Friday, October 30, 2015

You Otter Like this Excursion - Sitka, AK

After the Westerdam anchored in the bay near Sitka, we were picked up right at the ship for an Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest by a boat from Allen Marine Tours.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of us boarding because I needed to watch my step with the boat bobbing up and down on the waves.  It didn't help that wind was blowing the rain sideways.  Not an auspicious beginning for our adventure. We boarded, found a seat and soon we were underway.  I took this photo of the view out of the window.

On a Quest for Sea Otters and Other Wildlife - Sitka, AK
I'd never been seasick although I had many previous boating adventures. Nevertheless, as a precaution, I brought along some Dramamine, primarily for our granddaughter.  I was concerned because I remembered from previous experience that her mother was very susceptible to motion sickness and worried that she may have passed the trait down to her daughter.

A Naturalist on an Allen Marine Tour
My attention was soon turned back inside the boat as a naturalist began to give a presentation about the wildlife of the area.  The list of wildlife species we might see included sea otters, dolphins, porpoises, several species of whales, bears, deer and numerous birds.  Binoculars were provided for our use.  I brought my own, but it was very helpful for those who didn't.  There were also hand-outs on the seats with information about the wildlife that is native to the area.

Sea Otter Fur
She began her talk with information about sea otters since they were the main object of our wildlife quest.  Sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction in these waters because of their valuable soft warm fur.  A piece of  sea otter fur was passed around for us all to feel.  It certainly is soft and luxurious with a thick undercoat that keeps the otters warm in the cold water.

Snack Bar Inside the Allen Marine Tours Boat
The tour included free coffee, tea, cocoa and muffins at a snack bar.  There were additional snacks, books and gifts available for sale.

Pilot House of a Sitka Tour Boat
The boat had an upper level with an open air deck and an enclosed pilot house where the captain had some elaborate electronics to help him guide the boat through the narrow rocky channels.  Not long after I took this photo we headed into some very rough water.  For our own safety all passengers were directed to come back down the stairs to the enclosed lower deck.  I returned to my seat and as the boat continued to roll, I asked my granddaughter if she was feeling ok.  She said she was fine.   Then I asked myself if I should have eaten that second helping of eggs benedict for breakfast.  I gulped down a couple of Dramamine.  A little while later we entered an area with calmer water.  Whether it was because the rolling of the boat subsided or the Dramamine kicking in I'll never know, but I was thankful that my queasiness ended.

Soon after we entered the calmer water we sighted our first raft of sea otters in a kelp bed.  The naturalist told us that the otters tether themselves to the kelp to prevent themselves from drifting while they sleep.  She also made the observation that since this group was so large, it was probably a group of males. (This photo doesn't show the entire group)  Apparently male and female sea otters live separate lives except during the breeding season.

Sea Otter near Sitka, AK
The boat kept a respectful distance from the groups of otters to avoid causing them stress, but occasionally we got to view a single otter like this one that would float past us at close range.

Sea Otters - Sitka, AK
In another kelp bed in a different channel was another group of  sea otters. The naturalist identified this group as females.  We were quite a distance away, so my photo isn't very clear, but through the binoculars we could see that some of the otters had a little pup resting on their chests.   One of the reasons I wanted to go on this shore excursion is because I fell in love with sea otters after seeing them at the Seattle Aquarium.

The matriarch of the Seattle Aquarium sea otters is Lootas, a sea otter from Alaska who was orphaned and nursed back to health, but lacked the skills needed to be released back into the wild. She became part of a captive breeding program and has contributed to the knowledge about sea otters through observation studies at the aquarium.  She lives there with her daughter, Aniak and granddaughter, Sekiu.  Lootas story is told in one of my favorite children's books, Lootas Little Wave Eater: An Orphaned Sea Otter's Story written by Clare Hodgson Meeker .  Ohhh, that face!

Immature Bald Eagle - Sitka Alaska
Some other highlights of our wildlife quest trip included cruising past an eagle nest - sorry no photo of that - but I did snap a picture of this bald eagle perched in a nearby tree.

Whale in the water near Sitka Alaska
We also saw several whales spouting and a few glimpses of their bodies and tails.

At the end of our 2.5 hour tour the boat brought us to a dock in the Sitka harbor and we were directed to our bus driver who was waiting to transport us to our next stop, The Alaska Raptor Center.

We are linked up with the following travel blogs.  Please visit for more great travel adventures!

Weekend Travel Inspiration 
Weekend Wanderlust
The Weekly Postcard