 installment…

All the Kam-2018 pics are here.

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