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Gone Whale Watching in Alaska

Most of us are familiar with the classic “Gone Fishing” sign people hang on their door when heading out for a day of relaxation on the water to fish. Perhaps, it is time to hang that same sign for a bigger version of fish- the great orca whales. Alaska is the perfect place to see whales, especially in the summer during mating season when they travel up into Alaska to feed and mate. Many visitors from near and far are able to get up close and personal with these great creatures who call the ocean waters home.

If you are looking to spot whales during your trip to Alaska, it is important to go at the right time during the year. There are certain times where you are more likely to spot a whale than others. Humpback whales are especially iconic to see in Alaskan waters. Humpback whales spend their summers in Alaska feeding, making the summer months the best time to go and observe the whales. Once the fall months set in and the colder weather comes, the humpback whales make a 6,000 mile migration to the waters surrounding Hawaii. During the winter, the whales mate and give birth in the warmer waters around Hawaii.

Members of a whale “family” or “herd” is called a group. Interestingly enough, the members of the group arrive and migrate to Hawaii in stages. Mothers nursing calves will make the trek to Hawaii first, followed by the young whales and then the adult males. The pregnant humpbacks make it to Hawaii last. They stay in Alaska and feed as long as possible before making the great migration to give birth. For more information about humpback whales and their migration patterns throughout the year, click here.

In addition to humpback whales, there are other whale species that swim through Alaskan territory. Some additional species of whales you may come across while whale watching in Alaska include Beluga Whales, Blue Whales, Bowhead Whales, Gray Whales, Orca Whales, Minke Whales and Sperm Whales. Many whale species have similar migration patterns as the humpback whale, traveling between mating and feeding season. However, the Orca Whale calls Alaska home and can be typically seen year round. For a more detailed list of the whale species visitors can see when visiting Alaska, click here.

Some interesting facts about whales include how they breathe. Iconic to whale watching, many look for whales blowing water magnificently through the air through their blowholes. These blowholes are actually how whales breathe. Whales can stay underwater for extended periods of time without coming up to the surface to breathe. For example, the Sperm Whale can stay underwater, living and moving about for two hours before resurfacing. Another interesting fact is that some whale species are more friendly than others. The Minke Whale is known for being a curious creature, and will often follow and get close to ships to say hello and check in on the action.

If you are looking to get closer to Alaska’s whales than you could on shore or on a cruise ship, there are a number of boat tours that will take you up close to where the whales are surfacing. Boat tours range in size, from 4 or 5 passengers to over 100 to short tours or longer excursions. Tours will range in price and may even offer snacks or beverages on bigger tour vessels. Regardless of what tour you book, be sure to bring along your camera to take snapshots of the action. If you are lucky, you may catch a photo of a whale breaching out from the water!

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