Humpback Whale Watching in Juneau, Alaska
Dolphin Jet Boat Tours ~ Juneau, Alaska – A very popular experience with baby boomer travelers in Juneau, Alaska is to join local whale watching tours as they cast about Auke Bay looking to watch humpback whales feeding in the local waters.
Our whale watching jet boat looked like it would seat 30 people comfortably on padded benches inside the cabin. There was an on-board bathroom, and our jet boat offered whale watching viewing areas in the bow and stern.
We also found it comforting to know that the Dolphin jet boats were designed with water jet drives to ensure quiet underwater operation without dangerous propellers that may frighten or harm the whales. Furthermore, their captains are specially trained to follow federal viewing guidelines from a safe distance.
As we made our way out into the Auke Bay, our on-board aquatic naturalist began to share with us some of the wonders of the Alaskan waters and the environs.
As we were here to enjoy viewing the humpback whale, she shared a formidable amount of information about the humpback’s annual migration, their preferred diet, and why these mammoth mammals swam thousands of miles from Hawaii each year.
As we were listening to our aquatic naturalist, the captain was busily navigating our boat and seemed to be in constant contact with other boat captains scouring the seas.
All of a sudden, the captain sat straight up in his seat, put the petal-to-metal, and you could feel the excitement build as we were most certainly off to get our first up-close-and personal viewing of a humpback.
There they were! A pod of about ten humpbacks.
From about 100 yards away, the captain shut the engine off, everyone grabbed their provided binoculars, and there was a mad scurry to the exterior viewing areas.
I was privileged to be armed with a Nikon D7000 (on loan from Nikon USA) with a mounted 80-400 zoom and I wasted no time joining the dash.
As I brought the viewfinder to my eye, my fingers instinctively found the camera’s shutter button and I began banging away at six frames per second!
Here’s one of the first of my nearly 500 photographs of Alaska’s humpback whales…
The first thing you notice, while viewing humpbacks, is that the air is filled with sea-spray as these mammoth beasts arise to exhale. In fact, you could actually smell a fishy smell in the air which the captain described as “whale breath”.
To help you understand the size of these animals, here’s a view of a mother humpback with her calf leading the way. The whale watching boat in the background gives you a sense of scale to the incredible scene we were witnessing.
Our particular pod of whales were making their way north to a destination unknown to us. Our captain mentioned that our whales had moved over five miles since they were first spotted and they showed no signs of stopping to take a break.
Unfortunately, with traveling on their minds, this also meant that I wasn’t going to get one of those spectacular breaching photographs that every photographer dreams about in the still of the night.
Irregardless, spending time with these wonderful creatures was one of the highlights of our whole Alaskan cruise.
Lest the humpback whales completely steal the show, it should also be noted that when I turned around, I was able to photograph this remarkable scene as well.
In conclusion, if your path finds you in Juneau, Alaska, we highly recommend that you consider a visit with Alaska’s humpback whales. In a small way, your life will forever be changed from the experience.