Alaska is huge, diverse, from mountains to barren lands, it got everything in between. Honestly, there is so much to see in Alaska that it may take years to enjoy this beautiful 49th state of the USA. And I am not even exaggerating it.
Being a weekend traveler, I have a very short time to see Alaska on my first trip and I picked two important things – one for myself and the other for my wife. I will get to my piece in the next post as ladies first.
While passing thru places in Alaska, I have been adding them to the list which should at least make my next 49 trips to this beautiful state. Camping along Seward Highway, Denali peak, Northern lights in Fairbanks, Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau are just a few of them. I am watching flights already.
Anyways, the place of the hour: Kenai Fjords National Park.
I had to do this because, after a long, boring road trip, this place should entertain my wife as she enjoys peaceful things. And I am really glad it lived up to expectations. Actually, more than expectations. It is a beautiful, day-long cruise where we saw glaciers along with tons of wildlife – gray whales, humpback whales, killer orca whales, sea lions, otters, puffins, mountain goats, oh my god, seeing all those animals for the first time right in front of us made us jump all day. It is one day that we will talk for ages to come.
Kenai Fjords National Park is best seen from cruises as it is famous for huge glaciers and diverse sea animals. Cruises start from the prettiest town of Alaska – Seward which is about 2.5-hour beautiful drive from Anchorage. And there is so much to see along the way that it has to be a separate trip. Also, there are ‘pretty blue and yellow’ trains daily running from Anchorage to Seward, and those timings perfectly match with the cruise.
We booked a 6-hour cruise with Major Marine Tours as we wanted to explore things leisurely and also wanted to give all our time to see as much as possible. Thankfully, it worked out so well.
Also, June is the perfect time to visit Alaska as we almost have 24 hours of daylight (Hello, midnight sun!) as well as a great time to see all the wildlife as they are finally out after a long winter.
We saw a man with his dear cat!
We are right on time for check-in at 10:30 AM for the 11:30 cruise. All prepped up for a long cruise with bars, fruits, and snacks as lunch, water and coffee are on-site. Hoping sea-sickness won’t hit us. (Great insider tip below).
Waiting in line, we were taking in the whole scene. Huge harbor with various types of boats – Long ones, tour boats, one Colorado ship that has just returned to the harbor, one family that were loading up the boat with all essentials for fishing. And there is one particular one that stood out. An old Alaskan man sitting in front of his old colorful boat home with a friend and another family person – a huge cat. He seems like living there in his boat and he is happy to wave back at us. Smiling at him, we spoke about how beautiful it would be to live in this paradise even for a short time.
We posed for a souvenir pic in front of the boat and the crew welcomed with smiles. Soon Captain greeted, the boat departed, and just off the harbor, we saw sea otters already even before we settled into our seats. Soon the boat rushed into the waters of Kenai Fjords revealing the majestic Alaskan landscape. Snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see, pristine waters, and huge glaciers. As the boat sped up, so as the winds, and we weren’t able to stand in front anymore. Luckily, there was a small closed deck on top of the boat where we spent most of the time thereafter.
We saw ‘IT’!!!
The captain is casually explaining about the fjords and glaciers when he stopped in the middle as he heard something on the radio. Soon someone gasped ‘There!’. We were all alerted immediately by the captain and he slowly moves the boat to the other side and asked to keep watching. We were sitting there for almost 15 min and saw nothing. Just when the Captain said we will wait for 5 more minutes, heard another person shouting “Look, it’s over there, 9 o clock (270˚)”. This time Captain quickly moved the boat and that’s it, this is the moment. We saw the water splash that sounded like “Uffff” and saw this huge animal diving swiftly into water. Within minutes we saw another blow “Ufff” and this time it moved slowly that it took almost 20 seconds to go into the water.
“This is the Humpback Whale!” said Captain that this one may be as long as our boat and an adult can weigh more than 25 tons (50000 pounds or 5 elephants at least). And a blue whale, the largest of all can weigh at least 40 elephants. Captain continued that this one can be traveling from as far as Mexico and does so every summer for giving birth. We were just standing there looking and learning at this giant creature in awe.
Soon it came out again showing off its entire body. Captain mentioned that seeing the tail is the sign, it plunged deep. We may not see it again for another 30 min at least and can even travel several miles by then. We finally took our breath and just saw each other as if we achieved something. Quite a sighting it is! And seeing such a big whale doing its magic for the first time left us in amusement for so much time after.
We saw more!!!
And that’s just the beginning. We continued our journey deep into Kenai Fjords National Park. The captain explained about the monitoring equipment placed on top of the mountain that will give them a forecast in advance. As we moved past another boat, he stopped and asked us to look in front of the boat. There they are – three killer Orca whales traveling as a group with the center one possibly be the child. Although we are at a distance, we can clearly see those fins above water level. Can’t believe we are actually seeing killer whales right here in front of us.
Just ahead we stopped when Captain got another tip that there is another whale nearby. It is a blue whale, a bigger one. The dives are revealing its enormous body in slow motion in real time. The captain said that we are a lucky group to see so many of these huge creatures already.
After this, we went straight ahead to the Aialik glacier, the largest in the Kenai Fjords that drains the Harding icefield. The other day people have watched a huge chunk of glaciers fallen into the waters here. This glacier is reducing day by day and wonders how much of it will be left for the next generations. If you are already taking a stand for Global Warming and Plastic reduction, Kudos! And also cheers to everyone who travels responsibly – leaving no trace behind.
We time traveled!!!
We stopped at the glacier for more than an hour marveling at this enormous structure. There are waterfalls on mountains around here where the ice is melting and falling from it. The place is filled with several seagulls, a couple of otters, and puffins. The scene is so relaxing and complete with the sounds of water, birds, and air. Few people picked up ice from the glacier that is floating and took pictures with it. This ice age is at least 23,000 years, watta feeling to stand with such a historic piece. We also saw people who kayaked almost to the glacier, which must be a mind-blowing experience in Kenai Fjords National Park.
On our way back, we picked lunch and decided to have it inside in our designated seats. As the boat jumped on water, we couldn’t stay inside but completed our lunch outside.
We saw animals, lots of them!
Our first stop while returning is a mountain that looks all-white but realized only when we reached it. Several thousands of seagulls made it a base. There must be at least 10,000 or more of them. There are also other birds like thick-billed murre and sea puffins who are all just having so much fun here.
Just on the other side, sea lions rocking on the rocks. There are so many of them just living their regular day but looks like they are living the life we all dream of. Sunbath all day. There is one that is huge like a Rhino. And they bark. Very loud and funny.
On the way back, we passed thru several fjords that look a lot like movie scenes. Clouds on top of them and boats in front of it making them look like toys. The whole scene is mesmerizing that I kept taking pictures. Kenai Fjords National Park is just so beautiful and it is easy to forget that we are still in the USA and not Iceland or Norway.
Captain stopped at one other mountain where he wanted us to find eagles and mountain goats. After careful observation further ahead, we were able to see mountain goats – a pair with two kids. How these experienced climbers survive on this mountain alone – in the middle of the ocean just feeding on the vegetation is beyond imagination.
We did not find eagles and bears on this trip. But saw another baby whale just practicing breathing and staying in and out of the water. Captain thought mama whale should be around but we couldn’t find it. Also, we were just hoping until the last minute that we would see at least one whalewhich must complete the trip. But no luck today, well there is always another trip to Kenai Fjords.
We saw it all, almost!
We cruised back to Resurrection Bay where we could see the town of Seward in all its glory. After 6 hours, Captain is still patient enough to explain all the history and how the town was referred to once “Alaska Starts Here”. He suggested day trips around including Exit Glacier. We also saw a whale cruising and ‘blowing’ at a distance.
Walking back from the, we saw Captain and gave thumbs up for his extraordinary guidance in the trip. It was his patience and knowledge that made this trip fun and memorable.
We bid goodbyes to the neighbors and walked out on the ramp to the dock. The old man is still pampering his dear cat and smiling along with it.
It’s time for heavy lunch and there is nothing better than local delicacy. Although quantities are less, Alaska’s Seafood Grill did not disappoint. We wanted to try crab but it was too expensive (1/2 lb – $99). Picked Rod fish and Halibut bowl, headed to the patio for a relaxed lunch.
Soon, we traveled back to Anchorage for a much-needed sleep at Ingra House. It is a hostel but we had our own with a shared bathroom and kitchen. It is neat and that’s all we need to crash for the night.
See you soon Alaska!
Alaska is one place that we should travel without an itinerary. We were sad to miss a few must things to do like a hike on Exit Glacier or experience tundra at Turnagain Pass. But we satisfied ourselves saying that we are gonna do this again, hopefully soon. Alaska is the place where we can stay close to nature and actually feel how little we are in front of it. It reminds us that we have to treat nature respectfully and that in return treat the same. Alaska is one of the few places where we can live raw, without any luxuries but just basic needs, and brings out the best in us.
Did the story make you feel real Alaska? Let us talk in the comments section.
Looking for more places around Anchorage? Check out our detailed blog:
We also drove on Dalton Highway and we can’t stress enough how adventurous it was.
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Also, here are few experiences from ‘Wonders of the World’. Still on goal to see them all.