Sea kayaking Alaska's Kodiak Island
Outfitter: Orcas Unlimited
Price: from $840 per person
In a state known for its spectacular sea kayaking, the 177-mile-long Kodiak Island Archipelago boasts some of Alaska's best paddling. Because getting to Kodiak requires an extra flight from Anchorage, the island receives fewer visitors than other areas of Alaska—but those who do come say this remoteness makes the experience even better.
"When you look at Kodiak on a map, you see nothing but coastline," says Andy Schroeder, guide and owner of the local kayaking outfit Orcas Unlimited. "There are hundreds of miles of protected fjords with fantastic views up into the mountains and you can see dozens of species of marine birds and mammals in the coastal zone."
Rather than just offering traditional kayak-and-camp trips, Schroeder's company has two- and three-night Kodiak sea-kayaking tours that include transportation, accommodations, and meals onboard the "Mothership," a former fishing vessel transformed into a floating lodge and kayak dock. "The mothership element provides the most versatility, keeps me in touch with wildlife and their daily movements across a bigger area, and allows us to seek the best water conditions for paddling," says Schroeder.
When you only have a few days, being able to get to the best spots for wildlife viewing quickly is a huge advantage. "We were thrilled to motor into a cove hosting an old fish processing plant and find grizzlies feeding in the stream running alongside," says Judy Levin, who visited Kodiak this August specifically to see grizzlies, after making many numerous bear-less trips to other parts of Alaska.
Up close encounters with marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, sea otters, are common. "We cruised with 50-plus orcas for over an hour," says Fred McElroy, who also went on an August trip. "We watched a humorous scene of a large sea otter pup (almost as large as the adult female) clinging to its mom like a sinking ship as we left Afognak Bay, and at the end of our trip as we returned to St. Paul Harbor, we witnessed humpback whales exhibit a full range of behaviors including breaches and slaps."
Orcas Unlimited runs mothership kayaking tours from late May through early September. Rates for three-day tours start at $840 per person (based on groups of five or more paddlers) and include accommodations onboard the mothership (or in remote cabins for larger groups), transportation in the mothership, meals, kayaking equipment, and guiding. Two-day trips are also available as well as two- to five-day trips without mothership support.
Airfare is extra. Round-trip summer flights from Seattle to Kodiak start at $865, including taxes, on Alaska Airlines.
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