Did you tune in to the BBC’s travel programme ‘Wild Alaska Live on BBC 1, if so then you will have watched the broadcasting of one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world, from one of the remotest corners of the Earth.
Steve Backshall, Matt Baker and Liz Bonnin took viewers on a live adventure across the vast wildernesses of Alaska to see some of the world’s most captivating animals and marvel at the scenery of a country so vast that it isn’t going to be spoiled by tourism (but if you missed all or any of the 3 episodes then you can catch up on BBC iPlayer).
The scale of Alaska is simply impossible to convey, it really is one of the last great wildernesses on Earth with some of their national parks bigger than our country with well over 5,000 glaciers. So if you are thinking of planning a visit to this beautiful destination then we recommend that you take an organised tour such as those featured by our Travel Partner, Exodus Travels.
Exodus Travels started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide transport in the Hindu Kush region a favourite hippie trail across Asia but from these humble beginnings the company has gone from strength to strength. Now with over 40 years experience, Exodus is the UK’s original adventure travel company and world leaders in organising small group and independent travel arrangements. Offering an impressive collection of holidays to choose from, from the untamed and adrenaline-fuelled, to simply taking an exotic corner of the world and immersing yourself in it, you will be taken to places you have never heard of but are sure to fall in love with.
Two of the tours they feature visiting this vast country are the ‘Alaskan Wildlife & Wilderness’, available now and ‘South East Alaska Island Roamer Charter’, on sale in 4 weeks but advance registrations can be taken.
The ‘Alaskan Wildlife & Wilderness’ tour is operated by their sister company Grand American Adventures. As specialists in North America for more than 40 years their expertise ensures you’ll have the best experience whilst you’re travelling to areas they know inside out. They share the same values as Exodus Travels – small group, locally led adventure travel and work extremely close together to make sure you’ll have the best possible adventure.
You will enjoy the ultimate Alaskan active adventure complete with float plane flights, bear viewing, wildlife cruises and wilderness walks. Alaska is a land of endless forests, colossal glaciers and thundering rivers which combine to offer some of the most rewarding walks on the continent. See the highest peak in North America, Mt McKinley, as gentle walks offer views of peaks and glaciers that form the Wrangell St Elias Mountains. You will also fly deep into the wilderness to look for Black and Grizzly bears.
The total area of Alaska is over a million square kilometres, yet there are only about 600,000 permanent residents. It is by far the largest state of the USA and encompasses vast empty tundra plains, mountains, glaciers, rivers and forests; all this combined with its fascinating history and legendary wildlife makes Alaska an ideal destination for the active traveller.
One hundred million acres of the state have now been designated as national parks and reserves, many of them outstandingly beautiful and with interesting wildlife such as caribou, moose, bears, wolves and various kinds of deer. It is in these parks and other areas with imposing scenery that you will do your walks, always on the lookout for wildlife.
This trip offers the chance to see the famous Mount Denali, the highest mountain in North America (6,194m), it covers six million acres and houses some of the most unspoilt wilderness and spectacular scenery in the whole of Alaska. Spot wildlife in Denali National Park, drive through the dramatic Copper River Valley and stop for a short walk on the Liberty Falls Trail, just off the Edgerton Highway en route to the end-of-the-road (literally!) hamlet of McCarthy (population 40 in the summer, 17 the remainder of the year) deep within Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve contains nine of the sixteen highest peaks in the United States, including the second highest, Mount. St. Elias (5,488m), and is the most glaciated region in the North American continent. An imposing area of glaciers, mountains, forest and wilderness, with wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities including Dall Sheep, mountain goats, caribou, moose, Grizzly and Black Bear are just some of the parks inhabitants. Included in your trip is either a full day ice climbing on the Root Glacier or the chance to fix crampon’s to your boots, and hike around exploring its deep blue pools.
You will visit the staggeringly beautiful Kenai Fjords National Park offering wonderful wildlife and bird watching opportunities amidst dramatic fjords and glaciers. Within the park is the huge Harding Icefield, claiming 300 square miles in its entirety and Exit Glacier is one of the 30 frozen rivers flowing off the icefield. If weather conditions permit, take a spectacular but strenuous walk from Exit Glacier to the Harding Icefield for views of deep crevasses and huge seracs on the glacier. At an elevation 900m you will eventually reach a lookout point over the icefield and the views will be out of this world. There’s an easier option available if you prefer, using an accessible trail to reach a different viewpoint of the glacier.
Perhaps the biggest highlight is likely to be a float plane scenic flight deep into the wilderness to enjoy bear viewing from a boat whilst the salmon running. Float planes are a way of life for many of the more remote Alaskan communities, particularly those who still have no road access and too little space amongst the mountains to build runways.
You’ll take to the air for a beautiful flight across the Cook Inlet. Land in the Big River Lakes area and transfer to the waiting boats to explore the river and lake system keeping your eyes open for bear. The lakes are just on the fringe of the Lake Clarke Park and Wilderness Reserve but a long way from any roads and civilization and the chance of bear sightings is excellent. You can usually see Brown (Grizzly) or Black Bear here. You may be lucky enough to witness thousands of salmon pushing up-stream to spawn which attract the bear who come to feed on them. This is Alaska at its best, almost completely untouched wilderness with a backdrop of ice-clad mountains and active volcanoes.
There are also great opportunities for bird watching both on land and at sea, and whales, porpoise and sea lions are often seen.
This is a 14 day tour (16 including flights)
Their second tour is their ‘South East Alaska Island Roamer Charter’ which will be on sale in 4 weeks thanks to the excellent response of previous travellers. This tour is a photography departure accompanied by Paul Goldstein who sums up his previous experience –
“In 2015 I guided twelve experienced wildlife clients in Alaska. Each one had done at least half a dozen grown-up wildlife safari’s or expeditions with Exodus. All were unanimous: this was one of the very best ever! Alaska is beautiful, the food sumptuous, the crew the best maritime crew I have worked with. Whales in their hundreds and Brown and Black bears performing every trick imaginable, but, crucially, seen sensitively and also compassionately. Frankly sensational, I think it would be impossible to do Alaska better”
What better endorsement!
You will board the motor-sailer Island Roamer in Prince Rupert, Canada. A Canadian-licensed passenger vessel she was designed specifically for remote wildlife tours, providing 7 private cabins (double occupancy, some with double bunks but most with two single bunks, often lower and upper style) for a maximum group size of 13 passengers including the leader. There are three shared bathrooms with showers.
In addition to the spacious salon, which has an excellent natural history library, the wheelhouse provides protection from any weather. There are two large zodiacs for frequent access to shore and the Island Roamer also carries two double kayaks and three single kayaks for use in protected waters. There is a strict no smoking policy on-board the vessel for the enjoyment of all.
The Island Roamer will depart from Prince Rupert harbour navigating towards Chatham Sound and its many islands. The entrance to Portland Canal marks the border between Alaska and British Columbia. Sailing past Misty Fjords National Monument, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery of snow-capped mountains rising majestically out of the ocean.
You will enjoy a flexible itinerary to allow you to view the whales and bears as southeast Alaska has a remarkable concentration of wildlife; the Brown bear population is thought to be higher in this area than the rest of the USA and the sites of Anan Creek and Pack Creek are two of the best bear viewing areas in the world. Also Admiralty Island National Monument, where it is quite common to view bears along the beach from one of our beautiful evening anchorages. At Anan Creek there is a US Forest Service wildlife observatory where Black and Brown bears, eagles, seals, and ravens are all attracted to the largest pink salmon run in Southeastern Alaska. It is a classic Alaskan experience to watch bears feeding on spawning salmon in a rushing river.
Southeast Alaska is a core feeding area for Humpback whales and you will spend around five days in the Frederick Sound-Chatham Strait hopefully observing some spectacular whale behaviour, such as spouting, breaching and ‘bubble net’ feeding. This co-ordinated feeding technique is where a whale circles under the water letting out a stream of rising bubbles. The bubbles act as a solid wall or net to concentrate krill or small fish in the centre, then an entire group of whales explodes up through the centre of the ‘net’ (and concentration of food) with their mouths wide open before they surface with a roar. Groups of up to twelve whales have been observed bubble-net feeding together in this region.
The Le Conte Glacier is another spectacular region to explore on a tour of the Le Conte Valley. Le Conte is the southern-most tidewater glacier in North America and resides within a 12 mile-long fjord. Harbour seals are found amongst the icebergs, with Bald eagles often circling overhead.
The final port of call is Petersburg, a small town with Scandanavian influences, often referred to by locals as ‘Little Norway’. Petersburg harbour has one of the most impressive fishing fleets in Alaska, and there is a continual buzz of activity as boats come in and out.
Guided by the Island Roamer’s own naturalist, this itinerary will maximise the wildlife and photographic opportunities in the area. The wilderness areas visited have few inhabitants, no roads, no docks and each evening the ship stops for the night by anchoring in a protected bay. It must be heaven on Earth!!
This is a 12 day tour (14 including flights)
Exodus Travels is all about adventure – discovering countries, cultures, environments, cities, mountain ranges, deserts, coasts and jungles – exploring this amazing planet we all live on – you can be sure none of their tours will disappoint.
Tailor Made Travel can fulfill your dreams and aspirations – for further details and information of these two remarkable tours from our Travel Partner, Exodus Travels, please contact us. Call 0333 3441786 or visit your local Tailor Made Travel agency – for telephone numbers and addresses of our branches click onto this link to our website
Don’t forget without a Travel Agent you are on your own.
Images and some content supplied by Exodus Travels
Tailor Made Travel act as Agents on behalf of Exodus Travels (Atol No. 2582}