Dramatic, diverse and wildly desolate, Alaska is America’s most sparsely populated state. While it may not be known for its buzzing cities or lively nightlife, the region is home to a profusion of native wildlife species that roam its towering mountains, dense forests and chilly oceans. Put simply, it’s a nature lover’s paradise! Want to know more? Read on for a list of our favourite animals to keep an eye out for when cruising Alaskan waters.
These majestic mammals are renowned as one of the world’s most powerful predators and can be found roaming the waters of Southeast Alaska. If you’re lucky you may spot a pod from the decks of the cruise ship, otherwise there are plenty of orca expedition shore excursions on offer.
It seems amazing that these shaggy goats manage to keep their footing on the sheer cliff faces that they prance around on. Glacier Bay National Park is a great place to spot these nimble goats, as well as the mountainous areas around Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.
These adorable mammals are sleek and inquisitive, with cute whiskered faces and a wonderful playful disposition. They love the shallow coastal waters of Southeast Alaska where they can feed on shellfish to their heart’s content.
These iconic Alaskan birds have bright orange beaks and feet that make them easy to spot! They love to nest around the sheltered islands of Glacier Bay National Park where they can catch fish and soak up the sun. They’re usually joined by other native Alaskan bird species, including glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots and oystercatchers. Don’t forget your binoculars!
Steller sea lions
Chances are you’ll hear these noisy seals before you see them! They’re plentiful in Southeast Alaska and can be found basking on haul out rocks, as well as lounging around in fishing villages such as Petersburg and Glacier Bay’s South Marble Island. Don’t get too close though as the males are seriously chunky and can weigh over a ton.
Alaska is home to around 30,000 bald eagles that soar, swoop and cruise the skies. Keep an eye out for nests high in the tree tops found along the shoreline. Sitka’s Alaska Raptor Centre is a great place to get up close and personal with magnificent birds of prey that are being rehabilitated.
Salmon may not sound like the most exciting animal to spot however watching these determined fish flop their way upstream between late July and early September is quite the sight. When you sink your teeth into a tasty fillet you’ll have a whole new appreciation for what you’re eating!
Bears are one of the most coveted animals to spot on a cruise, and Alaska is home to two native species – black and brown. Spot them along shorelines in the spring and summer, as well as feeding from salmon streams. If you’ve got your heart set on glimpsing one of these beautiful creatures a bear oriented shore excursion is highly recommended!
Every year over 500 humpbacks spend the summer cruising through Alaska’s Inside Passage. Watching them breach and blow never fails to delight, especially when seen up close. Cruise lines offer fantastic whale watching shore excursions that will get you as close as possible to these gentle ocean giants.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Mike Charest, K Schneider, Diana Robinson, Lake Clark National Park & Preserve