Going on a seaplane / floatplane / flying death trap (delete as applicable) has been a dream of my husband’s for a really long time. I’ve never been on one either, so when I saw that one of the excursions we could book from our Alaskan cruise was a flightseeing trip over the Misty Fjords in a seaplane, I was booking it whilst simultaneously planning our meals of baked beans for the next 6 months. Yes, it’s expensive. But oh, my, is it worth it.
This post will be picture heavy so I apologise for that. It might make a nice easy Monday morning read though?
So, back to the flightseeing. We had a horrifyingly early pick up time at Ketchikan docks, which meant an extremely early breakfast on account of having to eat all our meals in the main dining room (gluten free problems). We were about first off the ship and everything. However, as we’d booked through an outside company the process was seamless and not at all stressful, unlike the bunfight that proceeded the excursion we booked via the cruise line.
Anyway, having met our representative at the docks and climbed into the minivan to wait for the rest of the party, we were feeling pretty excited.
Soon enough they all showed up (a lovely family of 4 from Georgia) and off we went. We watched a quick safety briefing in the ‘terminal’ of the Taquan Air facility, left any bags we didn’t want in the lockers provided, and headed down to the jetty.
There was our seaplane waiting for us. It suddenly looked very small.
Then we looked inside. How were all 6 adults going to fit in there?!
The floatplane enthusiast from Georgia took the seat in the cockpit next to the pilot, and the other three in the family bravely squeezed into the back of the plane. S and I took the first row. It was a somewhat treacherous clamber into the plane – it felt a bit early for a dip in the freezing water…
The pilot gave us a quick briefing, we put on our headphones, feeling giddy with excitement.
Then we took off!
And soon we all had our faces plastered to the window, mouths agape. What a view!
The day started off a little overcast, and with the movement of the plane it was a bit difficult to get good photos. Nonetheless, we saw all sorts of amazing things.
We saw seals basking on an island. We saw a big rock named the New Eddystone Rock, after a lighthouse. Because it looked a bit like a lighthouse to one early English explorer.
I mean… sure.
We saw hidden valleys and lakes.
We saw above the clouds and below the clouds.
We saw all sorts of trees.
We saw lots of evidence of logging.
We saw beautiful blue water. So much blue!
And then the pilot took us on a graceful downward swoop and we landed on the water of one of the fjords.
There was nobody around. We bobbed around in the stillness for a minute, and then the pilot said, ok who wants to get out?
We all blinked at each other.
So the pilot, noticing our blank faces, explained that we could get out and stand on the floats of the plane. If we wanted to.
Right! Ok. Holding on to everything and everything extremely tightly, I gingerly stepped down onto the float whilst eyeing the cold water nervously. I am a very clumsy person so for me it was an absolute miracle I didn’t fall in.
Instead, I stood on the float of that seaplane and listened to the water lapping gently near (but definitely not on) my feet. The stillness was incredible. Broken only by the occasional clicks of a camera shutter, we all marvelled at the wild open scenery before us.
And then the seaplane enthusiast from Georgia belched loudly.
The spell broken, I clambered back on board ready to take to the skies again.
We did ask the pilot whether he’d ever fallen in – he said he actually had, once. A passenger hadn’t realised he was stood on the float and had opened the passenger door vigorously, knocking the poor pilot into the water.
He had to fly the rest of the way home in cold soggy clothes.
Poor pilot. I’m just glad that passenger wasn’t me!
So we flew back to the seaplane base, the pilot continuing to add his own (much more informative) commentary to the taped one we heard over our earphones.
We flew above all 3 cruise boats docked for the day, dwarfing the tiny town of Ketchikan. Our was the Norwegian Jewel, on the far right. Also in port was the Norwegian Star (far left) and a Holland America ship.
It was all fascinating, it was all beautiful, I had the time of my life.
If you’re considering booking a flight on a seaplane, please do it. You won’t regret it. Even if you have to live on beans for 6 months afterwards.
We booked through Alaska Shore Tours who were extremely professional, friendly and helpful. They had the most competitive pricing (certainly much better value than booking via your cruise line, and you’ll end up using the same people anyway) and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to a friend. They also have plenty of other tours on offer so they may have just what you’re looking for. Nobody paid me to say that, just to be clear.
Would you go on a seaplane?