Past: Alaska Whale Watching

Anybody who tells you that watching whales is boring is lying through their teeth. Among all of the crazy experiences I’ve gone through thus far in my life, whale watching was one of the most exciting, incredible, amazing, and awe-inspiring. There simply aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe this majestic, beautiful, gorgeous pulchritudinous, gigantic, humungous, awesome, unique, ineffable creature: the humpback whale.

We went to Alaska on a cruise in the summer of 2015. Being from Miami, we had to fly all the way to the opposite corner of the United States in Seattle to catch a cruise that would then take us on a seven day, magical experience through the Alaskan wilderness. Our only option was to go during the summer, as during the winter, the waters become so filled with ice, that it makes the normal route impassable by a cruise ship.

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Royal Caribbean taking off from Seattle to get to Alaska

Even during the summer, Alaska is still relatively cold, and feels both icy and untouched. The nature is incredible, but still more incredible are the animals that hang around Alaska. On our first stop out of Alaska, in the quaint town of Juno, we immediately saw flocks of bald eagles, the ultimate American symbol, just roaming about. Hanging out as though this was their territory, and so it was.

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Can you see the bald eagle flying among the trees?

The mission in Juno was to go whale watching, because none of us had ever seen a whale before in our lives, and I suppose I was mildly excited, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. As a lover of animals, I’m always game to sit down and stare at some animals, but posted on the walls of these whale watching charters were signs that claimed that whales weren’t always around. That part of it is luck.

And I’m sitting here thinking, well that would stink if we didn’t see a whale. Maybe as soon as the thought crossed my mind I was proven wrong. One of them came up for air close to the boat before diving back to the depths of the sea.

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Just a small taste of the awesome humpback whale. This is about 2% of it’s body. For real.

And what a strike of absolute ecstasy it was to see the burly monster of the oceans. The humpback whale looks as though it’s adorned with barnacles and battle scars, but simultaneously look as cuddly as your childhood teddy bear. They come up for about 2 or 3 seconds before receding back to the ocean, so you have to be quick with your camera if you’re going to catch anything. But the sight alone is spectacular.

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Snap a photo a split second too late and all you’ll see is the fin going back to the ocean.

Whales don’t live by any set schedule though, so whale watching is a waiting game. A test of anticipation, baiting you to give up and look away for two seconds only to have missed the next sighting of a whale. These boats go out with about 50 people aboard, and a captain who tries to tell the people which direction to look out for, but whales are extremely random; they come up whenever they please, they go down as fast as they want, and they care not about whether or not you had enough time to catch them. But let me tell you, when one came up, you knew it, because the whole ship collectively gasped and yelled and celebrated in excitement simultaneously. Because that’s what you do when you see a whale: you celebrate how glorious it looks.

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It’s rare, but some of the funner whales jump out of the water and do all sorts of antics before going back in!

When the whales are all underneath the water and all you can do is wait for another one to pop up at an unknown time, you sit back and relax and look out into the scenery, which is not unlike a scene straight from a National Geographic article. Mountains adorn the backdrop in elegant repose while trees rise up from the Earth and stand in solid contrast with the blue skies. Out in the distance you can catch birds roaming through their domain, probably hunting for the day, or hanging out on their tree branches. And one thing about Juno: so many bald eagles! It’s crazy.

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You can always see one of these soaring through the backdrop

I wish I could’ve stayed in Juno for more than a few hours. As a matter of fact, I wish I could’ve gone whale watching for 12 hours instead of the 2 or 3 that we were out there for. It’s truly exhilarating, and I’d recommend to anyone who loves nature. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to see in person these giant, island-looking beings in their pristine habitat.

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-The Wandering Toucan

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