On day #2 of the trip, I woke up super early… as in 3:45AM. I actually spent about 2 hours catching up on a few blog posts from our recent Indonesia trip. I worked out of the passenger seat in the front of the RV, gazing out at mountains, water, bald eagles, and a sea otter! The rest of the crew stirred around 6:00AM. We set to work cooking up some scrambled egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast and made sure our cameras were loaded up with fresh batteries and blank memory cards. We gathered layers and filled water bottles, and headed into town to The Bakery (where the French dip sandwiches we ate last night came from) to meet up with our boat crew. Around 8AM, we met up with eight other people and then met up with one of our two crew members/guides/boat captains for the day. We were headed out on a small group wildlife and glacier boat tour through the Alaska Saltwater Lodge (you don’t have to stay at the lodge to go on the excursion).
We were led down to the boat dock where we boarded the Stellar Sunrise, one of the company’s two small boats (maximum of 15 people). The boat was great- seats in the back, in the front and inside. The inside also had heat, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea. Blueberry Muffins were also served when we first took off. Wanting to have the best view on the boat and loving previous experiences of being upfront in all the action, once we made it through the safety instructions and overview talk, we high-tailed it to the front of the boat.
We grabbed seats right below the captain’s window. There was a very light on and off drizzle but nothing too bad. Oh how naïve we were… The tour was awesome. We learned that our two boat crew members spend summers in Alaska and winters in Hawaii. They provide tours in both locations and love it. They were well versed and explained that most of the boats in the harbor and going out in search of wildlife will radio to one another when they see something so others can partake in it. Pretty cool system. The idea was that we would boat a few hours out until we reached a calving glacier. We would park in front of the glacier for lunch and then head back to Seward. We ended up eating a bit before reaching the glacier because of all the wildlife we saw and how much time we spent following and learning about the different animals on our way. Lunch consisted of turkey sandwiches, a bag of chips, soda, and a cookie.
We had hoped for sun but it didn’t work out quite as we hoped… it rained on and off all day and it was SO COLD. And WET. But, to be fair, we did that to ourselves. It was on principle. We were trying to be the diehards staying upfront, however with 8 foot swells bringing seawater overboard and rain water running off the boat roof and down our backs, it made it quite difficult. We were literally wet from head to toe, inside and out. We almost made it too. But at some point, we just had to take a break and sit inside in the warmth (where everyone else was). Even with the rain and the cold weather, it was awesome!!! My advice if you are planning on taking this or a similar tour in Seward/other areas of Alaska: wear rain pants or at least bring them with you just in case. A poncho or a rain jacket is also a must. Gloves and waterproof shoes are very very helpful. Also, make sure you either have a hood on your jacket or wear a hat.
As I mentioned earlier, even with the cold and wet, the tour was still phenomenal and Andrew and I both agree that we wouldn’t have traded it for the world. You travel out into Kenai Fjords National Park, into a few little coves and up into a few inlets around Resurrection Bay before heading out into the Gulf of Alaska. Because the water is a bit rough and you get tossed around a bit, there is also a little passage that is extremely calm where the boat slows down and/or stops so folks can use the restroom.
The calving glacier that we went out to view was Holgate Glacier, one of about 30 that are found in Kenai Fjords National Park. A massive glacier located on an ice-infested portion of water. Our boat pulled up into the icy waters and actually pulled a large chunk of glacier ice from the water onboard. She explained how the clearness or opacity indicate how cold the ice is and how long it will take to melt. We added some of the chunk sample to our cooler (not that it needed it because things were already quite chilly). We sat for about 30 minutes or so watching this gigantic glacier. Every once in a while we would hear what sounded like crashing thunder and then we would see a portion of the glacier collapse and crumble down into the ocean. The pictures below show the glacier from our viewpoint, still over ½ mile away from the glacier itself.
I mentioned earlier in this post that we saw a lot of wildlife on the trip. We sure did. Here’s a list of what we saw:
– Orca Whales
– Humpback Whale
– Sea Otters
– Dall’s Porpoise (look like miniature Orca Whales)
– Harbor Seals
– Stellar Sea Lions
– Grey Porpoises
When we add this list to our Day#1 list, we total 10 types of animals on the trip so far. Not too shabby!
When we arrived back to the harbor in Seward, we were frozen to the bone. But still, we couldn’t resist stopping for a photo or two with the statues in town first. Afterwards, we headed back to our RV, changed into warm, dry clothes, and then dined on RV-made grilled cheese and Ramen. Andrew and I also spent some time packing breakfast and snacks and loading up our packs for tomorrow morning—we have a long day planned that starts at 4AM.
1. Alaskan Saltwater Lodge Small Group Wildlife Boat Tour: http://www.alaskasaltwaterlodge.com/alaska_whale_watching.htm (Cost: $259 including tax and fees; $216.43 if booked online)
Highly recommend taking advantage of the small group boat tour- maximum of 15 people means minimized number of heads and arms in your way while trying to see and/or take pictures :0). Plus, the tour guides are fantastic. Remember that you get coffee, tea, water, soda, an onboard restroom, maximized guide-visitor ratio, comfy seats, heat and outdoor space, snacks, and lunch (sandwich, chips and cookie)! Let them know if you’re a vegetarian beforehand!
Tips for the Traveler Going on the Boat Tour:
- Rain Jacket/Poncho (A MUST)
- Camera (A MUST) Bonus points for an SLR camera with a decent zooming capability. Double bonus for ISO)
- Hood or Hat of Some Kind (A MUST)
- Waterproof Shoes
- Gloves (Nice to have- it can get really chilly) *Note- if you forget your gloves, you can contact the owner of the boat tour and she’ll actually lend you some gloves for the trip*
- Rain Pants (Nice to have- all I’m saying is that if you get caught in rain, you will really really want to have them)
- Sunglasses (Nice to have- especially if you’re sitting outside; can block the sun and the wind!)
- Dramamine (A MUST if you are prone to sea-sickness; they actually ask people who are prone to it to take the medication when we are just starting the trip to avoid and unpleasant trip). *Note we did have one person get sick on our boat- she just high-tailed it for the end of the boat, did her business, and moved on. I’m not sure the majority of people on our boat even knew)