Watching for Wildlife on Alaska Vacations

This is an image of a bald eagle in Alaska.
This is an image of a bald eagle in Alaska.

The Inside Passage comprises a tapestry of islands that line Southeast Alaska's coast, forming a protective barrier between the vast Pacific Ocean and the much calmer waters between the islands and the mainland. These cold waters along the Alaskan coast are rich in nutrients, supporting a large and diverse collection of Alaskan wildlife. Cruise through the Inside Passage on one of your next Alaska vacations, and you'll get to glimpse some of this breathtaking Alaska wildlife while you relax on your cruise ship.

Alaska's Marine Mammals

Alaska is home to a vast collective of fascinating marine mammals, including humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otters. Massive, remarkably acrobatic humpbacks can be found slapping the waters with their fins and tails, charging at one another, breaching, and diving as they collectively feed (a process called bubble net feeding) or try to attract mates. Orcas (actually members of the dolphin family) can be distinguished from humpbacks by, among other things, their unique black-and-white coloring; distinctive markings behind the dorsal fin allow researchers to identify each orca individually.

You'll find that Alaska's harbor seals are most easily spotted when they are resting on ice floes near glaciers, though sometimes you'll find them on sand bars or beaches. Sea lions spend their days playing in the water or hauling out onto rocks to sun themselves. Tiny sea otters float on their backs while holding hands or enjoying a shellfish dinner.

Bird Watching in Alaska

With the wild diversity and large populations of birds along the coast, Alaska's Inside Passage is a bird watcher's paradise. On your Alaska cruise, keep a lookout for the rhinoceros auklet. Boasting a thrilling flight pattern, this little bird is a great diver that can go as deep as 300 feet. Look, too, for tufted puffins, with their bright orange beaks and feet. They can be found among large colonies of birds on cliffs along the water's edge. Their cousins, the horned puffins, have white bellies and faces and a black horn shape rising up from each eye. Like the tufted puffin, they make their nests on the rocky cliffs.

In massive nests in trees along the shore, you can spot bald eagles. It is not until they reach maturity that bald eagles' head feathers turn a distinctive white, giving them the "bald" appearance for which they are named; young eaglets have a much darker coloring.

Among the many other types of birds to watch for are murres, oystercatchers, kittiwakes, and guillemots. Be sure to bring along a camera so you can photograph each bird you find on your Alaskan cruise.

Land Mammals Along Alaskan Shores

Don't forget to look for wildlife along the shores while you cruise Alaska to ports like Skagway, Ketchikan, and the capital city of Juneau. Many land mammals can be seen right from the deck of your cruise ship. Bears, moose, wolves, deer, and many other creatures are known to walk right up to the water's edge, even strolling along the beach or venturing into the water.

Alaska vacations can give you an up-close view of unbridled nature that's teeming with wildlife. It's a beautiful place to relax, rejuvenate, and come back new.

Are you ready to plan your visit to Alaska? Discover the Alaskan cruise that's perfect for you.