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Looking for wildlife in Alaska (12 days)

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Jun 2nd, 2012, 05:34 PM
  #1
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Looking for wildlife in Alaska (12 days)

My wife and I will be visiting Alaska for the first time, for 12 days, starting at the end of August. Our goal is to see as much wildlife and natural beauty as possible, and we would like to stay in interesting places rather than chain hotels. We will be flying in and out of Anchorage, and we are just beginning our planning.

So far, we are thinking of staying the first night in Anchorage, then Kodiak Island for 2 nights, Seward for 2 nights, and Denali for 3 nights. For the other 3 nights, we are considering adding Homer or Valdez, or maybe just extending our stay at the other locations. We are planning to rent a car for the whole trip.

Does this sound reasonable? Can anyone recommend any good day excursions with a focus on wildlife? Do we have a good chance to see wolves? Are we overlooking any can't miss sights? Wrangell NP looks amazing, but it looks too hard to get to, and I don't think we have time to go to Fairbanks and points north.

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! We will be relying heavily on the internet in our planning.
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Jun 2nd, 2012, 06:39 PM
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Our goal is to see as much wildlife and natural beauty as possible

You are going to the right place at the right time

then Kodiak Island for 2 nights ...

I would suggest Brooks Camp (if you are willing to camp) or Brooks Lodge in Katmai instead of Kodiak if you want to see a lot of bears at close range.

Hunting is allowed on Kodiak and there are limited areas where they are protected and you can easily view them. Obviously there are a lot of bears on Kodiak, it's just not as easy to get close as in Katmai.

Brooks is in Katmai National Park and in late August thru mid-Sept there are usually 20-30 bears in any given week near the lodge, feeding on spawned out salmon. There are a couple of viewing platforms where bears are almost always in sight, and if you stay at the lodge or campground couple of days you'll no doubt come across bears at close range as you walk back and forth between the platforms and cabins/restaurant.

If you can't fit this in then at least a bear viewing day trip from Homer or Anchorage ...

Denali for 3 nights

Denali is peak for fall colors last week in August and first week in Sept and this is also an excellent time to see bears, moose and some caribou. I would suggest staying at one of the wilderness lodges near Kantishna if the price isn't too high ... Camp Denali or North Face Lodge.

Does this sound reasonable?

Right time, pick the right places (Denali and Katmai) and you'll see a lot of wildlife. Also good on the boat tours from Seward.

Do we have a good chance to see wolves?

We've been to Denali six times, usually for a week in early Sept, and saw wolves every year but one (but there's a big difference between staying at the far edge of the park for a week compared to staying at the entrance and riding the park bus one day).

In years that a wolf pack has denned near the road we saw wolves almost every day, and in years when they had dens further back in the brush sightings were harder to come by. So a lot depends on where they set up their dens early in the spring. We've seen them stalk caribou and twice saw them on kills (didn't get to see the actual kill though).
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Jun 2nd, 2012, 06:59 PM
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I like Bill's plan. Remember distances are deceiving and travel takes longer than you would expect. You didn't indicate any type of budget, but Alaska is expensive. We were on the Kenai peninsula for about 10 days for fishing. We spent some extra days in Seward and thought it was spectacular. We did an 8 hour Kenai Fjords boat trip and saw tons of sea lions, puffins, whales and glaciers. Loved it all, but especially our time in Seward.
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 09:03 AM
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Thanks for the responses, Katmai looks great! We have decided to go there instead of Kodiak. Will two nights in Katmai be enough?

Our plan now is to see Anchorage, Katmai, Seward and Denali. We still have a few open days on our agenda and are thinking about adding Homer. We are seeking to keep our budget below $1000/day, but we are flexible and don't want cost to preclude us from any amazing experiences.

Michelle, your Kenai boat trip sounds like it would be perfect for us - can you share the tour operator's name?
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 09:22 AM
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I was in Homer last year and loved it. We took a ferry over to Halibut Cove and had dinner at the Saltry Restaurant. The restaurant has a big outdoor fireplace built into the rocks and there is time to do some walking after dinner. There are a couple of artist studios to visit. While we were walking, we saw an eagle swoop down and fly off with a poor duck for its dinner.

If you are interested, I think you should try to book in advance - I think it fills up pretty fast. The ferry is the Danny J I believe.
From Homer my cousin went on a bear watch trip- very expensive but I understand that if you call the day before and there are openings, you can go for 1/2 price. She got lots of fabulous photos.

We stayed at the Alaskan Suites- cute cabins overlooking the bay- great views- small kitchen- breakfast included but just basics- cereal, bagels , fruit etc. Enjoyed our stay there.
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 09:25 AM
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Link to the Danny J and the Saltry

http://www.halibut-cove-alaska.com/ferry.htm
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 09:28 AM
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We went with Kenai Fjords Tours:

http://www.kenaifjords.com/

Be sure to get at least an 8 hour tour. We were supposed to return by 6 pm, but there were so many whales breaching, we stayed out longer and returned at 7 or 7:30! Resurrection Bay setting was spectacular.
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 12:51 PM
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check out the musk ox farm near Wasilla
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 02:37 PM
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Two thoughts.

1. With that budget I really think you should take at least one of those nights (beginning or end as no car required) and fly somewhere off the road system, preferably in the north. Fly from Anchorage to Barrow, Kotzebue or Nome (Barrow and Kotzebue both Eskimo towns on the Arctic Ocean above the arctic circle, Nome a historic mining town on the Bering Sea) and experience a face of Alaska missed by the vast majority of visitors. Put your toe in the Arctic Ocean or the Bering, probably see some muskox around Nome, but just see what so much of bush Alaska looks like. Or for a real splurge, fly into Kotzebue and do some flightseeing up the Kobuk River into Kobuk Valley National Park - stunning in the fall. Either/all would be well worth it IMO.

2. Modify your plane tickets to allow for a stop in SE Alaska on the way to or from. A day or two in Juneau would allow you to do some whale watching, for example, and, again, it would give you a feel for a very different part of the state than those you're covering.
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Jun 4th, 2012, 02:28 PM
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Katmai looks great! We have decided to go there instead of Kodiak. Will two nights in Katmai be enough?

Here's the web site for the concessionaire at Brooks, with packages that include the flights to/from Anchorage.
http://www.katmailand.com/bear-viewi...es.html#brooks

Two nights is good, but another night is just an extra $330. Basically the bush flights in/out are expensive so each extra night you stay amortizes the cost of the flights. I always stayed as long as they'd let me (they had limits on the cabin nights so they can keep churning the flights) and can't remember many dull moments what with all the bears walking around.

... are thinking about adding Homer

Always liked Homer. Together with Seward you'll have done the Kenai.
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