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.
“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.”
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!
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!