Not Your Ordinary Snorkel: Going Underwater in Alaska


By Sarah Zaubi, Expedition Guide on the Wilderness Adventurer

When asked to conjure up images of snorkeling, most folks envision sandy beaches, warm tropical waters, and bikini-clad bodies freshly tanned (or burned) by the sun.

So, when asked who wants to sign up for snorkeling in Alaska, most guests give us a slightly bewildered look – if they don’t outright laugh. Some have heard that we offer snorkeling as an activity, and sign up just for the novelty, probably not expecting much.

It’s a love/hate thing for guides, too. It’s a long process. There’s 14mm of wetsuit to squeeze people into – a humbling experience for all. Not to mention the logistics of getting all your elegant neoprene seals into significantly colder water than the human body usually prefers. Add that to the uncertainty of tides and conditions, and the task can seem daunting.

Some guides fight for the trip – if just to get the chance to see some of the magic. Not all, of course, as some prefer to stay warm and dry. But for those of us who can’t resist the explosive amount of life under the water – no matter how cold it may be – we jump at the opportunity to shimmy into some neoprene and float around like semi-rigid flotsam.

This week the talented, ebullient, lead guide/marine mammal Jess won the battle (as she does) and was treated to challenging conditions and rich rewards. Around 10 curious, excited, intrigued, and downright flabbergasted individuals tagged along, and among all the starfish and soft corals, a chiton nestled among the rocks. In between the kelp forests and curious gulls, a vast array of anemones shifted in the swell, showing off. It was cold, and it was poetic.

After all the fuss, the reviews are in and even the skeptics were converted. Snorkeling in Alaska has made, if not lifelong devotees to cold water diving, some new chiton enthusiasts. Though, the hot chocolate and hot toddies whipped up by our amazing bartender Karen afterwards certainly didn’t hurt.

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