Can You See Whales in Alaska in the Summer?
Imagine witnessing a massive humpback whale breach the water’s surface ten feet away from you. It’s a spectacular scene, and if you’re lucky enough to see one firsthand, there are few sights more awe-inspiring. For many people, summer is the best time to go whale watching and experience a close encounter like this one. Discover the best times to see different species of whales in Sitka Alaska, and where to go to find the largest concentrations of these majestic creatures.
1. Humpback Whales
Humpback whales can reach about 60 feet and weigh up to 40 tons. Once the winter season is over, they migrate to Alaska to spend the summer months feasting on krill and small fish. Alaska’s coast is a feeding ground for a population of 10,000 humpback whales that breed in Hawaii during the winter. You will see these enormous whales feeding using bubble-netting throughout the summer season. They can be found all over Alaska’s coast in the Barren Islands between Homer and Kodiak, including Gulf of Alaska areas close to Anchorage and Alaska’s road system.
2. Gray Whales
The gray whale is the only whale that lives entirely in freshwater. Every year, these giant mammals make an 11,000-mile journey during one of the world’s longest mammal migrations. They migrate from their calving and breeding grounds in Baja, California, to their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea from late February to May, all while staying close to the coast.
They travel as far north as Alaska, where they can gulp down 1,500 pounds of small crustaceans and fish. Weighing 30 tons and are as long as a school bus, they follow Alaska’s outer coast swimming cape across the mouths of bays and inlets. The largest concentrations of the gray whales pass the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak areas during May.
3. Killer Whales
These are the ocean’s most intelligent predators. Killer whales feed on marine mammals like sea lions, seals, and fish. They are the second-largest dolphin, with males weighing about 5,500 pounds and measuring nearly 30 feet in length. Males live in pods of 5 to 12 animals, but females travel alone or in pairs.
These 10-ton animals usually occur in two types near the coast, but both have the same iconic, black-and-white appearance. Orcas hunt Alaska’s bays and inlets all year long. They usually stay close to shore during the summer months, but they can also be found in Alaska’s protected Arctic waters. They can also be seen near Seward, Alaska, in the waters of Resurrection Bay.
4. Beluga Whales
The beluga whale is the smallest and the rarest. It’s also the most mysterious of all marine mammals yet. Weighing only a few hundred pounds and measuring only 18 feet long, these whales often migrate for hundreds of miles to find food as far north as Alaska. They are listed as critically endangered, so seeing them is a privilege.
Belugas are very secretive and rarely seen during the summer months away from their wintering areas in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Their summers are spent in Bristol Bay and the Arctic areas. They can be viewed year-round in the southern Alaska waters of the Shelikof Strait between Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island.
5. Other Large Whales
The Bering Sea is rich in large whales. In the summer, be prepared to have a fantastic whale experience with the resident orca whales, minke, and fin whales, plus harbor porpoises and Pacific white-sided dolphins seen off the coast of Homer.
The best season for watching whales in Sitka Alaska, is summer, between May and September. A traveler to Alaska will love the clear, clean, warm weather that allows for a spectacular view of these marine mammals in their natural environment. For more information on affordable whale watching tours and bookings, contact Sitka Whale Watch.