Our trip today was the reason we came to Alaska…to cruise the icy waters and do some whale watching! How many people do you know that have seen whales in the wild just swimming on by the boat? Having missed out on seeing bears and moose, we were desperately hoping to see some whales on this trip and luckily we weren’t disappointed.
Barry had booked us on a trip with Kenai Fjords Tours. When we went to check in, the girl at the counter told us that they’d had a bad weather report and that the seas were going to be very choppy. We had to make a decision whether to change the date of our trip or risk getting seasick. As this was our last day in Alaska, we had no choice but to be brave and hope we didn’t get sick. She informed us that if half the people on the boat were to get sick then the captain would bring the boat back and we could get a part refund on our ticket. We were really hoping this wouldn’t happen as we had both been looking forward to this trip for so long.
An hour later, and after lining our stomach’s with some goodies from the Bakery At The Harbour, we boarded the boat. The staff were all really friendly when they checked our tickets, which boded well seeing as we were going to be on this boat with them for around 8 hours! Once everyone was on board, the captain spoke to us over the loud speaker. He was very witty and assured us he was going to try and avoid the choppy seas as much as possible but that in some parts it was going to be inevitable.
No sooner had we set sail when we spotted our first sample of wildlife – a sea otter. It could well have been the same one we had spotted on our first day in Seward as we were right near there, but who knows. He was just lying on his back giving himself a wash. It still amazes me how big these otters are compared to the normal river otters. They can so easily be mistaken for a big dog!
A few minutes later, our captain pointed out a bald eagle. It was sitting on the land away in the distance, but it still looked so big. We were just watching it do it’s thing, when a Black Oystercatcher (big black bird with a long orange beak) flew down and started fighting with the eagle. The captain said that was a very rare sight, but the eagle was probably going for the oystercatchers eggs!
We’d been on the boat less than half an hour and we’d already seen three wild creatures. We took this as a positive sign that we would get to see some whales. The captain was very good at pointing out all the wildlife and sharing all his knowledge about them with us.
It had been about an hour, when we got the heads up that there had been some humpback whales spotted ahead. We all ran outside onto the deck and were busy staring out to the ocean. All of sudden we saw ‘the blow’ when the whale shoots water out of it’s blow hole. We were amazed. Neither of us had ever seen this in the wild before. We continued watching waiting for the whale to do something else. It suddenly took a dive under the water and we got a great view of it’s back.
We continued on, sailing past ice-capped mountains, separated by giant glaciers. We made our way to a glacier that falls into the ocean. As we approached it, you could see chucks of ice just floating in the sea where it had broken off and sailed away. The boat made it’s way through the ice chucks. You could hear them hitting the boat and all I could think of was the titanic! The captain got the boat right up close to the glacier and we floated there, waiting for a chuck of ice to fall off and splash into the ocean.
We’d been waiting for a good 10-15 minutes, when it finally happened. A huge chuck worked itself loose and slid right down the glacier face into the sea. Feeling satisfied that we’d seen this happen, the boat continued on.
We were served some lunch – a chicken Caesar salad wrap and a bag of carrots. The waves were really starting to get rough at this point and there were a few people that had made their way down to the back of the boat to try and ease their sea sickness. Barry and I had been smart and positioned ourselves here from the beginning. We’d been on enough boats over our travels to know that you always sit at the back down below if you were to avoid getting sick. I did feel sorry for this people though. One man had his head in a sick bag half the time and another woman had her head buried in her husbands lap (I presume it was her husband!) All the money they had paid and they were missing out on it all!
Next we got to see some of my favourite animals – Harbour Seals. They were all hanging out on the rocks watching the boat glide by. And not long after we got our second glimpse of another Humpback Whale. This time it ‘fluked’ for us, where it lifts its tail out of the water. It was amazing.
Our captain then got a call about a pod of Orca Whales that were up ahead, so we went full speed to try and reach them in time. Barry and I were standing out on the deck at this point at the front of the boat. The sea was rough and the boat was going over the waves and crashing down so fast. It felt like you were on a roller coaster as every time you came down form a wave you got that feeling of weightlessness in your stomach. Pretty soon we reached the spot where the Orca’s had been seen and we waited it out. After a few minutes you saw the distinctive fins poke out above the sea. There was not just one, but at least five of them. Then they would poke their heads up as well. It was truly breath taking, to know these huge creatures were just feet from our boat. We sat there for a while just watching them but pretty soon they disappeared and our journey continued.
We made our way to a cliff face where there were hundreds of Black-Legged Kittiwakes (a type of gull) flapping around making nests for themselves, along with some Murres, which look very similar to Penguins. There were also some puffins and a resident sea otter floating around. As we continued we got to see our second lot of seals for the day. This time they were Steller Sea Lions. There was a lot more of these than the Harbour Seals and you could hear them barking at each other.
It was now time for the last leg of our journey. We were heading to Fox Island where we would be having dinner. As we made our way there, we got to see our last bit of wildlife, some Mountain Goats. They were right up the top of a hill in the distance, but you could just about make out the white splodges!
When we arrived at Fox Island we headed to the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge, where we were met with a huge buffet. We filled our plates with beef and a fillet of salmon. It was all delicious and we ate every bit. Whilst we ate, a ranger gave us a talk about the history of Kenai Fjords and Fox Island.
All the stones on the beach of Fox Island are flat and round so we finished the day by skimming some stones.
The tour was truly amazing, and we felt very lucky to see all the wildlife that we did. It was the perfect end to our time in Alaska.