dive alaska - fall tour
Starting into our rainy season, temperatures will rise to around 60 degrees at the surface but visibility will drop from 30-50’ to around 20-30’ during the fall season due to rain runoff in the area. Don’t let this stop you from thinking it’ll be hard to see. Even at 20’ vis, this is still outstanding for most areas of Prince William Sound. But along with the rain, this brings the mass migration of salmon to Alaska and a new cycle of nature and animals start to come into view.
These trips occur during the spring season during the month of May when there is an explosion of food as the snow melts and the temperature starts to rise. The tour revolves around 3 dives each day (weather dependent) with unique activities scheduled during the week. Bear activity occurs more often during this month and guests have the best opportunity to see brown and black bears walking along the beach and at creeks during evening skiff excursions. This is a tour that combines the best of what Alaska has to offer above and below the waterline.
salmon fish snorkeling
Snorkeling with salmon is more fun than you would imagine. You get to see one of nature’s greatest migration stories unfold its last chapter as these fish return to the very stream they were born. Almost every creek that produces a stream of freshwater into the open ocean will have salmon trying to navigate it to spawn and then perish. Each year, the amount of fish that return can vary. But the numbers usually end up in the thousands, so it’s hard to see any real changes that occur.
During the spawning season, when salmon hit freshwater a unique metamorphosis will happen changing male fish to deform making for interesting photo’s. The Pink Salmon will have the biggest changes with teeth becoming long, develop a hook jaw and large hump back. Chum salmon will develop what look like tiger strips on their skin, with colors becoming more bright as they stay longer in freshwater.
There are many streams and creeks that inhabit Port Fidalgo, but after many years of searching for the clearest one’s, we’ve been able to locate two that are very clear and produce the best photos for our clients. Both creeks hold a variety of different species and include Dolly Varden Trout, Chum Salmon and the more abundant Pink Salmon. With bears, eagles, seals and orca's after them, these fish can spook easily. The best approach is to lay still in the water and before long you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of fish, up close and bumping into you from every direction.
dive jellyfish bloom and smacks
Ever felt like you were visiting another world?! Moon Jellyfish blooms (aurelia aurita) or aggregate jellyfish blooms occur every summer along the coast of Alaska. Port Fidalgo in Prince William Sound offers the clearest water in the area, free from silt and glacier runoff so that divers can get a extreme view of just how massive these blooms get get in size. Ranging in the thousands, these jellyfish don't sting and congregate in huge numbers to reproduce. They are a carnivore, often feeding on small zooplankton. Found almost always blue in color, some will be lucky enough to see a purple one. If so, you've just spotted the female surrounded by endless males jocking for position with her. One very unique characteristic of jellyfish blooms around the world is the fact that is doesn't happen very often or under conditions that allow for pre-planned trips to catch a bloom in the act. However, we are extremely lucky to say this is one very dependable tour that is offered at Ravencroft. The trick is spotting them as we travel to dive sites. When I hear someone say, "hey, it looks like there is an island under the water over there". Thats a telltale sign there's a jelly smack just under the water. And it seems with the raising water tempertures in Alaska, we are seeing more and more blooms each year.
During this explosion of jellyfish, both divers and snorklers can swim in these vast migrations. These blooms usually appear on the surface of the water and allow snorkelers the chance to swim on the surface, while divers will sink down mid column. The blooms can reach hundreds of feet so there's plenty of space to get a shot free from other divers. This is a extremely unique adventure and there are but a handful of area's in the world where jellyfish congregate like this, but nothing truley like here in Alaska!
Along with Moon Jellyfish, the Lions Mane Jellyfish is another beautiful species to photograph. But divers beware, these one’s sting. Although not deadly, they will leave you with a sting hurting like a bee might hurt. The bells are harmless, but the trailing tentacles that can sometimes reach 15’ or more can sometimes be hard to see. So, make sure to swim around the front and stay away from the rear of this orange invertebrate.
sea lion rookery & puffins Topside Photography
During the course of the week we will travel to an area of Prince William Sound where hundreds of Stellar Sea Lions call home along a rugged and rocky beachline. This rookery holds many interesting characters making for great subjects to photograph as a group or as a single sea lion. They can often be found perched on high rocks from a recent high tide or forging in the waters that surround the area. Depending on the tide, there may be times when waves will crash onto shore allowing beautiful photo’s. But make sure to set your shutter speed correctly as there is much action that usually occurs here. You’ll want your telephoto lens along for this trip as we are not allowed to approach no closer than 100 yards to the rookery.
We’ll spend time taking in the sights, sounds and even the smell of this large colony of pinnipeds. These lions are the largest member of the family Otariidae, the “eared seals,” which includes all sea lions and fur seals. It is the only member of genus Eumetopias. Otariids differ from phocids, the “true seals,” in having external ear flaps, long forearms resembling flippers used for propulsion, and rotatable hind flippers that allow quadrupedal locomotion on land.
We’ll also find a nesting colony of birds that inhabit the same rocky beachline. There are 3 main birds that are found here, which include Pelagic Cormorant, Tufted Puffins and the more famous Horned Puffin. These birds will be seen leaving their cliff nests in search for small fish and often rest outside the protection boundary that surrounds the sea lion rookery.
After viewing the lions and birds, we’ll turn our attention to the rich waters around the island to search for migrating whales. Then turn our attention to Columbia Glacier and dawn our wetsuit or drysuit to swim with icebergs. This trip is weather dependent and will often make the run across the sound during the best weather day.
This iceberg snorkeling tour is reserved for those willing to brave a little colder water for epic shots of floating and grounded ice that have recently calved from the mighty blue behemoth, Columbia Glacier. But guests should know that this adventure is dangerous and ice can move or even flip without any visual indication ahead of time.
Some interesting facts about the area is Columbia Glacier descends from an ice field 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains leading into Prince William Sound. It is also one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world and the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska.
The Columbia is a large glacier flowing directly into the sea. When British explorers first surveyed it in 1794, its nose—or terminus—extended south to the northern edge of Heather Island, a small island near the mouth of Columbia Bay. The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat that continues today. Since that time it has moved over 10 miles and has been in catastrophic retreat, often calving tremendous icebergs into the bay.
In Columbia Bay there is a calm area where kayaking tour groups will spend traversing slow moving and grounded icebergs, which is where we also partake snorkeling with them. There are numerous icebergs to choose from and we'll look for the safest one to swim with, as these bergs tend to roll with little, to no notice. We don’t approach any iceberg and carefully pick the most stable one that we’re able to gain access to through the ice pack. We will give you a safety briefing on how to approach and navigate along one. Floating flat icebergs are not as top heavy and grounded icebergs flip less often, but snorkelers inevitably have the decision to get in or not to swim with an iceberg.
We don’t allow diving with icebergs without extended training, experience and numerous logged coldwater, dry suit dives.
topside bear photography
There are ample opportunities for topside wildlife photography in Alaska, but bears are at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to big animal photography. Both Black and Brown bears come out of hibernation when the snow melts in April and start to forage at higher elevations until the salmon migration comes into full swing. I primary mode of transportation will be skiffs in the evening looking for them travelling between creeks or streams. The skiffs will also allow us to better access to area’s that are shallow water and deep into coves. You’ll want to stay quiet as these bears are not protected and are open to public hunting.
We’ll most likely encounter more black bears traversing the beachline, as they are transient checking out creeks for salmon, not staying for long before heading to the next one. Brown bears will more often stay in one general area or creek. Since they are hunted, we won’t see them hang out for hours along the stream bed. Usually grabbing a fish and heading just out of sight to devour their meal. However, we do witness bears that are extremely picky, looking for females and their nutrient rich eggs. These bears will cruise up and down the creek looking for a fat female, grab it and lay on the beach studying where to poke a hole in its belly. Then taking its paw to push eggs out onto its tongue, savoring each one as if it was candy.
During spring, when the sun still sets, guests that stay up are often treated to an amazing and dazzling light show. The colors of the Northern Lights depend on what gas is involved and how high in the ionosphere the reaction takes place. Blue and green lights form at lower altitudes while red color comes from the highest altitudes. Green is the most common color of all auroras. Then it is pink, a mixture of green and red, followed by pure red, yellow and finally, pure blue.
The impressive light display that we see in the sky, seemingly just above our heads, is very far away – usually more than 60 miles above Earth. The most distant red lights take place at heights of over 400 miles up in the sky. Astronauts on board the International Space Station are at the same altitude as the Northern Lights and see them from the side.
Apart from a spectacular visual display, the lights also produce faint sounds such as claps, crackles, and static sounds. However, the aurora noise is so rare that hearing it is probably possible only during times of maximum aurora activity, on windless nights away from other noise sources. Some Inuit tribes believed that the Northern Lights were the spirits of animals that they hunted – seals, salmons, deer and beluga whales.
August 1st, the sun will set at 11pm and August 31st the sun sets at 10pm. Weather plays a huge factor and clouds can spoil your success to capture a solar storm erupting into a beautiful and colorful display. But we are far enough north to be able to offer this to our guests. So if you’re an avid photographer or just a sky watcher, brave the cold night and set your clocks to wake up and see earth's greatest natural spectacle.
32' Viking Dive Boat
The Viking is great for small groups and is considered a wet cabin allowing divers to enjoy accessing the heated cabin while waiting for the next dive. It is a 32' catamaran with dual Honda 150 outboard's. The cabin is equipped with full electronics, bathroom, heat and seating for up to 7 comfortably. AED & Oxygen medical kit, Life-raft, first aid and all emergency equipment stored inside vessels cabin. Captain is CPR and first aid certified. Divers will have tanks filled with lodge's on shore dive compressor. We end the day at 2pm in order to ensure enough time is given to fill scuba tanks. During dive sessions, we use the "buddy system" and do not offer "in water" dive guides, but do give you a detailed briefing so that you can confidently navigate the site with a buddy. If your group would like to request a dive guide, one can be provided for an additional cost but must be booked at the same time you book your stay.
Evening Topside Photography skiff rides
After dinner, grab your telephoto lens and look for topside wildlife. Your guide will take you to known watering holes for prime big game animal encounters. These smaller boats allow us to gain access to area's closer into shore where the larger boat would not be able to go. Possible animal sightings for this time period are whales, porpiose, eagles, sea-otters, land-otters, sea lions, harbor seals and various bird. Weather changes from sun to rain faster than you’d expect. So don’t forget to dress warm and bring rain gear on every outing. It’s always better to drop a layer or two than not have extra to feel comfortable.
There are many interesting animals to photograph, but there are also equally breathtaking landscape photography. A wide-angle lens will prove useful as well on most evening excursions. Skiffs are equipped with life jackets and marine radio's.
Your hosts have enjoyed working with amateur to professional
photographers and videographers throughout the years. And
are eager to show you unique, yet divers populations of wildlife
and natural beauty that resides in Prince William Sound. Our
prospective is to approach every encounter with deep appreciation
for the moment. We genuinely love the outdoors and the
animals that inhabit our area. Boone has years experience
mapping and documenting wildlife migrations in the area and are
excited to be able to show you around our neck of the woods.
Your hosts have enjoyed working with amateur to professional photographers and videographers throughout the years. And are eager to show you unique, yet divers populations of wildlife and natural beauty that resides in Prince William Sound. Our prospective is to approach every encounter with deep appreciation for the moment. We genuinely love the outdoors and the animals that inhabit our area. Boone has years experience mapping and documenting wildlife migrations in the area and are excited to be able to show you around our neck of the woods.
Expedition package itinerary
Trip synopsis: Scuba diving can be amazing at dive sites, but this trip has much more than diving packed into it. During August diving trips, water clarity will drop to 20-30’. Schooling Salmon can be easy to photograph in clear freshwater creeks. Bears will be found forging in these creeks as well. Eagles are seen but not in predation mode like in May. Trip highlights will be the huge blooms of Jellyfish that divers and snorkelers will equally enjoy.
Package details: 7 day/6 night Shark Package. First and last days are travel days. Includes 5 total days snorkeling/diving, meals, snacks, weights, 3 tanks and refills each day. Transportation from Valdez, AK to the remote Ravencroft Lodge and back is also included. Single rooms available for each diver unless a double room is requested prior to arrival. Evening shore-side skiff excursions available if requested. Self-guided kayaks/paddleboards available at lodge for evening use. Alcohol/soft drinks, large heavy snacks & gratuities not included.
Travel details: We recommend that you arrive a day before and
leave the following morning from your departure day from the
lodge. Divers arriving the day before allow for weather delays
into Valdez, AK that may happen from time to time. But arriving
early allows you to take advantage of visiting Valdez and Solomon Hatchery where bears, sea lions and eagles can
be found feasting on salmon runs. Ask for more details.
Travel details: We recommend that you arrive a day before and leave the following morning from your departure day from the lodge. Divers arriving the day before allow for weather delays into Valdez, AK that may happen from time to time. But arriving early allows you to take advantage of visiting Valdez and Solomon Hatchery where bears, sea lions and eagles can be found feasting on salmon runs. Ask for more details.
Disclaimer: Remember that sea animals are free to roam the open ocean and topside animals are free to roam the wilderness. There are no fences or nets keeping them to a specific area to ensure sightings. So please keep in mind that interactions are highly likely during the week, but not guaranteed. But that’s the magic of each encounter and makes it incredibly special!
- Group Size: 6 person
- Time Period: Aug
- Tour Focus: Diving, Salmon Snorkeling, Jellyfish Snorkeling, Iceberg Snorkeling, Topside Bear Photography and evening skiff animal encounters.
- Day 1 - Travel day from Valdez, AK to Lodge. Depart at 12pm. Lunch not included.
- Day 2-6 Day 2-5 We travel to dive sites for 3 dives each day. Some are known dive sites while others will be exploratory sites that are completely virgin and untouched. We plan at least three dives per day (except travel days), but an exact number of dives cannot be given and depend on weather conditions and travel time to dive sites. Day ends at 2pm and travel back to lodge. 2pm-6pm is free time while tanks are refilled. Group excursions after dinner.
- Day 7 - Travel day back to Valdez, AK. Depart Lodge at 9am for Valdez.