2023 Season in Review - Major Marine Tours

2023 Season in Review

The MMT Blog / 2023 Season in Review

Happy New Year! The 2024 season is just around the corner and we are looking back at all of the incredible moments from 2023. When we reflect on last season two things really come to mind: bad weather and bubble-netting. While we had one of the wettest summers in our collective memories, we also had the most amount of days witnessing humpback whales bubble-net feeding. We will happily brave the rain any day to see this jaw-dropping cooperative feeding behavior in Kenai Fjords National Park! We talked to the MMT Captains about their favorite moments of the season.

Captain’s Report

“This was one of the most incredible summers we had for bubble-net feeding! Every summer is different. Sometimes the water temperatures are too warm and the humpback whales are more spread out in the South Central area as they search for food. Sometimes it happens outside the areas where our boats can travel, or it occurs in rough seas. In July 2023 we had the perfect conditions, and we were able to share the unforgettable spectacle of bubble-net feeding to thousands of guests who visited Kenai Fjords National Park. A cold, wet spring kept the waters cool for the whales, and herring gathered en masse in the Chiswell Islands…the perfect condition for over 20 whales to come together for cooperative feeding.” Captain Nicole describes this years bubble-net feeding activity.
Captain Laura recounts a few surprises from the season, “Even after 16 years of working on tour boats in Alaska, I had a few firsts that stood out for me this past season. Nature always has something unexpected and no matter how long I do this, it never gets old and I still have new experiences. This season was the first time seeing humpbacks, orcas, and Dall’s porpoise all feeding together at the same time in the exact spot next to each other. It was made even more spectacular by the 15 humpbacks bubble-net feeding in the same spot for nearly 6 weeks.”

“We encountered a sunfish that had been located by another vessel,” Laura continues with this bizarre sighting of a giant fish typically found in southern tropical waters. “And another first…I spotted a beluga that must have taken a wrong turn. Being born and raised in Alaska I have certainly seen belugas before, but those sightings were where they belong, Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on my when I spotted it in Resurrection Bay, where it does not belong. This season also was the first time I have witnessed synchronized humpback whale breaching. An activity that is rare in their feeding grounds on an individual basis, let alone simultaneously with multiple animals. All in all, a memorable season for sure.”


Wildlife Trends

2023 was a great year for large mammals such as orcas, fin whales, and humpback whales. The best viewing season for whales is late-May to mid-August. While we use to see more humpbacks well into September, it seems that they are have shifted their migration a bit to arrive earlier in the summer and head back to Hawaii in August. On our best wildlife viewing cruise, the 8.5 Hour Northwestern Fjords Cruise, we had whale encounters on 96% of the trips. 

Bubble-net feeding was once an enigma to our long-time employees and captains, that knew this behavior was only seen in Southeast Alaska and not in our more northern waters. However, about 8 years ago our friendly giants shocked us all by beginning the feeding technique around Kenai Fjords National Park. Since then the amount of days that we encounter bubble-net feeding has generally increased each year, but also depends on several factors that Captain Nicole explained. This year blew it all out of the water… While we average three days to two weeks of bubble-net feeding in early July, we saw it a whopping 35 days from June 27th to August 4th! 

MMT Crew

After a few years of a nationwide hiring dilemma, we were so excited to welcome back a majority of returning crew members in 2023, and even more are coming back for the 2024 season! We can’t wait to start up our Major Marine Softball Team, plan for the 4th of July Boat Parade, and have just as many amazing wildlife encounters as last year. The past several years we have welcomed new boats to our fleet such as the Kenai Fjords 360, Spirit of Matushka, and Skana. Now that our fleet is complete, and we have the best vessels for wildlife viewing, we are concentrating on our employee experience. For 2024 we are building brand new employee housing and communal spaces, as well as a new warehouse, shop, and office for our year-round staff who make sure the boats are ready to welcome you each season!


The 2024 season begins March 8th with our Spring Wildlife Cruise that you can book with an overnight at the Harbor 360 Hotel. Our new hotel, the Gateway Hotel, will open for the season on May 15th and we are counting down the days we get to show visitors our beautiful town of Seward and the incredible Kenai Fjords National Park!