More than just snow capped mountains and arctic tundra, Alaska has much to offer on its southern shores. Widely untouched by man, this region’s pristine bodies of water are some of the most beautiful in the world, and with plenty to see and do, you never even need to go ashore to get the true Alaskan experience!
Snorkeling in Ketchikan
Aqua blue waters, magnificent views, plenty of sunshine, and snorkeling? Water sports are not just reserved for tropical getaways and snorkeling is no exception. Alaska has some of the most spectacular snorkeling in the world. So what makes this experience so unique?
Because of the difference in temperature and region, Alaska’s waters in the Pacific open up to a wide range of underwater flora and fauna not found in places where snorkeling is more typical, as the warm waters of the Caribbean or Hawaii. Getting the chance to see ocean dwellers in their natural habitat, like harbor seals, moon jellyfish, and even whale make most want to dive right in. Not only does the wildlife intrigue visitors, but so does its plant life. Navigating your way through kelp forests is an experience in and of itself, however, you can colorful starfish and crab hiding away as well.
So how do you snorkel in a place like Alaska? Some travelers are reluctant to get into the cold water, but Alaska has a specific window for tourism, and that happens to be in its summer months (May-September) when the water, along with Alaska’s weather, warms up. Snorkeling in Ketchikan during the summertime can leave you in water temperatures of up to 60 degrees, and with wetsuits nearly an inch thick, you won’t feel the cold at all.
Don’t have a wetsuit? Don’t sweat it! Most cruise companies, like Princess Cruise Lines or Holland America, offer excursions that take you snorkeling and include all equipment like a wetsuit, fins, and snorkel. Scuba companies are also aware that there can be some pretty novice scuba divers. They’ll take time to work with the group and go at a pace that’s comfortable for everyone to enjoy.
Kayaking Down the Alaskan Gulf or Eagle Island
Unlike the lesser-known water activity of scuba diving, kayaking is the by far one of the most popular water sports for the region. A very unique way to sightsee, you can travel around lakes like or head down the coast of the Alaskan Gulf you’ll find no shortage of kayaking excursions or rental companies.
It also makes for a great way to see wildlife! Kayaking around Eagle Island on the way down the Vancouver from Alaska is one of the best ways to spot some eagles in their natural habitat and enjoy a kayak tour of Orcas Cove to spot whales and bears up close!
TRAVEL TIP: You can ask a AAA Travel Agent about excursions you find on Viator.com which houses loads of reputable, local excursion companies and will book it for you at a discounted.
Paddleboarding on Kenai Lake
Another very popular pastime in Alaska, paddleboarding is a fantastic way to see Alaska’s lake life, primarily on Kenai Lake on the Kenai Peninsula. The calm waters and gorgeous backdrop creates the perfect paddleboarding experience unlike anywhere else.
Many newbies can take a stab at paddleboarding as it’s pretty easy to get the hang of! Despite paddleboarding being easy to learn, nearly all touring or excursion companies offer quick tutorials to make sure you’re comfortable on the water.
If you’re looking for fun in the water but are nervous about the less than tropical temperatures, paddleboarding is for you! This water sport is unique in general because you have the potential to stay relatively dry during the experience. Again, most paddleboarding tours or excursions include a wetsuit and all other necessary equipment so you don’t have to worry about traveling with a 14ft board!
Whale, Walrus, Orka and Otter Watching
A whale watching tour is an absolute must. The best way to spot humpback whales is in Icy Strait at Point Aldolphus where the water is teeming with protein rich krill. Humpbacks are regulars through this area, so the chance of spotting one is great. Moving further east to the Gulf you can also find humpbacks, but or more likely to find sperm whales.
Orcas are much shyer, but if you want the best chance to spot a killer whale 50 miles east in Juneau is the place to go. Areas where there are high volumes of fish are always a good bet, however you may be lucky enough to find a pod hunting together. Prince William Sound and around Seward are also good areas to take an excursion. Here you can also find minke whales.
If you’re looking for cute and cuddly a variety of different seals, sea lions, and sea otters are found all over the Southeast region of Alaska. These naturally curious critters are easy to spot as they are usually trying to spot you back!
Please keep in mind that while Alaska is ruled more by beast than man, it will never be a guarantee you will see all of it. That is why it’s important to know where to look to optimize your chance of finding wildlife. From whales to walruses, you will have a fantastic time sighting Alaska’s amazing marine wildlife.
Ready to start planning your water adventures in Southern Alaska? Contact a AAA Travel Agent!