Alaska wildlife travel guide

It’s not simply that Alaska is packed with amazing wildlife, including its own version of the ‘Big Five’. It’s that America’s largest, northernmost state is also exceptional for viewing that wildlife. The bears, moose and caribou here are nowhere near as wary of humans as they are in the parks further south, and are unperturbed by you standing transfixed just a short distance away.
You have to take your time here, Alaska isn’t a zoo. Sure it can be frustrating if you don’t get the sightings you’re hoping for but when you do, it’s immensely gratifying.
Small group tours ensure wildlife encounters are rewarding and safe, and encourage conservation of fragile habitats that are often threatened by industries hungry to plunder precious natural resources. Through a wide range of experiences, from small ship whale-watching cruises to backcountry hiking, kayaking and glacier climbing, tour operators share their unmistakable passion for Alaska and its wildlife.
Learn more in our Alaska wildlife travel guide.

Alaska wildlife vacations are…

a taste of wilderness packed with animal encounters, brought to you by expert guides whose passion for their work is obvious.

Alaska wildlife vacations are not…

really something to embark on alone. Traveling in a small group of like-minded adventurers is easier, safer, cheaper and fantastic fun.

What do Alaska wildlife vacations involve?

As you can gather from the name, these trips involve seeing wildlife, and usually a lot of it. Alaska has most of America’s grizzly bears, along with healthy populations of black and polar bears. Its coastal waters teem with marine life: humpback and orca whales, seals and sea lions, porpoises and sea birds. America’s northernmost state has its own version of the ‘Big Five’ – bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves. Wolves!
You can embark on a small ship cruise through the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park that is practically guaranteed to result in myriad whale sightings. Or a specialist bear photography vacation that will take you to remote wilderness lodges in national parks such as Katmai and Lake Clark during the salmon-spawning season. Or you can join an overlanding trip between spectacular locations such as Denali National Park and Wrangell St Elias National Park. You’ll sleep under canvas, hike backcountry, kayak around icebergs and walk across glaciers, then share stories about wildlife sightings around the campfire in the evenings. Go at the start or end of Alaska’s short tourism season and you might even see the Northern Lights.
The vast majority of Alaska wildlife tours involve traveling as part of a small group. They’re sociable, fun and ensure you always have someone to head out on an activity with every day. And whether you’re overlanding or cruising, you are accompanied throughout by passionate guides and tour leaders there to help you have safe and immensely rewarding encounters with the wildlife here.

Responsible tourism

Alaska’s whaling industry died out decades ago, but the wildlife here still faces threats, as it does across most American national parks. One of the most pressing is development of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in northeast Alaska, which potentially puts at risk a major calving ground for caribou. Wildlife tourism in Alaska demonstrates the value of protecting the habitats that these animals depend on. Wildlife tourism with responsible operators, meanwhile, ensures that remote communities also benefit financially, such as through supplying accommodation, food or activities, encouraging them to conserve bears, whales and wolves rather than seeing them as a threat.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Alaska wildlife or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Do go on an Alaska wildlife vacation if…

... you’re happy to rough it a little. Wild camping is often involved, with amenities basic or non-existent, but a comfortable bed and a hot shower are never too far away. ... you have an adventurous streak. You’re not just confined to a jeep with a pair of binoculars here. You’ll be hiking through bear territory, and kayaking near whales. ... you like a little company. Small group tours are the best way to explore Alaska, for the camaraderie and joy of sharing experiences around the campfire.

Don’t  go on an Alaska wildlife vacation if…

... you’re looking for a winter getaway. Getting around between October and February would be difficult, freezing cold and unsatisfying, with the wildlife either hibernating or wishing it was. ... you want an amazing animal selfie every day. That’s for the zoo. In Alaska, you need patience and awareness, but when you do strike gold it’s incredibly rewarding. ... you like predictability. Whether cruising or overlanding, itineraries are usually treated as a guideline only – what you do each day often depends on what the wildlife is up to.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: John Yunker] [All photos: Infinite Adventures]