About Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan, situated at the edge of Alaska’s Inside Passage, offers a gateway to untamed beauty. Famed for its abundant salmon, breathtaking vistas, and profound indigenous heritage, this town is a fusion of natural splendor and cultural richness. As the proclaimed “Salmon Capital of the World,” it boasts a longstanding fishing tradition and invites visitors to savor some of the freshest seafood. With every snapshot capturing frame-worthy scenes, from the majestic Misty Fjords to the verdant Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan is an enchanting haven for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Here, the local Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures flourish, their artistry displayed in totem parks and museums, while a vibrant arts scene thrives, reflecting the community’s creative spirit. Learn more at Visit Ketchikan.

Snorkeling in Ketchikan

When you think of snorkeling, your mind likely drifts to warm, tropical waters filled with vibrant corals and brightly colored fish. Yet, there’s an untapped snorkeling locale that offers an equally mesmerizing, though starkly different, experience—Ketchikan, Alaska. According to Fred, a seasoned guide of snorkeling tours in Alaska, embracing the chilly waters of the north can lead to an unexpectedly colorful underwater escapade.

Sunflower and blood stars seen while snorkeling in alaska

The Alaska Snorkeling Difference

Snorkeling in Alaska shatters the typical expectations of frigid, barren waters. With state-of-the-art, thick wetsuits and summertime water temperatures reaching up to 65°F, comfort is ensured. As Fred points out, “As soon as you put your face in the water, there’s a whole world of colors, fish, kelps, plants, and invertebrates that rivals any tropical location. You just need an open mind.”

Unlike tropical snorkeling, the seabed here isn’t endangered by human interaction. With no coral reefs to protect, Fred and his team take snorkelers on guided marine life tours, allowing limited, careful handling of certain marine creatures like sea urchins and sea stars. This hands-on approach is done with utmost care, ensuring no harm comes to the vibrant aquatic life.

alaska ling cod fish seen while snorkeling in alaska

Feeling inspired by this post? Book a snorkeling tour with Snorkel Alaska

Gear Up for the Cold | What to wear for snorkeling in Ketchikan

Snorkeling in colder climes calls for extra gear. “We equip our adventurers with seven-millimeter wetsuits, hoods, boots, and gloves,” explains Fred. This gear is designed to trap a thin layer of water and heat it to body temperature, creating a cozy barrier against the chill. Check out wetsuits made of recycled materials by Scuba Pro

thick wetsuits used for snorkeling in the cold waters in alaska

A Spectrum of Marine Life 

The waters may not boast the clarity of the Caribbean, but they are teeming with life. The rocky reefs are adorned with a tapestry of plants and algae, and the invertebrates bring the color palette to life. From the purples and oranges of sea stars and sea urchins to the muted tones of local fish that blend with the kelp, there’s no shortage of sights to marvel at. Exciting encounters may include wolf eels, sea lions, and even the majestic orcas and humpback whales that occasionally pass by.

whale breaching in the background while people snorkel

From Shore to Deep Blue | Snorkeling right off the Alaskan shore

In Ketchikan, the adventure begins just off the shore, with glacier-carved mountains plunging into the sea, creating dramatic underwater landscapes. “We snorkel from a rocky beach,” Fred says, “and the whales can swim right next to where we explore.”

group of snorkelers about to enter the ocean from the beach

Sustainable Snorkeling Practices

Sustainability is at the heart of the experience. The use of boats is avoided, and the recent switch to recycled material wetsuits exemplifies the commitment to environmental stewardship. Education about marine life and its preservation is a fundamental part of the tour, complementing the physical exploration.

guide displaying sea life to guests

Timing Your Alaskan Snorkeling Adventure

The snorkeling season runs from May through September, coinciding with the cruise ship calendar. The best conditions vary, with clearer waters in the spring and fall and warmer, more active marine life in the summer.

All Are Welcome

Fred’s tours cater to all experience levels. The buoyant wetsuits make snorkeling accessible even to non-swimmers, and guides ensure that both novices and experienced free divers find joy and excitement in the waters.

Beyond Snorkeling | Outdoor Activities near Ketchikan

Ketchikan is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with activities ranging from hiking and mountain biking to kayaking in the nearby Misty Fjords. Fred recommends taking advantage of the myriad trails and fishing opportunities that abound.

Packing for Your Alaska Snorkeling Adventure

Preparation is simple: a towel, swimsuit, and an extra pair of socks are all that’s needed. The rest, including a heated shop for gearing up and secure storage for belongings, is provided.

Assurance and Inclusivity

Fred emphasizes the importance of a worry-free experience, guaranteeing timely returns to the cruise ships and a welcoming environment for all adventurers.

Final Thoughts

Snorkeling in Ketchikan, Alaska, is an invitation to discover the unseen and unexpected. It’s a journey that promises not just a dip into the northern waters but an immersion into an aquatic world as diverse and captivating as any tropical paradise.

For snorkeling inspiration, check out best snorkeling destinations article.

Feeling inspired by this post? Book a snorkeling tour with Snorkel Alaska

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