Roadtrippin': Whale watching while sea kayaking through Resurrection Bay

Published: Jul. 5, 2020 at 3:34 PM AKDT
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Sometimes the best way to see some of Alaska's greatest sights is to ditch the wheels, grab a paddle and head out on the water. Channel 2's Kristen Durand and Grant Robinson did just that on this Road Trippin' adventure to Seward.

We took a ride out to the Emerald Coast on Liquid Adventures' jet boat, the Marmot Dreamer, in search of wildlife, large and small, in Resurrection Bay. Kayak guide, Pyper Dixon, and jet boat captain, Derek Johnson accompanied us. It wasn't long before we had our first encounter. Just beyond the Seward Boat Harbor, we caught a glimpse of a humpback whale lunge feeding.

Lunge feeding is when humpbacks leap out of the water getting a huge gulp of water in hopes of getting a mouthful of plankton and krill. Dixon says Resurrection Bay is basically a buffet of these very small animals, which is why the humpbacks come all the way up here during the summer months — they're chasing their dinner.

"The humpback whales, in particular, migrate from Baja California, some of them come from Hawaii," said Dixon. "That is their winter meeting grounds, and then they come all the way here to Alaska. This is their summer feeding grounds. They are trying to put on as much weight as possible while they're here for the summer before they go back down south."

We continued on to the wildlife-rich eastern shore of Resurrection Bay, catching a glimpse of a few more humpbacks, some sea lions, and harbor seals lounging on the rocks along the way.

Once we reached the Emerald Coast, we hopped into a couple of kayaks and ventured into some of the harder to reach areas. We lucked out with calm waters and low tide, conditions safe enough to venture inside some sea caves. However, it's the exact opposite condition that created the caves in the first place.

"This section of coastline faces the Gulf of Alaska and it bears the full brunt of these massive storms that hit this coast all year long, but especially in the winter, and so the huge ocean swell just slams up against these rocks over and over again, and it carves away at the rocks and that forms the arches, and the caves," said Dixon.

The sea caves and canyons are bursting with the colors of marine wildlife, sea urchins, sea stars and snails plastered along the walls — still impressing our tour guide, even with his ten years of experience. Dixon says no two excursions are ever the same.

"I have no idea what I'm going to encounter," said Dixon. "I might get to paddle somewhere I've never seen before, I might discover a new sea cave, or I might have a whale breach over my kayak, and I just have no idea when I go out in the morning, what I'm going to see, what I'm going to experience. That's kind of the power and the magic of this place is that it's just ever-changing and it's always exciting."

Liquid Adventures boat captain, Derek Johnson, says this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring Resurrection Bay.

"We also offer a trip out to Aialik Northwestern on our own private water taxi maxed out at twelve passengers," said Johnson. "My favorite trip, which this jet boat goes to, is the Bear Glacier trip. We go paddle around icebergs that could be the size of buildings out in this huge lagoon. We can always pick where the wildlife is, go see that real easily. We also have our sister company, Exit Glacier Guides, and you can go ice hiking and ice climbing up on Exit Glacier which is pretty amazing as well."

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