Post written by Laura
Icy Strait Point has the highest concentration of wild bears anywhere in the world and this little wilderness spot was where I saw the most wildlife… I was fortunate to see eagles, whales and a bear in one day!
The ship had docked before breakfast and at 08:30 am I had disembarked and headed towards the Icy Strait Point Adventure Centre, the building from which all excursions were departing from. There was a huge range of activities on offer including bear and whale watching excursions and the world’s largest zipline!
From here I met Chad, our tour guide for the wilderness hike I had booked. As a mini bus of around 12 drove us through the small town of Hoonah, Chad explained the history of the town and its local Tlingit people. Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island which at 75 miles long and 50 miles wide is the USA’s fifth largest island.
The mini bus drove high up into the mountains overlooking Icy Strait and before starting the trek we were given the now familiar bear safety instructions. As the mini bus had done the hard work of driving us up a track to the top of the mountain our hike on this day was flat and easy!
Again we were fortunate to have good weather and such a lovely clear day…
As our group stood at the top of the viewpoint, one person (the one with the decent set of binoculars) spotted a bear! I zoomed in with my camera and the bear can just about be seen in the above photo.
We stayed at the viewpoint for about 15 minutes before heading to another viewpoint close by, then back to the minibus.
The trek was short… perhaps only a mile or two from the mini bus to the view points and back again. Had the weather been bad, this 3 hour trip would have been a little disappointing for the £86 it had cost! But, without it I wouldn’t have been able to see the spectacular views from the top of the mountain.
We were taken back to the ship, where I called into the lunch buffet for a quick snack before setting off to explore Hoonah in the afternoon. The ship was actually docked at Icy Strait Point which is a purpose built activity area where an original restored salmon cannery is located. The activity centre, restaurants, museum and shops selling good quality local crafts can all be found here.
The small town of Hoonah is a couple of miles from where the ship was docked at Icy Strait Point and can be reached by either a shuttle bus or by walking along a pleasant coastal path.
Once I reached Hoonah on foot I continued walking around the town and as far as the harbour where several eagles were sitting quietly nearby. Hoonah has a small number of shops, a couple of cafes, a hotel, a police station with a 5 bed jail and a court building.
On the way back to the ship, in search of some local beer to try I called into Hoonah’s ‘The Office‘ bar which overlooked the picturesque bay. I tried a small taster of the beer but as it was only sold in pints and being a bit of a beer light weight I didn’t feel I could manage a pint, so I stuck with a bottle of Corona instead…
As I was inside the bar finishing off the corona, other customers started to get a bit excited and rushed to the window overlooking the bay… a school of whales had arrived!
I went outside with my camera and watched in awe from the edge of the bay, just outside the bar as the whales swam close by, popping their backs and tails up out of the water and blowing their water up from their blowholes.
I felt so lucky to have watched this spectacle for over half an hour as the whales continued to swim around in the bay close to the harbour. I’m not sure how many there were… possibly around 10?
Feeling rather chuffed at having seen a bear, the eagles and the whales in one day I headed back to the ship in high spirits… as I approached a small crowd was pointing up to the top of a spruce tree where a young bald eagle was perched!