No matter what your experience with animals around the world, the wildlife tour in Sitka is something to look forward to, especially for travelers who have never been to the far north and seen its native creatures, such as the delightful puffins. Whales, otters, bears, and black-tailed deer are among the creatures that you can expect to see if you choose this shore excursion during your Holland America cruise.
The Sitka wildlife tours provided on Holland America shore excursions offer the best of the majestic natural wonders that you will find in the pristine frontier of Alaska. I saw puffins! These stocky little birds with the oversized bright orange beaks live, like polar bears, only in the northern latitudes. They look awkward, but they are consummate flyers. Along with penguins, they are perhaps the most popular bird as a stuffed animal – because these “Clowns of the Sea” are just adorable! Most of the puffins you see on Sitka wildlife tours are tufted puffins. These are one of the most striking looking birds of the species, with a very thick red bill and distinctive yellow tufts that stick out of it head most comically.
Sitka is located on Baranof Island, part of the Alexander Archipelago of on the Alaska panhandle. This archipelago is part of what is known as the state’s Inside Passage. This is where Glacier Bay National Park is located, and it one of the most accessible of Alaska’s pristine wild places. A wildlife tour in Sitka is one of the highlights of almost all cruise ship itineraries in this part of North America.
The Holland America Amsterdam makes a port stop in Sitka, as do most other cruise ships. For their Sitka wildlife tours Holland America utilizes respected local operators who have long relationships with the sea and land as well as a deep respect for the fragile ecosystems in which they operate. These are extremely important qualifications for many travelers, probably the most important factor in our choice of cruise line.
We chose the wildlife tour in Sitka called “Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest.” A trained naturalist was our guide, and we were guaranteed sightings of an otter, a whale, or a bear—or would receive a cash refund. We saw all three, in addition to the puffins, and learned new fascinating facts about these wild creatures even though we were quite sure we knew just about everything there was to know. We also observed the magnificent bald eagle, shy black-tailed deer, sea lions, and harbor seals. The variety of marine birdlife was quite staggering, rivaling that found on the Galapagos Islands. There were “rafts” of sea otters, breaching whales, and colorful harlequin ducks. This wildlife tour in Sitka navigates the rugged coastline of St. Lazaria Island National Wildlife Refuge, and we cruised into the little coves and inlets for the very best up-close observation of the wildlife.
Other shore excursions combined some native culture and history with the Sitka wildlife tours and visit St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church and Sitka Totem Park, a national park just outside of town filled with historic totems of the Tlingit and Haida native peoples and containing the battlefield that commemorates the Battle of Sitka fought between the Tlingit and Russians. You can also book a similar wildlife tour that includes a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, where injured birds of prey receive medical treatment and rehabilitation. The sailing vessel we were on during this wildlife tour in Sitka is able to navigate very close to the scores of islands for very close up views of the nesting birds and other wild creatures. It is a 30-foot expedition-style catamaran with a warm inside cabin area with a snack bar, large windows, and restrooms, as well as hot chocolate, tea, and coffee.