Kenai Fjords Tours: Whale of a time watching bubble-net-feed + big ice, orcas, puffins, more

In Alaska Travelgram by scott

Boarding the Orca Voyager in Seward with number-one-son, Drew

Don’t miss your chance to sail with Kenai Fjords Tours on one of their cruises from Seward. It’s a favorite trip of ours—so we packed up and met the kids at the dock for KFT’s signature “National Park Tour” that leaves at 11:30 a.m.

As we boarded the “Orca Voyager” (pictured, above) I must admit feeling a bit downcast. The fog rolled in and settled low against the mountains.

Undaunted our captain set out to find the elusive whales, orcas and other treasures in the park. That includes the giant Aialik Glacier.

Cruising through the fog on the Orca Voyager

After viewing some of the hanging glaciers in Thumb Cove and pointing out the lodge at Fox Island, the crew came out with their picnic lunches. Everyone got a chicken wrap, some chips and a granola bar. 

Puffin Pale Ale, brewed for Kenai Fjords Tours by Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage

I opted to include a can of “Puffin Pale Ale” which is brewed exclusively for Kenai Fjords Tours by Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage. Sure, there are some other micro-brews available, but I was impressed with this particular flavor.

Everyone had to steel themselves for the race across Resurrection Bay to the Chiswell Islands. It was a little roly-poly, but it didn’t matter once we looked out the starboard side of the ship:

Humpback whales “bubble net” feeding (ADOBE stock image)

Behold. Right in front of us I saw between six and nine giant humpback whales doing the “bubble net” feeding trick. Here’s a Youtube video from BBC:

Basically, the giant creatures gather in a circle while one whale goes below and scares the bait fish to the surface. Then, all the whales open their GIANT mouths and get TONS of fish.

This is an amazing spectacle—and it’s the FIRST TIME I’ve EVER seen it. 

Another cool thing: the crew lowered a hydrophone (underwater mic)  so we could hear the whale scaring the fish in to the bubble net.

We stayed around for about 30 minutes while the whales repeated the bubble net procedure three more times…with no sign of stopping. Other boats were coming over to check it out….so we moved along so everyone could get a turn. INCREDIBLE!!

We all compared stories and pictures as the Orca Voyager steamed toward Aialik Bay and the giant glacier.

Approaching Aialik Glacier

The fog was still with us, so it was quite a surprise to see a giant WALL of ice appear in front of the boat.

And resting on the icebergs were DOZENS of harbor seals and a few sea otters…just hanging out and wondering what we were doing there.

At the face of Aialik Glacier. Zoom in to see those seals!

The captain shut down the enfgine so we could hear the glacier cracking, groaning and calving in front of us. 

We were close enough to see the big ice falling off the face and the giant wave it produced. The harbor seals just kind of floated up and down as the wave passed them.

After we powered up and started heading back to the head of Aialik Bay, we spotted a couple of Orca Whales (actually part of the dolphin family), recognizable because of their giant dorsal fins. 

Later we saw a school of Dall’s Porpoises that were leading the boat as we headed back to the open ocean.

Then, the captain inched close to shore so we could get an up-close look at sea lions that were pulled out on the rocks.

Getting up close to “the spires”

All along the trip, the crew pointed out puffins, auklets, cormorants and a seemingly endless version of seabirds…not to mention some bald eagles! 

Unforunately, the fog obscured a good view of Bear Glacier, but some huge icebergs were visible over the terminal moraine of the glacier….which now has tall trees that have sprung up between the ice sheet and Resurreciton Bay.

The Orca Voyager is one of Kenai Fjords Tours’ newest boats—a very smooth ride.

Seward Windsong Lodge

Our cruise lasted six hours, but we decided to make an overnight adventure and stayed at the Seward Windsong Lodge on the banks of the Resurrection River. The lodge located outside of downtown on Exit Glacier Road.

Alaska residents can save 20 percent off the price, using the coupon code “AKRES” when making reservations online. The rooms are lovely—and they face into the forest. It’s a beautiful setting, far from the busy harbor.

The 20-percent-off Alaska Resident Special also is available at Denali Cabins, near the entrance to Denali National Park.

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