No stay in Alaska would be complete without a whale watching excursion, so we made our way down to Seward to check that box. It was a beautiful, but cold, April morning.
The town of Seward is located on the Kenai Peninsula, which is in south central Alaska. From Anchorage, we drove for about two and a half hours, through some pretty spectacular landscape.
Seward is a small town with a population of only 2,500, and was named after William H. Seward who served as Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State and negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
We arrived early and had time to wander the docks before our cruise departed.
We enjoyed watching sea otters play in the water,
and were happily greeted by this friendly guy.
He was very sad to see us go.
And so began our three hour tour. (Does anyone else think of Gilligan's Island with the term "three hour tour"? Luckily we fared a bit better than they did.)
With the movement of the boat, came the wind. It was COLD!
Cold, but unbelievably pristine and beautiful.
It was nice that we could wander from the cabin to the deck as we pleased. During busier months, you pretty much need to stay put because seating is at capacity. Rain or shine.
Time for lunch!
More open water, but we hadn't seen any whales yet.
We did see lots of military fortifications though. These were built during World War II.
I thought these tree stumps had been burned, but actually, this is what happens when they drink salt water. They were almost one hundred years old and the salt had kind of preserved the wood.
Ahh, more wildlife. The sea lions love to sun themselves on rocks. I must admit, it did look inviting.
But my favorite part was the bird show! Hundreds of birds flew off of the rocks, almost in a uniform formation at regular intervals, as a way of protecting themselves from predators. It was awe inspiring and I felt like it was perfectly performed choreography from our Creator, just for our enjoyment. He gives great gifts to his kids, even in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska.
Who needs whales when you have the bird show?
But, it was time to move on.
Speaking of bird shows, we came across another bird, the Horned Puffin, that can actually dive up to 250 feet! We watched them dive into the water together, then after a minute or so, pop back up to the surface. Incredible!
Then came the whales. Gray Whales embark upon the longest migration of any mammal each year, and usually hit the Kenai Peninsula between March and May. They actually spend winters in Baja, Mexico, then make the trip to Alaska and Russia, for summer feeding. A-Ha! That's the secret to surviving Alaskan winters. Spend them in Mexico! I'm game.
We saw a group of three whales, and I couldn't even get a picture, so I just watched and took in the experience.
After, watching and following them along for at least ten minutes, we moved on and spotted two mountain goats, high up on a cliff. Can you see them?
More whales! You can see the spray in this shot.
We were so close to this group of whales, it was quite thrilling! You could even see the barnacles growing on the whales body.
We ended up seeing about 20 whales in all. In fact, we saw so many that the captain quit stopping, he'd just say "more whales to the left". We got lucky, sometimes there are no whales spotted on the entire tour.
The wide snow covered area in the picture below is actually a type of glacier, though it just looked like a snow-covered ski run to us.
I wish this picture wasn't so bright, but the sun was warm, so I'll take it!
Yes, the captain actually said what we were all thinking '"I'm king of the world"!
And the perfect ending to the tour was hot chocolate chip cookies,
and a bald eagle welcoming us back to port. (Side note- bald eagles mate for life and also keep adding material to the same nest for life. One nest finally got too heavy and fell out of a nearby tree. The matter was weighed and the total weight was 2,200 pounds! Simply amazing!)
So that concludes the tour. It was definitely an Alaskan bucket list item, and we saw so much! Just another day on the Last Frontier....