Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest Sitka Reviews
You otter see this wildlife! Jun 24, 2012
This is a brilliant excursion offered by Allen Marine Tours, the same group which owns Alaskan Dream Cruises, the outfit we toured Alaska with. Because Sitka is not often visited without a cruise connection, the tours are mainly offered through those providers (you can e-mail them to arrange a tour directly, but no idea what the cost might be). This was included with our cruise, so there wasn’t any surcharge. I have no idea what others might charge, but here are the cruise lines they coordinate with:
Carnival Cruise Lines Princess Cruises
Celebrity Cruise Lines
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Holland America Line
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Line Silversea Cruises
Our trip was enhanced by amazing sunny weather for the first half of the tour, affording terrific views of the mountain studded panorama. But of course it was critters we were after, and they were spotted almost immediately once we were underway. Plenty of sea otters lazing on their backs, several whacking away at large shells on their upturned bellies was the initial delight. Of course this was trumped by humpback whales spouting off and breaching, which had everyone’s cameras clicking like crazy. They have plenty of binoculars spread throughout the cabin so you can always zoom in on the action, and there is a covered deck on the top if you want to get outside (when it started raining later the windows got pretty streaky, though you could open them easily if you were trying to snap another photo).
A knowledgeable guide accompanies the tour so you have a great resource for any and all questions. This proved especially valuable when the guide clued us in about the ‘bubble netting’ being performed by a pair of humpback whales. Upon identifying a school of fish, the whales circle the pool and blow bubbles from their spouts which envelope a bunch of the fish. The fish apparently are not inclined to break out of the bubble (though they could quite easily) and ride the bubble as it rises. Once a bunch of fishies have been brought up to the surface, the whales breach right through the pack with jaws agape. This was phenomenal because the two whales seemed to be taking turns and followed one after the other. It was tremendous.
Our boat also steered into some narrow inlets right up to the mouth of a few salmon streams, and once we chanced upon a momma brown bear with two cubs. The trio was grazing on grass, waiting for when the salmon would run. The runs were apparently starting late this year due to colder waters last winter. We enjoyed seeing and learning so much, the best part being that we were out for five hours when it was billed as a three hour tour. Perhaps that was because of the relationship between they had with our cruise line, but we idled for over a half hour by the bears until they moved inland, and spent a similar amount of time watching bubble netting, so I’m inclined they capitalize upon natural opportunities.
There is a snack bar / gift shop on the enclosed deck and complimentary hot coffee and tea were available throughout. Beyond Sitka, the same operator offers similar excursions from Juneau and Ketchikan. A highly recommended option if you have a shot at it!
Part of the Alaska At Last travel blog
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