Open Eye: OU card leads to grizzly bears in Alaska

ALASKA is the best place in the world to see grizzly bears. Imagine salmon swimming upstream and jumping up a waterfall as they try to get to their spawning ground...

Imagine grizzly bears standing in the middle of the river at the top of the waterfall... Imagine the flying salmon being caught by these bears... An awesome sight.

Whenever this scene has been shown on television it has nearly always been filmed at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park, in Alaska.

Katmai is about the size of Yorkshire. In order to maintain its pristine and wilderness condition only 60 tents are allowed in the park in any one day and to gain entry a camper must first obtain a visitor's permit.

While backpacking across Alaska with my girlfriend - now my wife - we arrived in Anchorage. I telephoned the Park Rangers at Katmai to see whether there were any permits available (all permits for the entire year are distributed in January).

Fortunately for us, there had been a cancellation.

But there are no roads to Katmai or even remotely near it (it's 290 miles southwest of Anchorage).

To get there required two flights, both in single-engine floatplanes. We managed to find a pilot who could fly us there.

The problem was the cost, a staggering 880 US dollars. We had budgeted carefully for our trip and our contingency fund did not stretch to this. However we viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Out came the Open University Visa Card.It was the best use I have ever put my OU Visa Card to.

The journey there in two floatplanes was an adventure in itself, flying through wilderness valleys and landing on lakes.

We spent several days camping in Katmai.

To see the grizzly bears in their natural habitat was incredible.

We took hundreds of photographs of salmon trying to climb up the Brooks Falls, most of the salmon being inevitably doomed to end up in the claws of one of the enormous grizzlies.

It is a time that we will never forget and and experience that was possible only because of my OU Beneficial Visa card.

Richard Andrew

Richard Andrew studied with the Open University obtaining firsts in Mathematics foundation and Pure Maths modules, before becoming a full time student at Manchester University. There he studied mathematics, graduating in 1993.

He is now a teacher and middle manager at a state school in Manchester, where he teaches mathematics and ICT.

There is no annual fee for the OU Beneficial Visa Card. To apply for one, or for more information, please call 0800 161 162, quoting reference 1001.

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