Ready for a real adventure?
That is the tag line on the card of Ketchikan Outdoors in Alaska.
We were nearing the end of our Alaskan Princess Cruise sponsored by Princess Cruises. We had a trip of a lifetime tweeting our way through #FollowMeAtSea and one of our last excursions was a backwater zodiac tour through the waterways of Ketchikan, Alaska.
We certainly saved the best adventure for last.
Ketchikan Zodiac Adventure. Whales, Eagles and a Wild Ride
We arrived at Ketchikan Outdoors at 12:00 noon and layered up with rain gear, wool socks, hats and rubber boots to make our trip more comfortable. As we sweat away in the shop, we were assured that we would be grateful when we were out on the water. It can be freezing zipping through the Alaskan waters and we are in the rainiest place in all of the USA here in Ketchikan.
They were right, it was cold and we were wet!
This is one wild adventure.
After watching our safety video, we were led to the dock where we got into our designated Zodiacs and in an instant we were flying out into the channel.
Our small group of 9 spread into 3 zodiacs. Dave and I had our own zodiac to power and he let me drive first while he took some killer shots of the landscape and wildlife.
This isn’t your grandparent's cruise excursion.
(as Trisha from TravelWritersExchange mentioned on our Alaska's Tri Valley By ATV post)
This is an authentic Alaskan boat trip out into the wild waters of Alaska.
We zipped back and forth trying to keep up with our guide and made our way out to the bay of open water. A half hour into the trip we spotted a humpback whale blowing water from its blow hole.
We had seen humpback whales on this cruise a couple of times before, but there was something magical about being in a zodiac and witnessing the massive mammal at sea level from our tiny craft. It was our goal to see whales before leaving for Alaska.
We first witnessed them as we entered the inside passage on the ship. It seemed that we had whale spotting's each day and we never tired of seeing them.
Waiting for the Whales
We were informed that we need to stay 100 meters away from the whale. Alaskan conservation takes preservation and the safety of the wildlife seriously. We were close enough that we had a thrill to glimpse these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, but far enough away as not to disturb it.
After bobbing in the bay for tethered together with ropes, we decided to move on and see more of the landscape. Whizzing back and forth in the choppy water was absolutely wild.
Note: This isn’t a relaxed trip and if bouncing around in waves freaks you out, you may not want to book the zodiac excursion. But if you are sitting on the fence, there is a support boat somewhere nearby that can come and get you if you are not comfortable being tossed around in a tiny zodiac in the open sea. One quick radio call and you can be on a boat following the adventure from safety and comfort.
Our group loved every minute of it. The more waves and chop, the better. The wind whipped our faces and the rain slapped our skin making me feel almost giddy with the excitement. I felt happy and alive during our Ketchikan shore excursion.
Zipping along the shoreline, we worked our way towards the trees where the bald eagles live.
Nowhere else on earth will you see so many bald eagles in one spot. We learned that in the early 1900’s the bald eagle had a bounty on its head. Back then the people actually thought that the eagles were wiping out their salmon supply. It was after Alaska became 49th state that the bounty was lifted and trap fishing (the actual culprit of the dwindling salmon supply) was banned.
Today the bald eagle and the salmon are thriving in Alaska.
We saw several bald eagles during our excursion but it was an eagle diving to grab some fresh meat that Grant threw into the water that was awe-inspiring. (I know, chumming the water for eagles didn't seem totally eco-friendly to us either)
The wing span of the bald eagle can be as wide as 7 feet. To see it dive from so close is a once in a lifetime experience.
The rain started pouring, but we were cozy and warm in our layers of waterproofs. Even though we were comfortable, a little break was greatly welcomed at this point in the trip. So we went to shore to see the camp. Located on the banks of a river somewhere in the middle of Alaska's Tongas National park, we pulled our boats up to shore and enjoyed a campfire in the woods.
We pulled our zodiacs to shore and enjoyed hot cider, coffee and tea while munching on fresh salmon and capers. It was the SMORES that had everyone excited though. Roasting our marshmallows over the open flame warmed our bodies. We grabbed our graham crackers, mushed our melted marshmallows in between with chocolate and made a yummy, gooey and delicious mess.
After warming our bones we were back on our zodiacs and heading out to open water. Dave took control of the boat and I took some video while he weaved in and out of our guide Grant’s wake trying to find waves to jump and toss us around.
We stopped at a cluster of original totem poles and learned that totem poles have many uses from honoring an important person to shaming someone that has debt.
There is a totem pole that was built to shame Secretary of State William Henry Seward for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. People thought it was a bad business deal at the time.
While looking at the totem poles an eagle flew onto a post just a few feet from where we were. Dave cursed as his camera had taken on some water from the splashing waves and rain and refused to work properly.
It was then that I said “Just try to enjoy the moment.” And then he relaxed and looked on in awe at how regal and beautiful the Bald Eagle really is.
We had an exciting ride back.
Float planes were taking off and landing all around us, eagles were swarming and fishing boats were making their way out to sea.
Photo Courtesy of Ketchikan Outdoors!
When we returned to the shop, cold beer and wine was waiting for us as Grant showed us all where we had been for the past few hours. We were amazed to find out that we had traveled over 25 miles!
If there is one excursion that I can recommend whole heartedly on Princess Cruises Alaskan route it is the Zodiac Adventure with Ketchikan Outdoors in Ketchikan, Alaska.
It provided excitement, fun, information and incredible scenery.
We would love to go back to Ketchikan independently and spend several days on the water in different camps really taking in the Alaska landscape and enjoying the great outdoors. For now, the Ketchikan Zodiac Adventure was an excellent taste of what life can be like out on the waters of the Alaskan wilderness.