Tips for Whale Watching in Alaska

February 20, 2013 by

Things to Do, Travel Tips, Unforgettable Experiences

Whale Watching

Whale Watching. Photo credit: “christopher” via Flickr.

The Alaskan coastline is a prime spot for whale watching—glaciers, a high volume of wildlife of all kinds, and an abundance of outdoor activities make the state one of the most scenic locations on the continent for this type of activity. Whale watching season is roughly April through September (after they migrate up from Mexico). Here are some tips for catching sight of one of the world’s most fascinating aquatic creatures.

Know what you’re looking for. Humpback whales, Gray whales, Beluga whales, Minke whales, and Orcas aren’t uncommon here, and lucky for viewers they often travel in pods. Depending on your location, you may also spot a dolphin, seal, bear, or eagle.

Look for spray. Remember, especially out on the open ocean, you’ll almost always notice a burst of water (coming up from a blowhole) before the actual whale, so look for sprays instead of complete, darkened figures.

Maximize your probability of spotting something by bringing along a pair of binoculars. Cameras are an obvious option, but have the ones with the best zooms ready; water vehicles aren’t supposed to come too close to a whale (100 yards by federal regulation), so count on looking out at a reasonable distance.

Don’t underestimate sea sickness. You can’t spot anything if you’re hunched over the railing feeling nauseated, so bring along motion sickness meds if there’s any probability someone in your family will need some.

Factor in conservation: Choosing a tour company that’s less wasteful and less harmful to the environment is better for everyone (and everything), so double-check that your company is legitimate and follows all the rules it’s meant to before booking.

Dress warmly but bring sunblock. The Pacific Ocean isn’t exactly tropical, but sunlight can bounce back at you in reflections and still give you some intense burns. Multiple layers are your best bet for temperature regulation, so you can add or remove clothes accordingly. Gloves, hats and scarves might come in handy if it’s particularly cold as well.

Book in advance. Most companies, especially during peak months, often have tours that are fully booked and ask passengers to reserve a place ahead of time so that they can better prepare the excursion. You may be risking the weather a bit by doing it this way, but whale watching in Alaska in the rain is better than no whale watching at all!

Book a whale watching tour in Alaska. 

-Natalie Grant

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