Summary : While superlatives strive to convey the grandeur of Alaska, they never quite manage to capture the reality. This Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Safari does, though. In the company of some of Alaska's top naturalist guides, go farther afield from the most heavily touristed routes and into a genuine Alaskan wilderness adventure. Experience the silent inner heart of Denali, where grizzlies and caribou roam the tundra. Cruise to the face of a calving glacier and look for whales and otters among the icebergs on a private chartered boat cruise in Kenai Fjords. Along the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, watch giant brown bears fish for salmon. This is Alaska “less discovered”—bigger, wilder and more enthralling than you ever imagined. You’ve got to experience it for yourself!
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking
This Alaska nature safari begins in Fairbanks, Alaska's "second city" and capital of the Interior, which retains its frontier flavor with pioneer saloons, paddlewheelers and outlying mining camps. Meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening.
Travel south through boreal forest and along the Nenana River to Denali National Park. At 6 million acres—larger than the state of Massachusetts—Denali is one of the world’s great wilderness preserves. The park's namesake is the highest peak in North America, towering 20,320 feet over the tundra and taiga that provide habitat for wolves, grizzlies, moose and caribou. Formerly known as Mt. McKinley, its Athabascan Native name—Denali—means "The Great One." From our remote base 90 miles inside the park, we have time and space to encounter genuine wilderness. Hiking, nature walks, mountain biking, fishing and optional flightseeing over the glaciers of Denali are available. The climate and environment of Alaska's interior at this latitude is harsh much of the year, and it takes a vast amount of habitat to sustain animals. Wildlife encounters thus tend to be fleeting, though always thrilling.
Depart for the park entrance by road this morning, keeping a close eye out for moose, caribou, grizzly bears and other wildlife that roams the open tundra. At midday, board an Alaska Railroad dome car for a classic train journey through Alaska’s rugged interior. Your route through the Alaska Range climbs above tree line over Broad Pass, then descends to follow the Susitna River to the historic village of Talkeetna, where you disembark for the night. The rustic town, founded a century ago as the district headquarters for the new railroad, sits at the confluence of three rivers and enjoys a striking panorama of Denali and adjacent peaks. An outdoor recreation mecca, Talkeetna's economy today thrives on rafting, flightseeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, and it is also the main base for climbing expeditions on Denali. After dinner, there's time to stroll the compact downtown, whose buildings dating to the early 1900s have been designated a National Historic Site.
Leaving Talkeetna, continue south, eventually reaching the coast to follow Turnagain Arm to Girdwood and Alyeska Resort. Alyeska is Alaska’s premier ski area, where a host of exciting summer activities is also available. Set in a lush glacial valley in the Chugach Range southeast of Anchorage, Alyeska offers nature and luxury in tandem. Explore the northernmost temperate rain forest in North America that surrounds your deluxe accommodations at the Hotel Alyeska, or choose an optional tram ride to the alpine summit with vistas of the ice-bound peaks and inlet far below.
On Day 6 explore the scenic tableau of iceberg-choked Spencer Lake, then take a gentle float trip down the Placer River before returning to Girdwood. Dinner is not included on Day 6, in order to give you a chance to sample your choice of restaurants in the Alyeska/Girdwood area.
This morning, revel in magnificent scenery on the drive south to the Kenai Peninsula, as you cross Moose Pass en route to the fishing town and port of Seward. The road corridor you follow goes through the Kenai Mountains–Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, a designation that recognizes the area's unique cultural, geographic and historical features. Reach Seward's small boat harbor, and look for sea otters that are frequently seen bobbing among the yachts and docks. Here, board a boat for the journey to Fox Island, a lushly forested private island in Resurrection Bay on the edge of Kenai Fjords National Park. A secluded location, it reveals the pristine side of Alaska most visitors miss. The region is famed for its sea kayaking, and an easy paddling excursion late this afternoon is likely to reveal some of the area’s prolific marine life.
Iconic images of Alaska are on display today from your private chartered vessel as you voyage through a realm where vestiges of the Ice Age still linger. The small boat allows approaching wildlife at close range, and Kenai Fjords National Park provides excellent opportunities for viewing humpback and orca whales, porpoises, sea otters and a large colony of puffins. Glaciers pour from the jagged mountain heights into the sea, and you may observe icebergs calving with a thunderous crash from a glacier's towering blue face. Following your all-day outing, your boat returns to your secluded lodge on Fox Island for another night of peace and solitude in the wilderness.
After a last morning in the serene environs of Fox Island, weave your way back through the ice-dotted fjords to Seward to have lunch and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, located on Resurrection Bay. While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the renowned center also features a public aquarium and is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state.
From Seward, retrace your route northward, with the mountain ranges of the Kenai Peninsula rising one after another, sourcing some of Alaska's richest salmon rivers. Reaching Anchorage by late afternoon, have the rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner is not included so that you can select your choice of the many outstanding offerings available in Alaska's largest city. Local seafood is always a highlight! Tap your Expedition Leader for recommendations.
Fly west by small plane this morning to King Salmon, then by floatplane to Katmai National Park and world-renowned Brooks Falls, one of the best places to view giant Alaskan brown bears in their natural habitat. Katmai is home to the world’s largest population of these enormous coastal grizzlies, with some 2,200 individuals inside the park. As many bear populations around the world decline, Katmai's 4 million acres of wilderness provides some of the last pristine habitat for these magnificent animals.
Inside the park, scientists are able to study bears in their natural environs, visitors enjoy unparalleled viewing opportunities, and the bears live largely undisturbed. Nurturing this delicate relationship between people and bears is the key to Katmai's success as the world's preeminent place to observe brown bears in the wild. From the safety of platforms built over Brooks Falls, get a close look at this iconic wildlife spectacle, which very few visitors to Alaska have the privilege of seeing. At close range, watch bears stand in the rushing whitewater, jaws gaping, trying to catch the salmon that leap up the falls once spawning season starts.
June and July departures will have a good chance to see fishing bears, since this is when the salmon are running , but bear viewing is excellent in August and September, too, with even more bears in the vicinity. During each full day with the bears, take a break to relax over lunch at world-famous Brooks Lodge, an easy walk from the falls.
NOTE: Overnight at Gold Creek Lodge or Brooks Lodge depending on your departure date:
Depending upon the departure date you have chosen, you will overnight on Days 10 and 11 either at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge or Brooks Lodge. Most departures enjoy the luxury of staying at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge, a fly-in wilderness lodge near King Salmon that offers deluxe accommodations and includes a scenic 20-minute floatplane ride to reach Brooks Falls. Some groups will stay at the rustic but comfortable accommodation at Brooks, with simple shared quarters (four guests to a cabin, separated by gender or couple), two bunk beds and private bathroom facilities in each cabin. See dates below.
Gold Creek Lodge: 6/20/2019, 6/25/2019, 7/2/2019, 7/9/2019-7/30/2019, 8/31/2019, 6/23/2020, 7/7/2020, 7/9/2020, 7/16/2020, 7/18/2020, 7/25/2020, 7/28/2020, 8/28/2020
Brooks Lodge: 6/22/2019, 7/6/2019, 8/29/2019, 6/20/2020, 6/25/2020, 6/30/2020, 7/4/2020, 7/14/2020, 7/23/2020, 8/23/2020
After a last round of bear viewing in Katmai, fly back to King Salmon, then on to Anchorage. Tonight your Expedition Leader hosts a farewell dinner to celebrate your Alaskan adventures.
Your Alaska wildlife safari comes to a close today as you transfer to the airport for homeward flights, or ongoing travel for those who have booked extensions.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
The activities on this Alaska wildlife adventure are diverse, requiring general mobility and fitness. The longest required walk is two miles roundtrip over a relatively flat wooden boardwalk to reach Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, to observe the brown bears. Trail surfaces for the various walks vary from pavement to uneven natural terrain. While all travelers must be able to walk at least two miles, some longer hikes are available for those who desire. The kayaking activity on Fox Island involves paddling for approximately two hours in conditions that are typically quite calm. Travelers are not required to participate in every activity, but all participants must be able to walk at least two miles.
Medical Evacuation Insurance is mandatory for this trip. Note that the cost of a medical evacuation policy will be added to your tour invoice. If you wish to decline this coverage and opt for a different carrier, you will need to provide other proof of coverage including your insurance company’s name and contact number, and your insurance policy number.
Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 13; accommodations as per itinerary; dome car train from Denali to Talkeetna; meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 13 (excluding dinner on Days 6 and 9); entrance fees; most gratuities. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare, dinner on Days 6 and 9; alcoholic beverages; some gratuities; passport and visa fees; optional activities; items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.); airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes; required medical evacuation insurance; optional travel protection insurance.
Photos ©: John Baston, Colin McNulty, Eric Rock, Court Whelan
*A surcharge for Travelex medical evacuation insurance through Natural Habitat Adventures is added to your tour invoice. It is mandatory to have this insurance for this trip. If you wish to go with a different carrier, you will need to show proof of coverage to have this charge removed from your invoice. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.