18 May Alaska
In Alaska you can meet orcas, gray whales and humpbacks. First and foremost, however, Alaska is bear country!
In summer, Alaska is a very reliable place to watch humpbacks, gray whales and orcas. And if you ever wondered, where they take the pictures of bears standing next to a waterfall, just waiting for fish to jump into their mouths - those are from Alaska.
The most important region for whale watching in Alaska is the southeast around the Inside Passage with its countless fjords, glaciers, lakes and mountains. This is also, where most tours start from.
Between May and September, humpbacks stay in the northern parts of the Passage to feed. They mostly stay in the same area for 15 weeks or more, mostly in Glacier Bay or Icy Strait. Most tours start from Juneau and Gustavus. Ketchikan, Petersburg and Sitka further south are also possible starting points. Spotting a whale is usually guaranteed in that time of the year. If you don’t get to see one, you usually get a second trip for free.
Orcas live near the coast of Alaska all year long. Especially in the summer months, they can be quite reliably seen in the many fjords. Gray whales, too, spend the summer in the Gulf of Alaska in great numbers to feed. In September they migrate back south as far as the Gulf of Mexico, where they mate and raise their calves until they travel back north in March. That annual migration with a distance of up to 15.000 kilometers is the longest of all maritime migrations worldwide.
»Around Kodiak Island, you can also watch gray whales from the mainland.«
Further west, closer to Anchorage and Kodiak Island, whale watching is less established and there are less tour operators. Usually, whale watching is combined with other tours like for example bear watching. Around Kodiak Island, whales can be watched from the mainland quite well. There is an annual whale festival, like on Vancouver Island.
Apart from classic whale watching tours, there is also a range of multiday-trips and cruises. Quite often, a local operator offers tours, while the cruise ships are anchoring in the harbor.
Alaska’s seemingly boundless national parks are home to world’s largest population of bears, moose and eagles. The Inside Passage with its hundreds of islands, fjords and glaciers is one of the most beautiful sea routes in the world.
Alaska is divided into five regions: Inside Passage, South Central, South West, Interior and Far North. The sea route in front of Alaska with its hundreds of islands, fjords and mountains is one of the most beautiful coastal regions of the world. The centre of the Inside Passage is the area between Ketchikan in the south and Juneau and Gustavus in the north. This is also where you can find Glacier Bay National Park with its mighty glaciers, which slowly make their way towards the ocean. The inside passage can be explored quite well by ferry or cruise.
South Central is home to the biggest national park of the USA: Wrangell St. Elias National Park, about six times the size of Yellowstone, including the Saint Elias Mountains, the highest coastal mountains in the world. The Kenai Fjords and the Prince William Sound are also world famous for their countless fjords, mountain faces, lakes and glaciers. The whole region is well connected to the road networks and whale watching can be done from the coast in many places.
The Southwest is Bear Country – and best to be reached by boat or air-taxi. It cannot be accessed by road. Instead there are lots of bears there. If you ever wondered, where they take the pictures of bears standing next to a waterfall, just waiting for fish to jump into their mouths – those are taken at the Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park. Seeing 20 to 30 bears at once is a common thing there. The best times for watching bears at the Brooks Falls are July and September. There are only few salmon to lure bears to the river in June or August. Also interesting: Kodiak Island near the coast, home to the giant Kodiak bears.
»Alaska is Bear Country, home to approx. 100.000 brown and black bears. More than anywhere else in the world.«
In Interior, you can find the Yukon River and the highest mountain of the USA, Mount Denali (former Mount McKinley) with its 6.168 meters. Denali National Park with its giant mountains and its endless valleys and lakes is one of America’s most beautiful parks. Caribous, wolves, moose and grizzlies live here. This is also where you can find the Stampede Trail with the legendary Bus 142, in which famous drop-out Christopher McCandless died in 1992. The Yukon region has been influenced a lot by the gold rush, so you can still go pan for gold there. The most famous cities are Fairbanks (Alaska), Dawson and Klondike (Canada).
Far North, the northernmost region of Alaska, is located mostly north of the polar circle. So, the sun doesn’t set for several months in summer and can’t be seen at all from November to February, increasing chances to watch the polar lights dance. There is only one highway up here, surrounded by lots of solitude. And caribous. Millions of them.
Alaska is Bear Country, home to approx. 100.000 brown and black bears. More than anywhere else in the world. Altogether, there are a lot more animals than humans in Alaska – and a giant variety of species: During a common car trip through the national park, you can come across moose, reindeer, wolves, coyotes, bison, mountain goats, beavers, otters, eagles, owls and lots more. Bears, moose and wolves are best seen during dawn and dusk; the big herds of deer mostly live in the interior of the country. Eagles are found everywhere, especially the bald eagle: In the Chilkat Bald Eagle Reserve you can see them sitting in the trees by the thousands. If you take a trip further out in to the Bering Sea, you can visit the world’s largest colony of seals and sea bears: There are more than a million animals on the Pribilof Islands.