Travelers on cruises to Alaska are treated to miles of unspoiled forests, rushing streams and cool clean waters. The Last Frontier is a haven for wildlife, offering a unique opportunity to see majestic animals in their natural habitats.
Holland America Line has developed relationships with some of the regions’ best naturalists. These guides carefully curate tours that allow guests to view the wildlife that makes Alaska great in a gentle manner, careful not to disrupt nature. Animal lovers cruising to the region have a wide array of shore excursions to choose from by land, sea and air.
Take a look at some of the most exciting Alaskan wildlife tours!
Photo courtesy of photographer Steven A. Schimmelman.
When you cruise to Haines, Alaska, check out the Nature and Wildlife Expedition for a chance to see a wealth of wildlife. Engaging naturalists will guide you through the Valley of the Eagles. Nestled between rugged glaciers and snowcapped mountains, the fertile Chilkoot Valley is home to generations of brown bears, bald eagles, mountain goats, river otters, spawning salmon and every imaginable arctic bird. Take in the sea views for marine animals as well. You may also spot whales, porpoises, seals and sea otters! Powerful scopes provide close-up views and photo opportunities of the animals without disturbing their habitats.
Guest IAFlatlanders, enjoyed the wildlife expedition summer, 2013 and said in a review on HAL’s website,
“…There were many stops to view eagles, and an eaglet still in the nest. We saw a mother mear and cub. We were able to get within about 30 feet of them. Even the ranger complimented the driver and naturalist on a great job of handling the privacy of the bears with the opportunity for viewing. We would do it again!”
Photo courtesy of Hotel Director Bert Mackelenbergh.
As for bears — they’re everywhere! Summer in Alaska is the best time to see these incredible animals.
The bears tend to follow the salmon, and the Twilight Bear Viewing, also in Haines, does the same. Follow your naturalist guide into the valley of the Chilkoot river, for centuries a favorite fishing site for the Tlingit people and brown bears. There you can watch as bear families descend on the river foraging the grassy banks. Witness the food chain in action as thousands of salmon swim past the hungry bruins splashing and feeding in the water.
At Icy Strait Point join the Whales, Wildlife & Bear Search. In a single day you can go from watching whales frolic in the bountiful waters of Icy Strait to overlooking wild salmon spawning in the Spasski River with bears scattered along the banks. Whale sightings are guaranteed on this high-speed whale cruise to Point Adolphus. The waters along the way support a wide array of marine life, including orcas, sea lions, harbor seals sea otters, porpoise and of course the magnificent humpback whales. Along the way you’re also likely to spot bald eagles soaring overhead.
“Flightseeing” is a great opportunity to see Alaska from the air. While you’ll probably catch a glimpse of wildlife from any point on high, The Redoubt Bay Flightseeing & Bear Viewing is particularly geared to this end. This tour departs Anchorage and flies 70 miles southwest to the entrance of Lake Clark Wilderness Preserve. There you’ll board a covered pontoon boat from which you can watch bears enjoy their natural habitat.
Ever wanted to kiss a moose or look a wolf in the eye? For an up-close and personal experience check out Wild at Heart: The Kroschel Center for Orphaned Animals. A 45-minute narrated bus ride from the port at Haines through the Bald Eagle Preserve takes you to Kroschel Wildlife Center, owned by Steve Kroschel. Kroschel is known for his work with wild animals for film, such as the PBS Wild America series. He is the trusted caregiver providing a protected habitat for orphaned wildlife. There they thrive, retaining their independence while learning to trust humans. Wolves, Kodiak bears, wolverines, porcupines and reindeer are among the Kroschel’s refugees, and guests of the center may interact with them and gain an understanding of the time and trust required to train wild animals.
Photos courtesy of Charlotte Van Hoorn.
“If you like animals, this is for you!! My mom and I loved this excursion…It was wonderful to see these animals up close: grizzly bear, wolf, lynx, wolverine, porcupines, moose, caribou, red tail hawk, mink, and some I have surely forgotten there were so many! We’d come up to an enclosure and when we saw the animal, a big ooohhh and ahhh would come from the group. I think everyone enjoyed the experience. Took lots of pictures and will never forget the animals, especially the lynx and wolf as I have never seen them so close. Very worthwhile and a must for animal lovers!!”
-Lynn W., CA on The Kroschel Center for Orphaned Animals
If you’d like to spend more time at the Bald Eagle Preserve check out the Alaska Wilderness River Adventure. You don’t have to have eagle-eyes to spot the beautiful birds at the home to the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles. The Hess family has been operating the preserve for 24 years. A flat-bottom riverboat takes you along the Chilkat River in search of the most commonly sighted wildlife. The boat is designed specially for this glacial-bed river and the captain can stop and hold against the current when wildlife is sighted. The boat is powered by eco-friendly outboard motors and is very quiet. It is also uncovered, so you can view and photograph animals unhindered. Eagles, moose and bears are often spotted along the riverbank. The wildlife here is accustomed to the boats and unafraid. Often a majestic animal will simply watch you, allowing you to snap that once-in-a-lifetime photo.
Photo courtesy of photographer Steven A. Schimmelman.
This is just a small sample of the wildlife tours that Holland America Line offers in Alaska. For more information, or to add a shore excursion review of your own, visit the ports and excursions page on Holland America Line’s website and find the tour that best suits you.
Have you taken a wildlife tour? Tell us which animal excited you the most in the comments below!