Japan Bear Watching Tour
September 12 - September 24£1294 – £6625
Japan Bear Watching Tour
When people think about the wildlife of Japan, snow monkeys, dancing cranes and Steller sea eagles of the winter usually spring to mind. However the summer months have some of the best wildlife watching in Japan. The summer is time season of the bear in Japan and this tour will take you to Hokkaido where one of the worlds highest densities of brown bears occurs as well as taking you hiking into the northern Japanese Alps where we have a good chance of spotting the rare Asiatic black bear. So join this tour and see Japans two species of bears as well as some of Japans more famous animals, such as the snow monkeys and Japanese red-crowned cranes.
Watch Brown & Asiatic Black Bears
Two of Japans leading Scientists
Spotlight the Blakistons Fish Owl
Enjoy great views of Mt. Fuji
Whale watching off Shiretoko NP
Hike the Japanese Alps for Black Bears
Top Animals on Tour
Asiatic Black Bear
Japanese Red-Crowned Crane
Tour Dates: 12/9/2024 – 24/9/2024
Duration: 12 nights
Type / Focus: Black & Brown Bears
The first port of call in Japan will be the capital, Tokyo. When you arrive at the airport you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku). Depending on the time of arrival you can enjoy some sightseeing around this iconic and wonderful city, comparing the traditional and modern aspects of Tokyo is half the fun of visiting the city and we may visit locations such as the Imperial Palace as well as the iconic Omotesando Street and the famous intersection at Shibuya. Sightseeing is only possible today if your flight arrives early enough; a little exploration of this bustling city is the perfect way to prepare for your evening meal back at the accommodation.
Various Hokkaido National Parks
This morning you will be taken to the domestic airport in time to catch the flight north to the second larges island in Japan, Hokkaido. Once you arrive in Hokkaido you will be met by one of Japans leading biologists Mr. Yasuo Kuwahara. You will first be taken to your accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel; before visiting some wildlife watching areas around here and also the farmlands that are the winter haven for hundreds of red-spotted cranes and various other bird species. We will also endeavour to have a wildlife watching boat cruise around here, however this is dependant on the boat schedules (arrival time of the flight) and the tides. There are some great marine mammals around here such as seals, dolphins and possibly Eden’s whale as well as a wealth of bird life. After spending the day trying to find wildlife around here you will then head back to the accommodation for your evening meal.
Various Hokkaido National Parks
This morning you will further explore the areas around southern and central Hokkaido in search of wildlife. Whilst travelling through the area you are likely to see sika deer and we will try and find more elusive mammal species such as red fox, Japanese martens, raccoon dog or mountain hare. You will also be moving to a lodge in Nakashibetsu this afternoon; this destination is a very good location to find the worlds largest species of owl. This is the Blakistons fish owl and the owls often visit the lodge after dark. Whilst spending time here after dark we have the chance of seeing other nocturnal species such as Siberian flying squirrel and sable, although these are rare species.
Shiretoko & Akan National Parks
After breakfast this morning you will be transferred from Nakashibetsu towards the most famous national park in Japan and a World Heritage Site, Shiretoko. To get to Shiretoko we will travel through the very spectacular Akan National Park. This park is the oldest national park in Japan and was founded in 1934. The geography of Akan is what makes this park so stunning, there are three large lakes here as well as the imposing Akan Caldera which dominates the landscape as it rises to 1,499m. There are also some active volcanoes here including Oakan-dake Volcano as well as Fuppushi-dake and Kikin-dake. Whilst travelling through Akan National Park we will try and spot sika deer, red foxes and also keeping our eyes peeled in the skies as a variety of rare birds can be found here such as Stellers sea eagles, white-tailed eagles, black woodpeckers and swans. After arriving at the accommodation, level – 3-4* hotel in Utoro you will have some time to relax before enjoying some more of the stunning scenery here, looking out over Shiretoko Peninsula. This peninsula is the most north-eastern point of Hokkaido and contains the entire park, some of which can only accessible by boat or hiking. Outside of the very harsh winter time here the park is dominated by the one of the largest concentrations of brown bears in the world and we will try and spot some of these bears this afternoon. This is one of the visually impressive places in the world with volcanoes, calderas, dense conifer forests, dramatic coastlines and beautiful lakes and we hope to show as much of this off during our time here.
Shiretoko National Park
During the next three days here you will be taken around the dramatic Shiretoko National Park, our main focus here are the many brown bears that inhabit the park. The brown bears on Hokkaido are the same species as brown bears found from Scandinavia to Yellowstone and are very closely related to brown bears from Sakhaln and Kiril Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk. They have a different evolutionary lineage from the Asiatic black bears found sporadically in Honshu; these Hokkaido bears arrived on land bridges from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia whilst the Honshu black bears arrived on land bridges from the Korean Peninsula. There are currently around 3,000 and as a result of their large numbers they are active day and night looking for food. We will explore the park in vehicle and by hiking and spend some time around the river systems here as the bears hunt out any salmon arriving a little early for spawning. The spawning occurs in September and October and is very spectacular, if you would wish to book a private tour for this time of year that is fine – however by travelling in August you are at a very time of year for the brown bears and also a good time for black bears (September and October is not a great time to try and see the black bears). By further exploring the lakes, hillsides and forests as well as travelling up and down the coastlines we will be looking out for other mammals and birds. In the skies we could see Stellers sea eagles or white-tailed eagles although they are rarer in summer than winter. During one of the days here we will also have the chance of enjoying a whale watching trip out to sea. The waters around here are home to a wealth of marine life including sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins and porpoises. The more commonly seen species here are sperm whales, north Pacific right whales, Dalls porpoises and sometime very rare beaked whales are spotted. Whilst around Shirtoko we will also visit the Shiretoko Nature Centre which is run by the Shiretoko Nature Foundation, this is a wonderful conservation and wildlife research institution and they are working hard to expand and protect the forests and all the flora and fauna. It is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the park and its wildlife and the staff here are experts and should be able to answer any questions you have. We will bring a packed lunch with us each day we are wildlife watching and will return to the accommodation, level 3-4* hotel; each evening for your dinner.
Kamikochi National Park
This morning you will be transferred to Memanbetsu and fly back to Tokyo, depending on the flight time we will board a bullet train and depart for the Japanese Alps. Kamikochi is one of the most aesthetically beautiful parks in Japan. Offering some of Japans most incredible mountain scenery, Kamikochi is a roughly 15 kilometer long plateau in the Azusa River Valley, about 1,500 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by tall mountains, including Nishihotakadake (2,909 m), Okuhotakadake (3,190 m), Maehotakadake (3,090 m) and the active volcano Yakedake (2,455 m). You will hike through the forest in search of wildlife and taking in the spectacular surroundings. The Japanese macaques and many bird species are encountered here and there are Asiatic black bears also inhabiting the park, but they are tricky to see here. Also present in the park are Japanese serow, Japanese squirrel, Japanese martens and Raccoon dogs but they are all rare. After hiking you will return to your accommodation for your well deserved evening meal.
Kamikochi National Park
Today you will spend the full day exploring the hiking trails of Kamikochi national park, the park is so beautiful that it is referred to as Japans Yosemite, although smaller than Yosemite the park does have some exceptional sights to behold and a good amount of wildlife for the patient and dedicated wildlife watcher. You will once again return to your accommodation for your evening meal.
Shinshu Kuma Ken National Park
This morning we will rise very early and catch the train to Matsumoto, here we will meet a new guide (we will endeavour to have the services of local bear experts) that has experience working with various bear conservation and research organisations. They have been working very hard since 1995 to help protect, preserve and understand the rare Asiatic black bears as well as raising awareness of the bears to the local people. In some rural villages the bears are seen as pests and have been persecuted in the past and part of the researchers work here is to make sure that people and bears can live together in harmony. Once we have arrived in Matsumoto and met your new guide you will be taken in a private vehicle to a good spot in the mountains. The exact location will be dependant on the bears recent movements and we will go out in search of the bears, stopping to scan the hillsides regularly. We will stop for a picnic lunch after 4-6 hours of bear searching and have a rest at the accommodation, level – traditional mountain lodge. After a rest and lunch we will have a shorter afternoon hike for bears before returning to the lodge for your evening meal and a presentation on the bears. Spending the night here in the mountains is magical and with a clear night the views are spectacular.
Shinshu Kuma Ken National Park
This morning we recommend an early start to watch the beautiful sunrise and views over Mt Fuji. We will then breakfast and begin the hike back down the mountains, once again keeping a look out for bears and other wildlife, Japanese serows, Japanese squirrels and a wealth of bird life can be seen here. We will lunch on the hillside before more searching and scanning for Asiatic black bears. Later on today you will be taken back to Matsumoto and your accommodation, level – traditional style Japanese hotel and have your evening meal.
This morning is your last night in Japan and we will have a relaxing day, after breakfast we will catch the train back to Tokyo. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and rest and go over the sights and experiences you have had on this tour. Later on this evening you will have your farewell evening meal at the accommodation, 3-4* hotel (Best Western Shinjuku).
After breakfast you will be transferred to the international airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
The weather in north and central Japan is very pleasant in summer, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 27 degrees C and an average of 16 degrees C in Hokkaido and warmer temperatures in Honshu of 20-30 degrees C and an average temperature of 25 degrees C. There is also the chance of rain on any given day but August is one of Japans driest months of the year.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private vehicle to be driven by a local guide for transfers and taxis when needed. We have included the services of one of Japans leading biologists whilst in Hokkaido as well as the regular services of Japans leading bear conservationist in Honshu as well as having a great team of local guides throughout.
All our excursions including guided walks, whale watching trips, guide fees, hiking fees, sightseeing fees and park entrance fees are also included.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be a a combination of warm clothing and light and airy hiking clothes. Comfortable, waterproof walking shoes are a must. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. We provide a couple of binoculars and at least one spotting scope. Camera Traps will also be used to try and capture hard to see wildlife in the dead of night and wildlife scanners etc are used when needed (subject to local conditions).
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights and flights within Japan, (special tourist air passes can and should be purchased together with international tickets. For more information on the flights that you need to book please contact us and we will let you know), Travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
International air tickets – when purchasing an international ticket, make sure that the airline is part of the oneworld team. This includes Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines and this will allow you to also purchase a discounted oneworld Yokoso pass which makes your internal flights very cheap. If you book with another airline then the Visit Japan Fare will be applicable. For more information you can visit http://www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan/ . It is worth noting that either passes are very cheap and make the internal flights very good value. When it comes to time of booking then I recommend you contact the UK office and they will talk you through the best way of purchasing what you need.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders are not required to have a visa for Japan but there are criteria for entering (it is all pretty standard requirements but worth checking first). However things change so the easiest way to find information is by visiting http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/visa.html (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit the USA. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting the Japan as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Reviews of this Holiday
Jeremy & Wendy, Winnipeg
Mr. G. Bush, Conway
John, Stephen & James, Scotland
Mr & Mrs. Hunter, Perth