When you hear “raptor,” there’s no doubt the scaly monsters from Jurassic Park are the first to leap to mind, firmly gripping your imagination in their jaws. But thanks to the miracle of evolution over millennia, raptors are more than movie magic or fossilized bones. They’re still alive today—talons, feathers and all.
Birds may not be the first to mind when you think apex predator, but they are the natural heir to the velociraptor name. While it’s less noticeable with your run-of-the-mill bluejays and pigeons, the similarities become uncanny upon learning about birds of prey. Often only seen as a lone black dot in the sky way out on the horizon, your everyday chances of getting up close and personal to a hawk or eagle are usually feather-thin. But that’s the part of the beauty of Alaska—through and through, there’s nothing everyday about it.
Nestled within the scenic port town of Sitka, the Alaska Raptor Center is as close as you can get to velociraptors in this lifetime. Part-hospital, part-educational center and perfectly balanced on the edge of civilization, few other chances allow you to know these magnificent creatures as well without scaling a cliff to find their nest. For a preliminary peek at why you should make visiting here a priority of your Alaska experience, read on.
It cannot be overstated how educational, and subsequently soul-soothing, the in-depth lessons on raptors are at this educational center. While learning the subtle differences in appearance between a golden eagle and a fledgling bald eagle, the differences in the various raptor cries and calls, as well as the flight patterns of hawks and eagles, will all prove incredibly useful in all your future forested treks, it’s the personal tales that will cement themselves in your consciousness. The Alaska Raptor Center treats anywhere from 100 to 200 injured birds a year—85% of those injuries are related to humans. Luckily, the bird’s second chances at life are due to humans as well, and your visit is helping see to that. Should you feel compelled to do more, the Alaska Raptor Center offers the chance to adopt-a-raptor: sponsoring one of their patients will provide you with an official adoption certificate, a photograph and a biography of the adoptee—an incredibly unique souvenir to be proud of for years to come.
The heart and soul of the entire mission, the flight training center exceeds any expectations you could set. Spanning 20,000 cubic feet, the residents inside are all in varying stages of recuperation—starting to stretch their wings, find their feel for swooping down on prey and put their best talon forward in the road to recovery. As they get back into the swing of daily raptor life, you can watch without hindering or interfering in any way thanks to the soundproof viewing corridor. Composed of one-way glass, you’re entirely invisible to eagle eyes, providing an uncanny up-close experience to the birds’ natural behavior.
If your Alaskan trip happens to coincide with a fabled release day, consider yourself blessed—there is no better moment to be found on the edge of mankind and nature. The fulfillment the spirit feels upon witnessing these regal creatures beat their wings and launch off into the forested beyond is unmatched in grandeur, more goosebumps-inducing than any other aerial show you could witness. Knowing the story of what they overcame coupled with a real-life fairytale ending provides a sense of serenity that will last with you for months, if not years.
Ready to embark on an adventure to Alaska today? Seeing all the sights is simple with the help of one of our travel agents. Their knowledge is key in crafting an itinerary that you can be excited for, while their close professional relationships to industry-leading cruise lines like Crystal Cruises takes all the stress out of finding the best abode-away-from-home.