Take a walk on the wild side in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage


It's not uncommon to see wildlife like moose and bear strutting down the streets of Anchorage. — Visit Anchorage

“Want to see something?” pilot Gary Terrazzo’s voice crackles in his passengers’ headphones as the tiny aircraft buzzes over the rugged Alaskan landscape and lead-grey ocean.

Huge moose antlers are visible moving among the conifers 300m below and the visitors crane their necks to see. Their wonderment grows as they spot seals cavorting on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, where the flat white heads of beluga whales also crest and dip in the chilly waters.

The 30-minute seaplane flight affords visitors a treat-filled taste of the expanses outside Anchorage in Alaska, in the United States.

The vastness of the Alaskan landscape becomes particularly clear from the air.The vastness of the Alaskan landscape becomes particularly clear from the air.

But you don’t have to take to the skies to admire the state’s top-tier wildlife.

Yellow moose warning signs adorn roads well into the city, while moose fences remind that the giant creatures can be anywhere. Plus the bears, whose curiosity often leads them into the grounds of the international airport.

Located in the far north-west of North America, Alaska is by far the largest US state, so big that it could swallow Germany almost five times, but having a population of less than a million people. Which means a lot of space and freedom for humans and beasts alike.

On Point Woronzof Road, where you can watch larger planes taking off and landing at close range, moose often amble along the verge. Kincaid Park and the Campbell Creek Estuary are also good places to encounter northern wildlife in Anchorage.

If you don’t have any luck in the city, jump in the car and head down the Seward Highway. Around 100km south of Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre nurses injured animals back to health or breeds them for later release into the wild.

The bears, wolves, musk oxen, moose, buffalo and reindeer that live in spacious habitats here are all species you could meet in the wild. Kobuk, a black bear, prefers to spend his time chilling in a tree, while the oxen lazily pluck grass in their muddy meadow.

A kobuk prefers to spend its time chilling in a tree at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre. — Photos: VERENA WOLFF/dpaA kobuk prefers to spend its time chilling in a tree at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre. — Photos: VERENA WOLFF/dpa

For scenery fans, Alaska also offers around 100,000 glaciers, mainly concentrated in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park, the largest national park in the US. But the glaciers in Prince William Sound, a large bay in the Gulf of Alaska, are also worth a trip starting from Whittier, 90km south-east of Anchorage.

Reached through a single-lane tunnel for cars and trains, the village itself offers little sightseeing, but once on the water you are spoiled with marvels. The operators of the five-hour 26 Glacier Cruise even guarantee you not to get seasick: “We sail into the fjords on modern catamarans, so there’s hardly any rocking,” says Captain Cody Hanna.

To ensure that the passengers get to see the 26 glaciers, today’s vessel, the Klondike Express, curves through the water for more than 200km. On board is a ranger who talks about the formation of the glaciers and their so-called calving, when parts of them break off and crash into the sea.

This moose lives at the conservation centre. — AWCC/Visit AnchorageThis moose lives at the conservation centre. — AWCC/Visit Anchorage

As the captain steers close to one glacier, a loud rumbling can be heard as masses of ice crash into the sea. Many passengers are surprised at how the steep glaciers look from close up, streaked with gravel and dirt and not deep turquoise as in photos. This is because the ice is in motion and also carries stones with it.

Besides the glaciers, you can see different species of birds, otters, sea lions and porpoises from the ship. “And when the salmon are here, it doesn’t take long for the bears and the whales to come too,” says Captain Hanna.

Back on land in Anchorage, if you walk around Lake Hood beside the airport you will find many small, colourful wooden cabins that have a 10-year waiting list to buy because of demand.

This is the largest seaplane base in the world: Every cabin seems to have a Cessna, Otter or other type of small aircraft in the front yard. And should you get the urge to leave terra firma, it doesn’t take long to find a ride into the back of beyond. – VERENA WOLFF/dpa

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