Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alaskan Cruise - Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point is actually an old fishing cannery that was converted to a cruise port. Inside is a small museum like set up of its former life and a bit of information about the residents who live there. It and the tiny town of Hoonah, located just 1 mile down the road are the largest Tlingit (pronounced Cling-et) villages in Alaska. About 70% of its 850 residents are of Alaska Native heritage and all the women looked like sisters to me. I read mixed reviews about this port because it is small and there is only a few places to shop. Don and I loved it here though. It was, to me, the heart of Alaska, and not some tourist trap!

The 2 most popular ports on our cruise to whale watch are Icy Strait and Juneau. We chose Icy Strait because I wanted to see Hump Back Whales and they resided here in huge numbers! Juneau was popular for seeing different kinds of wildlife, including Orca's ...which because of their diet, when they show up, most other wild life disappears! I honestly heard too that if we wanted to see Hump Backs, in Juneau 30 boats chase 1 whale, while in Icy Strait, 30 whales chase 1 boat. After our excursion, I think I truly believe it too!

Anyway - here we are in front of our tour boat. We chose TECKK tours (907-321-2673) because they were locally owned and operated and they used small boats. The cost was $175.00 per person and the tour lasted 3 hours. The maximum amount of people they took out was 6. There were only 5 on our charter.

Yes - this is a wool sweater I am wearing and it was COLD out there on the water! Never on our cruise (no - not even once) did I even think about putting on a pair of shorts.. as some people told me they did!

After boarding the boat, we went into the cabin where there were 6 comfy seats for us and we rotated in and out of the Co - Captains seat. Our boat had 2 huge motors and when we took off... we had to hang on because that boat was fast!

Before I forget to tell you, this was one of the travel highlights of my life and if we ever get to go back to Alaska, I will find a way back here to repeat this adventure. It was Totally worth the price we paid!

It took our captain about 15 minutes to drive to the feeding ground of the whales.

First we looked for birds flying above the water. Apparently the feeding activity of the whales disorients the small fish and makes them easy prey for the birds. If you enlarge this picture, you can see the birds.

..then we looked for the steam like tunnels of exhaled air. By now, my heart was racing!

The next thing we saw were small black humps as the whales were working their way back and forth along the shore line feeding.

The laws concerning whale watching is that you cannot bring your boat any closer than 100 yards to the whales.... but, if you stop your boat and a whale approaches you, then you must stay where you are until the whale leaves!

Here is a Momma whale and her calf!!!

When the whales take a deep dive is when you see these wonderful 'tail displays'!

We saw LOTS of whale tails!!!

Even right off of the shore, the depth of the water ranged from 200 - 400 feet deep..

..so the whales had plenty of room to dive.

But - then the real show began!!! We found a teenager whale that was putting on a big show for us!

Over and over, he lept completely out of the air...

...and it just took my breath away!

Their huge bodies coming up out of the water and then splashing back down. It was magnificent!!

..just when I thought I had seen the best of the show, the most wonderful thing happened... a young whale came up along side our boat.. a mere 10 feet away.. just to look at us. He did not spray, or jump or even flap his massive fins.. he just brought his huge head to the surface.

The tip of his mouth is on the left side of the picture. He looked at us as if he was the tourist! The boat captain said that he wondered if it was because the bottom of the boat was painted black, that the whales sometimes approached his boat.

Some harbor seals came out to greet us as well. They seem to enjoy swimming along side the whales.

After our charter, we walked around the town of Hoonah and then back to Icy Strait Point. These gentlemen are hand carving totem poles.

There was a board walk to a zip line type ride...

..and to some hiking trails.

Don was always worried we would run into a bear, so I could not help but photograph these (not so dangerous) bears!

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