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As the Last Frontier, the mysterious icy wastes of Alaska are largely untamed. This status makes it one of the best places on earth to spot rare wildlife, from the majestic humpback whale to ferocious grizzly bears.
However, when it comes to spotting wildlife, timing is everything. Alaska’s fascinating creatures tend to surface at different points during the year – for example, July is the best time to see the famous "salmon run," when bears put their fishing skills to the test as the salmon head upstream to spawn. To give you best chance of spotting the animals you’re desperate to see, here’s our handy calendar guide. Don’t forget those binoculars!
Alaska is a haven for bears, and although they are usually found deep in the untamed wilderness, the annual summer migration of salmon brings them to the shallow streams to feed. As bright red salmon carve their paths upstream through the crystal-clear water, both black bears and grizzlies can be seen playing and sleeping by the rivers. If you’re lucky, you might even see bears teaching their young the best fishing techniques. Dawn and dusk provide the best chances to see the bears feeding.
You can take a floatplane tour from where we port in Ketchikan for the opportunity to view these fascinating creatures from above, and also enjoy panoramic vistas of serene rivers and remote mountains. Skagway also is considered Bear Country, and roadside viewing opportunities are often available from the Klondike Highway.
Iconic symbols of the north, Caribou are large, elegant animals related to the reindeer. They’re often known as “wandering deer” for their migration patterns – they can rarely be relied upon to be in the same place twice. For the best chances of glimpsing a herd of thousands travelling across the icy wastes, you may need to delve deeper into Alaska’s wilderness.
It’s possible to see caribou at any time of the year, but as they can travel over 50 miles in a day, it’s difficult to predict where. For the most spectacular viewing opportunities, however, visit in the spring or autumn. In the spring months, the herd starts to move towards its calving area, and when the leaves fall it marks the beginning of the mating season. Bulls can be seen rutting with magnificent antlers, so always make sure to keep a safe distance!
Seeing whales out in the open ocean is a once in a lifetime experience – and the waters of Alaska are one of the best places in the world to find them. They arrive in Alaska from the warmer waters of Mexico around April, and during the following four months, it's common to see Humpback, grey, beluga and killer whales in Alaskan waters.
On an Alaska cruise with us, we’ll take you sailing to Juneau, from where you can enjoy our Mendenhall Glacier and Wildlife Cruise. This is your chance to watch enormous whale tails appear in the sparkling water, as the sun sets in the background – remember to bring your camera. From Icy Strait Point, you can take a marine wildlife cruise with us, and you may even be lucky enough to spot whales as we cruise through the Inside Passage or Hubbard Glacier.
These huge animals are common in Alaska, even in the large cities such as Anchorage. But you still may need to be strategic to spot one. Your best chances are on the wild Denali Park Road, which is Alaska's prime habitat for moose. Amongst the lonely backcountry of mysterious forests and alpine tundra, wild animals have roamed for millennia in what is considered to be one of the world's last intact subarctic ecosystems.
The Denali National Park opens in June, making this the best time to catch sight of moose as they feed by the road.
On one of our Alaska cruises, we’ll take you to Denali, or you can travel further south to discover Katmai National Park, a remote and ruggedly beautiful haven for numerous species of wildlife. As well as moose, you might be lucky enough to spot grizzly bears, red foxes, and orca.
There's a reason the mighty bald eagle was chosen as the national emblem of the United States of America. Large, strong and graceful, an eagle soaring overhead is a majestic sight to witness in the wild. Alaska is home to approximately 40,000 bald eagles – which is half of North America's total population. As eagles tend to return to the same nesting spots year after year, they can be easy to track and spot, especially if you choose to go on a wildlife spotting tour in Ketchikan or Skagway.
It's also easy to spot bald eagles yourself. They are often found near the rivers, where they are able to feed easily. If you're lucky and are visiting in early September, you might even spot fledglings preparing for their first flight!
The icy wilderness of Alaska awaits. Start your adventure by finding out more about our Alaska cruises.
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