Hi, glad I stumbled on this site. Great questions and answers.
Hope some of you can give me some advice. Going to Alaska on HAL 9/6 - third trip. The shore excursions mention 2 bear watching trips. Can only choose one. I know that bears are not guaranteed but which would be better - Neets Bay or Traitor's Cove? Anyone been on either of these tours?
I notice Neets Bay indicates a "viewing area" while Traitor's Cove indicates a "viewing platform". Is there any real difference? Also, just how wet do you get at Traitor's Cove?
Just got back from Mariner sailing yesterday. It has rained constantly in Ketchikan and tours are canceled more often than they go. We were scheduled for Neets Bay and I too kept asking questions about Traitors Cove instead because of viewing platforms. I was told by tour desk only difference was the 1/2 mile hike at Neets Bay was path and Traitors Cove was planked. As it turned out ALL tours were canceled that day -- even trolleys because of rain and wind. We did a bus tour that didn't even stop for walk arounds because of the rain.
Only advice I can give is Traitors Cove canceled their trips much earlier than Neets Bay did. Does that mean the chance of flying into Neets Bay is greater? I really don't know!!
I went on the Neets Bay trip on Aug 10. We scheduled it with the cruiseline (NCL) since their trip cost $260 per person and booking a bear trip independently during that day would have cost us $275 with Island Wings which only went to Anan (I figured one bear is pretty much like the other, so it was better to spend the $30 we saved on a bottle of wine)....ANYWAYS....I pre-booked the morning (8:00am)tour through NCL (the company they use is Promech Air [www.promechair.com] because of the price and because the ship had such a short stopover in Ketchikan. The weather was glorious on the day. The vans were waiting as we departed the ship and they drove us to the area where the float planes are parked along the water (they also asked us our weight). There were 3 plane loads of us (11 in our plane) for the trip. Everyone got a window seat on the planes. The pilot looked like a schoolkid, but apparently knew what he was doing. The scenery was beautiful and the landing was great but the "schoolkid" wasn't much of a tour guide along the way. But I guess we paid for a pilot, not a tourguide (OK with me). Once there we got the group together for the 10 minute walk along a dirt path to the hatchery. The only "encounter" we had along the way was from a yappy dachund who lives on the property. We rounded the tanks where the little salmon are grown and walked down to the viewing area by a rocky stream teaming with salmon. The smell is pretty intense with all the dying fish laying about, but we got over it. There were hundreds of seagulls flying around, and then, right there on the rocks about 30 feet in front of us was a big old bear catching salmon! What a site. The bears only eat the eggs so they bite into the belly of the salmons and the orange eggs squirt out in all directions! There were two other bears quite far away doing the same thing and we all watched for a while. Then the closest bear went down the river and went into the woods. Later it emerged downstream with two cubs. It went into the water, caught a fish and bought it back for the cubs--too cute!! Remember to bring your binoculars, because it was the only way we got to see it "up close". We were getting ready to leave when another bear emerged out of the woods, again only 30 feet in front of us and started catching fish. We also saw (through binoculars) bald eagles eating too. Then it was time to hike back and reboard the planes and head back to Ketchikan. We decided not to take the bus back to the ship and walked back to the ship through town (about 30 minutes). All-in-all it was a facinating trip and I'm very happy I spent the $ to take this trip.
More bad news re: bears. We're going on HAL 9/10 & I called Taquanair directly about bear watching trips. They said there probably won't be any during that time period unless there have been recent bear sightings. It is the end of the salmon season so the bear will probably be gone. I read that the trip to do would be Anan Creek but not in September.