Whales in Alaska
Alaska is located in the north-eastern part of the northern ocean, in an area that is a great habitat for marine mammals. Generally, whales are scattered along the whole Alaskan coast but here are a couple spots where it would be really hard to miss them. Obviously, no one can know for sure how many whales will be spotted and at what distance but these gathering spots have a large number of whales and you can definitely be optimistic (very, very optimistic). How optimistic? Let’s just say that a number of whale watching companies offer money back guarantee in the event of no whale sightings. Some of these companies have been in business for over ten years and none of them have ever refunded a costumer.
So what kind of whales are we talking?
Humpback whale: spends most of the summer months in the cool calm waters of Alaska, in pods (a group of whales is called a pod) of a few dozen whales. These whales can reach upwards of 25 tons and are some of the largest whales in the ocean and the most common in southern Alaska.
Killer whale (Orca): one of natures’ most intelligent mammals. Surprise fact (unless you watch the nature channel) – killer whales actually belong to the dolphin family. Can be spotted from a distance thanks to its characteristic black and white spots, and its’ long visible dorsal fin (the fin on its back). In nature, the dorsal fin is erect where as in captivity it curls downward. Yes that was on the nature channel as well.
Beluga Whale: a relatively small and very friendly whale, living in large groups and is in danger of extinction along the Alaskan coast. Can be spotted mostly along the western and northern beaches of Alaska. One of the most convenient and accessible viewing points is in Turnagain bay, along the road between Anchorage and Girdwood. The road offers many organized lookout spots and the Belugas pass right by them, chasing schools of Salmon. The best time to see Belugas is during August- September, and they look kind of like white waves on the water, only these waves come in packs and have nothing to do with the wind. But as every child in Anchorage knows, the best way to find out where the Belugas are is to find the lookout spot with the biggest group of excited people. And there’s something you won’t learn on the nature channel.
Our recommendations for whale watching
Gustavus: the town of Gustavus is located at the entrance to one of Alaska’s most famous national parks, Glacier Bay. Inside the park, ships follow the strict guidelines of the parks’ administration, and are not allowed to get to close to the whales. But the larger whale concentrations are located outside the park, at a spot called Point Adolphus. Most of the whale pictures you’ve seen on National Geographic are from here, and aside from the large number of whales, you can also see an lots of other marine life enjoying the abundance in food. Cruises leave Gustavos twice a day (Gustavos is reachable from Juno by pane or ferry).
Kenai Fjords: Kenai Fjords National Park is a coastal park west of Seward, on the southern part of the Kenai Peninsula. Cruises leave Seward twice a day and travel deep into the Park. There are a variety of different cruises that go to different parts of the park (the short ones are 4 hours long and the longer ones are 9), and during the cruise whales are seen often. This is also one of the best places in Alaska to see Killer whales (Orcas), but the odds of seeing some are lower. The cruises usually include a visit to the [arks most impressive glaciers and of course, Lunch.
Juno: Juno is Alaska’s capitol and located in the middle of the Inner Passage, and is surrounded by many breath taking inlets that are home to a large number of marine animals. Cruises that leave Juno focus on the inlets that are close to the city, and use a smaller but comfortable boat to view whales. These cruises are a little more crowded, but they deliver the goods none the less.