• Jyothi Vummiti

Sea Kayaking at Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Updated: May 27, 2018

Sea kayaking at a glacier should go on everybody's bucket list because it's an absolutely amazing experience. We took this tour from Valdez, a city located on the eastern side of Prince William Sound. We arrived the day before as our tour started early at 8 am. Our hotel was in the best possible location on Harbor dr. One could spend hours strolling by the docks watching sea otters put on a show; not to mention 360 degrees of jaw-dropping scenery. Plus there were cute little bunnies hopping around the hotel all day. 


Columbia Glacier kayaking


​​It was an all day tour. Our tour started with packing a light lunch and heading to Pangaea Adventures, our tour organizers for the day (just steps from the hotel). We listened to a list of instructions and decked up in rain jackets, pant and boots they provided.


Valdez harbor


Soon we boarded a motor boat and sailed off in the calm waters of Prince William Sound. The weather was gloomy and drizzly with low hanging clouds almost touching the water. Though it was cold and rainy we stood outside not wanting to miss even an inch of the incredible scenery. We spotted eagles, otters and witnessed many waterfalls that came tumbling down the mountains. ​It was fun to watch our guides fish for king prawns in the sea. They proudly showed off their catch of the day and probably had a feast later in the day.


Sailing through Prince William Sound

Serenity / One of the many gorgeous waterfalls


​After sailing in for couple of hours we stopped at a moraine, donned some more kayaking essentials and settled into a tandem kayak. Our guide helped us all along and made sure we were very comfortable for the rest of the journey. Off we went paddling. Despite wearing multiple layers it felt cold, especially our hands were freezing as they got wet from paddling. The sea was choppy, but thankfully it had stopped raining. The scenery was simply spectacular. We paddled closer to the icebergs and watched them tip, one here one there. Our guide did not let us get too close as its size under the water is hard to gauge, a big one could tip our kayak in the process. 


Excited to get close to the icebergs

Thats us trying not to get too close / Icebergs


​After 2 hrs of paddling we stopped at another moraine for lunch and to stretch. It was like a picnic. We ate while adoring the incredible scenery. Our guide supplied tea and hot chocolate, much needed in the cold. Then we walked around the moraine checking out nature in all directions and admiring tiny flowers that bloomed in the middle of no where. ​


A huge chunk


We settled once again in our kayaks, this time to explore the lush green coastline and waterfalls up close. Few minutes in, the weather changed again. It was warm and sunny, water was calm, but it rained and mosquitos were a giant pain. We paddled for another couple of hours there. It never crossed our minds before that it could actually be physically strenuous for us. Our arms almost gave up making it hard for us to catch up with the rest of the group. Happens after nearly 4 hours of paddling, I guess. But we did it anyway. 


A short waterfall


The boat ride back was another 2 hours. This was when we appreciated our hotel the most, within minutes we were back in our room. We rested for a bit, showered and headed back out for a walk. It was as if otters were out there just to entertain us. Overall we enjoyed our day, we felt content and filled with lots of memories. 


Looks like a praying otter


Gear Used: We used Fuji X-E2 with 18-55mm lens and 50-230mm lens. As a secondary camera Panasonic GF7 with 12-32 lens.


Useful Information:

Getting to Valdez: We highly recommend driving from Anchorage for the beautiful scenery and sites to stop on this route - 300miles/5.30hrs, and most economical. Take Glenn highway AK-1 north to Palmer and continue till you hit the intersection on Richardson highway 4. Take right to Valdez. Continue on Meals dr. and turn left on Harbor dr. Try to get to Valdez the day before as the trip starts early in the morning. Flight from Anchorage or ferry from Whittier is an option as well. Where to Stay: Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn. It is on harbor dr, a very convenient and beautiful location.  Tour Details: Pangaea Adventures - $259 per adult and lasts 10 hours. Just across the street from Best Western. What to Bring: Dress in warm layers, sunglasses, hat, lunch, water, binoculars, extra set of clothes in case you get wet and most importantly CAMERA. Lunch: Roadside Potatohead on Harbor dr. opens just before 8. Tell them you are going on a kayaking trip, they know how to pack for it. Things to see nearby: Worthington Glacier, Keystone Canyon.

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