Whale Watching in Alaska, Humpback, Tour Companies Alaska

Alaska Whale Watching: Discovering the Marine Life

In Alaska, whale watching is one of the most popular tourist activities. Getting within close proximity to these remarkable marine mammals is something that draws tourists from around the globe over Alaska’s summer months.

Boasting 34,000 miles of coastal shoreline, whales love Alaska. The state’s fjords and bays provide an ideal haven for whales as they feed during the summer months. If they’re fortunate enough, visitors to Alaska can sometimes see three species of whales in one day.

Different types of whales

Humpback whales spend the warmer months in and around Gulf of Alaska waters in the state’s southeast. These majestic creatures are coastal feeders that eat a lot over the summer to store fat reserves for the winter months. The whales spotted in Alaska’s waters migrate annually from Hawaii, where they breed every year, to the cold south eastern waters to find the best source of food – shrimp, krill and herring. From June to September humpbacks will be seen by whale watching charters, fishermen, spending up to 30 minutes underwater and breaking the surface with a magnificent leap through the air, known as breeching. Humpbacks can grow to 50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons.

Killer whales, or orcas, are also a common sight when in Alaska whale watching. Half the size of their mammoth humpback cousins, orca feed on fish, sea lions, porpoises, sharks and other whales. They often swim in pods which move in sync with the tour boats covering the region over the summer, providing some spectacular photographic opportunities. They are spotted in abundance year round in the Inside Passage, Prince William Sound, and Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords national parks.

Beluga whales are most commonly seen in the Cook Inlet, while bowheads (Alaska’s state marine mammal) are found in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Strait, which separates Alaska from Russia. Whaling crews operate out of Barrow and other northern towns, catching the traditional source of food from the chilly waters. Bowheads are instantly recognizable by the crown shape topping their thick boned skulls.

A plethora of whale watching tour companies abound, with tours lasting from three hours to eight days. Many carry sea kayaks and fishing equipment on board for a complete tour package in Alaskan waters. Charter boats can carry as few as half dozen people or as many as 600, and some provide seats on another trip or partial refund if whales aren’t spotted on your voyage.