Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords NP 5Just over three weeks after entering Alaska, we headed to the town of Seward in the Kenai Peninsula with our friend, Joyce. Seward was one of the places we were most looking forward to visiting, as we are avid fans of boating and whale watching. We spent a fabulous day at the Kenai Fjords National Park when we were here on a cruise years ago and saw lots of wildlife and were excited to do it again.seward 2

Alaska Day driving day 4 recap:

Road Name: Seward Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Kenai Fjords NP 1Road Conditions: Excellent, however this much traveled highway is known for its number of accidents. Apparently sometimes people who are in a rush will pass in areas that are not really safe to pass, thus causing accidents.

Miles Today: 146

Driving Time: 3:15

Total Miles in Alaska: 622

Total Miles since entering Canada: 2616

It was a beautiful drive back through the Turnagain Arm, where we stopped to look for beluga whales once again. No luck.

Kenai Fjords NP 2We did spot not one but two moose on the drive, one swimming in a pond full of pond lilies. It was quite the sight, but we had no place to stop to photograph her.

We camped at the Stoney Creek RV Park one of the few parks with full hookups in the area. Read my review here. Our plan for was to go out on one cruise with Joyce, who was with us for four days, and do it again later in the week.

After checking out the boats at the dock and checking on weather, we opted for Saturday’s six-hour cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours.Kenai Fjords NP 3

The night before the cruise we were treated to a stunning midnight sunset.  It reminded us of the old saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”  We hoped that it would bode well for our day at sea.
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And it did. We awoke to a beautiful day. The boat, the Tanaina, was a little larger than we prefer, but there are not many smaller boat options in Seward.Kenai Fjords NP 8

Captain Chris and First Mate Amy

Captain Chris and First Mate Amy

We started out in Resurrection Bay, and soon after leaving, the captain spotted a couple of sea otters. We love the otters, so are always happy to see them, and we got quite a close up view.Kenai Fjords NP 7

Kenai Fjords NP 26Kenai Fjords NP 9Soon thereafter, we exited Resurrection Bay, rounded Cape Ailik and crossed over into the Kenai Fjords National Park. This National Park was established in 1980 and the scenery is gorgeous with mountains, glaciers, and beautiful rock formations along the way.Kenai Fjords NP 56Kenai Fjords NP 55Kenai Fjords NP 45

Kenai Fjords NP 16We stopped to look at colorful and always entertaining horned and tufted puffins, and also common murres, so similar to penguins.

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Kenai Fjords NP 20As we were leaving, Hector spotted a mountain goat up high on the rocks, amazing!Kenai Fjords NP 25Kenai Fjords NP 27

Kenai Fjords NP 41Kenai Fjords NP 39Next a pod of orcas greeted us and swam quite close to the boat. These were resident orcas, which we wrote about last year during our visit to Vancouver Island. They are very social animals and this group was fairly large.Kenai Fjords NP 31

Kenai Fjords NP 36Kenai Fjords NP 35Kenai Fjords NP 38Although the itinerary for this boat cruise includes two visits to glaciers, we spent a bit of extra time with the orcas, so we just went to the Holgate Glacier.

I do like when a boat cruise is flexible and will alter their routing to see wildlife.

Kenai Fjords NP 30Kenai Fjords NP 40Kenai Fjords NP 48Kenai Fjords NP 49The Holgate Glacier was quite stunning, quite frankly, all tidewater glaciers seem small compared to the enormous Columbia Glacier we saw in Prince William Sound, but they are still beautiful.

We spent some time watching the glacier, hearing it crack and groan, and being very, very cold.kp 1

Kenai Fjords NP 51Kenai Fjords NP 52Heading back, we stopped at what is called a “haul-out” for sea lions, this is simply a place where they hang out to rest. The Western Alaska sea lion population has declined considerably, is considered endangered and there are studies in place to determine the cause(s).

Stellar seal lion bull and his adoring harem

Stellar seal lion bull and his adoring harem

Kenai Fjords NP 10On our way back, our captain once again altered his route a bit in response to some information on the radio. There was a pod of humpback whales and they were bubble net feeding.Kenai Fjords NP 54

Kenai Fjords NP 79Kenai Fjords NP 57We easily found the pod as there was  another boat nearby as well as lots of seagulls flying above where the whales were feeding. The birds feed on the same types of fish as the humpback whales, so they stay nearby to eat the fish the whales miss.Kenai Fjords NP 67

Bubble net feeding is a group activity. When the group spots a school of fish the Humpback whales and on a cue from the oldest female the whales all dive.Kenai Fjords NP 68Kenai Fjords NP 76Kenai Fjords NP 69Kenai Fjords NP 70

Then they swim in a circle below the school of fish while blowing air bubbles. These bubbles form a “net” which the fish will not swim through.  The birds can see the bubbles and they fly around waiting  for the main event.Kenai Fjords NP 75Then the older larger female calls out for the whales to all ascend to the surface. As they ascend, they open their mouths to trap as many fish as possible. Their throat grooves allow their throat to expand so that they can consume the maximum number of fish.Kenai Fjords NP 74Kenai Fjords NP 61

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Kenai Fjords NP 58Humpback whales are filter feeders. They push the water out through the baleen plates in their mouth with their two ton tongue, trapping the fish, plankton and other food inside.Kenai Fjords NP 71Kenai Fjords NP 63Kenai Fjords NP 62Once they have swallowed the giant mouthful of food they eventually dive down and begin the process again. It is a fascinating behavior to watch.  And to see such a large group of these 40 ton giants all together is a rare treat indeed.

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Kenai Fjords NP 22Our captain also captured some of the whales’ calls via a hydrophone that he placed in the water. The whales are so coordinated, soon after the lead females’ call, they all surfaced. Such an impressive display of teamwork.

Kenai Fjords NP 64 Kenai Fjords NP 65 Kenai Fjords NP 66Kenai Fjords NP 86The bubble net feeding was a fabulous way to end our spectacular day. The weather and seas were about as good as it ever gets in these waters.

We truly enjoyed all of the wonderful sights on our boat cruise, all the more so because we were sharing them with a friend.

~ BrendaKenai Fjords NP 92

 

26 thoughts on “Kenai Fjords National Park

  1. We went on the same cruise n the 15th. Thought we might runs across you while we were up here, but it looks like we were strangers passing in the night.
    Drive safe

    • Sorry to have missed you – where are you now? We are still in Seward and will travel to Homer on Monday.

  2. Brenda, what a fabulous post! Your narrative here is reminiscent of Jacques Cousteau! I think you must be channeling him! He would be proud! : )… Hector, what spectacular images! Although, the pics that make me smile the most are the ones of you guys smiling. It occurs to me though, that in your crazy adventure, It’s YOU GUYS that are the wildlife!!!

    Love you… Say hi to Angel!

  3. Wow! that is quite a treat to witness bubble net feeding. What a wonderful day you and Hector and your friend had.
    The Kenai Fjords Tour was my favorite even if I have not witnessed so many whales at one place at one time like you did.
    I have a feeling the Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefields are your next destination.

    • We are headed to the Exit Glacier, but it has been pouring for a few days and we may miss Harding Icefields 🙁 Somehow I think we will see lots of other beautiful places though 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for this fabulous post! I have learned so much from you folks and am always entertained by your travels. My dream is to one day do that too. Thank you, thank you Brenda and Hecktor.
    Jane

    • Thank you so much. So glad you are enjoying our blog. You too can do it, you will not regret it!
      Brenda

  5. Ditto to the above comments! I am learning so much from your posts & thank you so much for the fascinating education.

    • We are so glad you are enjoying the blog. One of the great parts of RVing is how much we learn each and every day.
      Brenda

  6. Bubble Feeding Fiesta!!!!! I have heard of the process but never saw such great pictures! Terrific narrative to complement spectacular pics. Can’t wait for the book and then the movie!!

  7. Thanks so much for taking us along on your boat tour:) We are with my mother and she really enjoyed your photos, as well. That was so fascinating to read about the bubble net feeding. The photos gave us a clear picture of how this was happening. What a great day for your trip:)

  8. What a great cruise. We did a similar one in 2010 that went to Aialik Glacier … which was in a calving mood that day. Isn’t it great to see whales bubble net feeding … such coordination! We saw them doing this in the Shelikoff Strait returning from the Katmai Peninsula … detoured to spend quite a bit of time watching them. Wildlife encounters are always a highlight … but this one was really special.

    • I think each day is special out on these waters – so much to see! Bubble net feeding is really fascinating, this was our second time (the other was in 2007) seeing this!

  9. What an experience! I have never heard of bubble net feeding so thanks for enlightening me. I only hope one day to experience this for myself. Honestly I just hope to see orcas one day. Wonderful photos. This looks like it might be the highlight of your trip so far.

    • btw, we had a pretty good orca sighting in the San Juan islands, specifically San Juan island, which has some resident orcas.

  10. What a spectacular treat to see the Humpbacks feeding like that! I’ve been enjoying your entire trip. Told a friend who is starting for Alaska next week about your blog, and they’ve been thrilled to read along. They’ve changed their trip plans a bit based on your stories.

    • Thank you! Let your friend know that if he/she has questions, to feel free to send an e-mail. I’m sure they will enjoy their time here.

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