THE LAST FRON­TIER

Ad­ven­ture awaits off the coast of the Last Fron­tier

Scuba Diving - - Travel - BY JEN­NIFER IDOL

Though you can travel to Alaska for a long week­end, you might be tempted to stay a month. From griz­zly bears and wolves to hump­back whales and plu­mose anemones, pos­si­bil­i­ties for bucket-list an­i­mal en­coun­ters abound in the Alaskan wilder­ness and its nearby wa­ters. Be­gin the jour­ney in An­chor­age and make the twoand-a-half-hour drive to stay in Se­ward, a small town on the edge of the wild.

IF YOU HAVE ONE DAY

Book a Satur­day char­ter and head to Res­ur­rec­tion Bay in Se­ward, where you can see the most ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity. In­ver­te­brate life dom­i­nates, from lion’s mane jel­ly­fish to nudi­branchs. As you head out on the boat, look out for har­bor seals and sea ot­ters. Near the mouth of the bay, Lit­tle Mary’s Rock blooms at 100 feet with a field of plu­mose anemones. Af­ter­ward, visit the Alaska Sealife Cen­ter, an ab­so­lute must-see marine­mam­mal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity. In ad­di­tion to im­pres­sive per­ma­nent ex­hibits, you never know who you’ll see be­ing cared for at the cen­ter, where work­ers re­ha­bil­i­tate area an­i­mals, in­clud­ing baby wal­ruses, Steller sea lions, har­bor seals and more.

IF YOU HAVE TWO DAYS

Re­turn for a char­ter in the bay and visit Boul­der City on the first dive. Boul­ders form small swim-throughs and pro­vide struc­ture for reef growth. Sea cu­cum­bers and starfish fill in the spa­ces be­tween kelp beds. This shal­low cold-wa­ter reef al­lows for longer dives along the coast­line. Next, re­quest a snor­kel­ing ad­ven­ture into fresh­wa­ter streams dur­ing salmonspawn­ing sea­son. De­pend­ing on the time of year, you can see dif­fer­ent kinds of salmon such as chum and humpy spawn. Though food is ex­pen­sive in Alaska, it is worth cel­e­brat­ing dives with lo­cal brews at Se­ward Brew­ing Com­pany.

IF YOU HAVE THREE DAYS

Re­turn to Res­ur­rec­tion Bay and ex­plore the western side, where you are more likely to see Steller sea lions and har­bor seals. Orca and hump­back whales fre­quent Ke­nai Fjords Na­tional Park, which be­gins at the mouth of the bay. Look for horned and tufted puffins fl ying across the wa­ter and bald ea­gles in the tree­tops. Spend the af­ter­noon on a boat tour to Aia­lik Glacier or plan a pri­vate kayak­ing tour along the coast. Days are long dur­ing sum­mer and al­low for ac­tion-packed itin­er­ar­ies. Hike to Exit Glacier, where you can touch the re­treat­ing ice be­fore leav­ing Se­ward.

A diver seeks out crit­ters in Res­ur­rec­tion Bay; (op­po­site) har­bor seals put on a show for trav­el­ers en route to their dive site.

JEN­NIFER IDOL is the first woman to dive all 50 states in the U. S., au­thor of An Amer­i­can Im­mer­sion, and a PADI Am­bas­sadiver. She’s also a mem­ber of the Ocean Artists So­ci­ety.

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