Icy Straight Wildlife and Whale Watching Cruise

If you have never seen the world’s largest mammals, you are in for a treat.  This cruise guarantees that you will see whales on the tour.  And it is not a tough guarantee to meet.  We saw tons of humpbacks during this trip!  OK, so one animal is still "tons". So let’s just say we saw eight humpbacks.   Four of them moved together in a fishing pod which is rather unusual.  Humpbacks tend to spend feeding time alone while leaving the socializing to the mating and calving season down in Hawaii during the winter.  The temperature of the waters in southeast Alaska makes an ideal habitat for the tiny organisms that humpbacks eat.  Hence virtual swarms of enormous creatures.

The cost of the tour is $78 per person.  The same boat that brought us into Glacier Bay, the Auk Nu, took us on this cruise.  We arranged the trip through the Goldbelt Travel Center at the same time we arranged our other activities in Glacier Bay.  The cruise includes lunch consisting of either clam chowder or vegetarian chili, cookies and juice.  During the whole trip coffee, tea and hot cocoa are complimentary.  

The trip is definitely a whale hunt, so the route the boat takes depends on where the most whales have been sighted.  The captain and crew keep track daily on the movement of the whales through Icy Straight.  Icy Straight is not protected water like Glacier Bay, so the captain is allowed to approach humpbacks much closer.  The pod of four whales made no secret of the fact that they were not scared of the boat in the slightest.  As we watched them they moved closer and closer to us, until on one pass they surfaced right next to the ship.  The bow of the boat rose up into the air as all passengers ran astern to catch photos of the massive mounds of blubber coming up and spouting out their double nostrils, drenching those standing next to the deck railing.  After five or six breaths the behemoth whales turned flukes and disappeared back into the deep.

Of course, whales were not the only mammals we saw on this trip.  The captain brought the boat close enough to shore to see harbor seals sunning themselves and kelp beds full of sea otters.  We watched as a harbor seal stalked a sea otter that had been floating on its back eating a mussel.  With a splash the sea otter disappeared.  We have no idea if the harbor seal got it or not, but I was personally rooting for the sea otter.  After paddling around in kayaks with playful sea otters it is hard not to fall in love with the little critters.

The tour provides complimentary loaner binoculars and I highly recommend grabbing a pair.  There was a family of Sitka black tailed deer walking along a shore where the waters were too shallow to approach.  But with the help of the binoculars we got to watch as the deer moved down the beach and back up into the woods.  I highly recommend bringing rain gear on the trip.  The weather changed from rainy to sunny and back to rainy during our outing.  Pictures do not turn out as well from behind the glass of the boat’s cabin.  

For direct contact info for Auk Nu Tours, click here.

Last Visited: July 2000

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