The most commonly sighted Alaskan bear may be the “rock bear,” which turns out to be a boulder on the shoreline. However, it’s common to spot brown or black bears while sailing near shore or even while hiking: some shore excursions will take you to salmon streams where bears (and eagles) love to feed on fresh fish.
Mountain goats can be spotted throughout southeast Alaska. When you sail close to craggy mountains or cliffs, watch for the shaggy, surefooted creatures on high ledges.
So that you won’t be disappointed, know that one Alaskan animal you’re unlikely to see while cruising is the moose. There’s always a chance, but they usually stay farther inland.
In the Water
Alaska’s Inside Passage is a good place to spot adorable sea otters; they swim on their backs, the better to show their cute, whiskered faces. You’re also likely to see harbor seals and colonies of sea lions – the males can weigh up to a ton.
The nutrient-rich waters of Southeast Alaska attract humpback whales, and more than 500 spend the summer in the Inside Passage. These massive creatures love to “breach,” rising out of the water and dramatically splashing down on their backs. Also present, but harder to spot, are black-and-white orcas, or “killer” whales (which are actually part of the dolphin family).
Many cruises offer whale-watching excursions (via boat or kayak), which usually include sightings of other sea life, too. If your cruise calls on Seward, take an excursion to the Alaska SeaLife Center, an excellent aquarium that offers behind-the-scenes animal encounters.
In the Air
Puffins are actually better at swimming and diving than flying; watch for their distinctive orange beaks on the water or among the rocks. The oystercatcher’s bill is orange, too, though longer and slimmer than a puffin’s; they’re most often seen wading and feeding along shorelines.
Alaska also has a large population of bald eagles. You’ll spot them soaring overhead, plucking fish from the water or resting on nests high in the trees. You can take an excursion to the Alaska Raptor Center in Ketchikan, a rehabilitation center for injured eagles, owls and other birds.
To select an Alaskan cruise for the wildlife lover in you, talk with Anita, your professional travel advisor.
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