Wild, Wild Alaska – Untamed Beauty

by | Destinations, On Safari

Everyone is surprised when I tell them that Alaska is wilder than Africa, but there are few places on earth where you can travel to more remote locations and lose yourself in the wild. During my recent exploration to Alaska, I had the privilege of re-discovering this wilderness and the wildlife of the Last Frontier. Embarking on a safari to Alaska is stepping into a region where nature reigns supreme, and the wild landscapes seem to stretch on forever.

I began in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and its pristine wilderness. The adventure began with a moderate to difficult trek to the top of local ridge, above the tree line, to see a view of the surrounding mountains and glacier fed lake. The information the guide provided about the diverse plant life in the area, from the large Sitka spruce trees to the small mosses and lichens that provided a variety of colors, created relief from the pain in my legs caused by the continuous climbing. I am not sure if it was the relief I sought from the full day hike or if the glacial blue color of the lake was an irresistible draw, but I joined the “Skilak Swim Club” by jumping into the unimaginably cold water of the lake. What people (or just maybe me) will do for a sticker!

Venturing further, the Kenai Fjords National Park treated me to an awe-inspiring marine spectacle. While I saw puffins, sea otters, seals, and other marine birds, there were three experiences that will stick with me forever. The first was during an evening walk up to the beach and being rewarded by a pod of humpback whales breaching across the bay for over an hour. To sit by myself in the late evening light of summer solstice, watching and listening to these whales seemingly enjoying themselves was incredible.

After the whales, I decided to walk further along the beach when I surprised a coyote that was hunting in the long grasses. She became very curios of what I was as I dropped to a knee to photograph her at eye level. When her investigation brought to within 15 feet of where I was kneeling, I decided it was close enough and politely let her know she was close enough.

My third surprising wildlife encounter in Kenai Fjords occurred the following morning after waking up early for another solo exploration. I witnessed four river otters swimming in the lagoon from afar and decided to see if I could get a closer look. When I sat down near where they had exited the lagoon, I was surprised by one of them coming over a rock about ten feet from where I was sitting. After posing, with a fish in its mouth, for a few photos, it ran back into the water and proceeded to call its hunting partners, who ran right by me back into the safety of the water.
Even with these three amazing experiences, the pinnacle of my journey was the extraordinary brown bear viewing in Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks. Observing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is a privilege beyond words, fostering an intimate connection, and dispelling misconceptions about bears created by popular media. And to put icing on the trip, while standing watching three sub adult brown bears, we viewed in awe as a solo white Arctic wolf trotted down the beach in front of us. It is amazing that while viewing 600-700 lb bears, it was the sheer size of the wolf that caught our attention. Witnessing the natural behavior for both bears and wolves creates empathy, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for these magnificent animals.
Alaska’s untamed beauty has a way of seeping into your soul, leaving you with a profound sense of wonder and gratitude. On this most recent exploration safari, I was reminded, again, why I tell everyone that Alaska is one of my favorite places to visit.