Humpback heaven in Alaska

Alaska, the big country, has huge appeal for nature-lovers with its magnificent wildlife and vast landscapes

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Sea otter

  • ID: Built for life at sea, with long, streamlined body, dense brown fur, short, thick, muscular tail and long hind feet that are broadly flattened and webbed. Length of up to 1.5m. Seldom seen far from water.

  • When: All year round, with most pups born in late spring.

  • Watch out for: Sea otters may be solitary or found in groups called rafts. Can often be seen clinging to kelp so they don’t float away while taking a nap.

  • What else? The early Russians settled Alaska to harvest sea otter fur. By 1867, the trade had caused otter numbers to crash, so Alaska was sold to the United States.

Bald eagle

  • ID: The largest bald eagles in the world are found in Alaska; adult has brownish-black body, white head and tail (develops at 2-3 years old). Juveniles speckled brown. Female’s wingspan up to 2.4m, males’ up to 2m.

  • When: Nest building begins April, young hatch June onwards and fledge from late August. Outside the breeding season, eagles congregate near food.

  • Watch out for: From a cruiser white specks perched in the canopy on a distant shore look like “golfballs in trees”. Once you get your eye in, they are easier to spot.

  • What else? There used to be a bounty on bald eagles due to competition for fish.



  • Sophie travelled with Discover the World, a specialist operator offering a diverse range of Alaskan holidays, including fly-drive itineraries, small ship cruising, bear-watching holidays, Arctic region tours and independent motor, coach and rail travel. For details call 0870 060 3288 or click on the link.

  • Other tour operators also organise trips to Alaska.

Getting there

  • British Airways flies daily Heathrow to Seattle and often twice daily. Return economy fares start at approx £469 (inc tax). 

  • Alaska Airlines flies Seattle to Juneau five times daily. Return economy fares start at approx £241 (inc tax). They also fly Seattle to Anchorage 12 times a day. Return economy fares start at £296 (inc tax). 

Things to do

  • Alaska raptor centre - If all you’ve managed to see in the wild are golfballs in trees, you’ll enjoy getting up close to rescued and rehabilitated bald eagles and other birds of prey at the Alaska Raptor Centre. 

  • Sitka National Historic Park - Walk among totem poles and learn the fascinating history and culture of the native Tlingit people. 

  • Kenai Peninsula - For a comfortable wilderness experience with hiking, river rafting, kayaking, saunas, log cabins and walks to see the salmon run, try Alaska Wildland Adventures


  • Cruise West offers small-boat wildlife cruises that get you up close to the Inside Passage’s finest wildlife. The staff are friendly – they’ll remember your name from day one – and the food is superb. As the charming chef said, “You come on board as guests, you leave as ballast!” 

  • Other tour operators also cruise the Inside Passage.

More information


To meet Sophie and the rest of the team, click here.

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