Wild times in a solitary world

"It was a very exclusive excursion. Only 40 people out of the thousands of cruise passengers in port that day got to do it.

"There were four seaplanes and we had our two families together in one, so it was like having our own private plane. My husband got to sit up the front next to the pilot.

"We started with a scenic flight that took about 50 minutes, with the pilot talking to us through our headsets and explaining the topography.

"We flew over enormous white glaciers, and underneath where the ice had cracked they were a vibrant, electric blue.

"They're like massive frozen rivers that all of a sudden stopped flowing.

"We flew to Taku Lodge, which is in Tongass National Forest and has an interesting history, including being used as a base for Alaskan dog breeding and sledding.

"It is accessible only by seaplane or small boat.

"When we arrived, they were cooking Alaskan salmon on the barbecue. Above the barbecue was an enormous black bear sitting in a tree, just watching the salmon.

"A man from the lodge was there with a massive stick and he didn't take his eyes off that bear.


"The lodge had a large window and when we went inside to eat, we watched the bear come down and finish everything left on the barbecue. We were literally about 10 metres away from him, thankfully behind glass.

"After lunch, you can go and do a guided walk through the woods and some of our group went, but after seeing the bear, I decided not to!

"I just loved sitting on a rocking chair on the verandah of the lodge, looking at the glacier and enjoying the atmosphere.

"It was a unique wilderness experience. It didn't feel touristy at all."

Value for money

The half-day Taku Glacier Lodge Flight and Feast cost $290 a person, including the flight and lunch, and Karen says she would have happily paid more for the experience.

"I'm not usually one for pre-booking excursions, but where we were going and what Crystal had to offer convinced me," she says. "I realised that you can't just come into port and say, 'That's Alaska'.

"To really see it, you have to get out on a boat or a plane and do some side trips. We did several excursions but this one was definitely the highlight for me, and if I hadn't booked it before we left, we would have missed out on an amazing experience."

WHO Karen Flook of Collaroy, Sydney, on her 12th cruise.
WHAT Seaplane journey to a remote lodge in Alaska.
WHERE The flight departed from the Alaskan capital, Juneau, which is a key port for Inside Passage cruises.
THE SHIP Karen cruised with her husband, Tony, 16-year-old daughter Samantha and another family on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony (crystalcruises.com). They cruised for 12 nights from San Francisco to Alaska's Inside Passage.

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at travelshd@fairfaxmedia.com.au.