Q&A: William Gray on Alaska
Recently, award-winning travel writer and photographer, William Gray embarked on a family holiday to Alaska with us. On his return, we heard stories of majestic mountainscapes, national parks teeming with wildlife and hilarious anecdotes of grizzly bears chasing ducks! This not only fuelled our wanderlust, but also reminded us that Alaska is fantastic option for family-friendly adventure travel.
We caught up with William to find out why Alaska is a great holiday destination.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re setting off on a self-drive, clambering into a sea kayak or boarding a floatplane – Alaska is bubbling over with the promise of adventure…”
Prior to your visit, what was it about Alaska that appealed to you?
First and foremost the wildlife. Grizzly bears, humpback whales and bald eagles are just some of Alaska’s A-listers for wildlife enthusiasts.
And, after visiting, 2 years on, what was the most memorable part that stands out in your mind?
The wilderness and vast scale of the landscapes. The emptiness and pristine beauty of the place. You become mesmerised by Alaska’s scenery – so much so, in fact, that wildlife sightings become a happy bonus. I also love the sense of adventure. It doesn’t matter whether you’re setting off on a self-drive, clambering into a sea kayak or boarding a floatplane – Alaska is bubbling over with the promise of adventure.
Is wildlife an important element of travel for you?
Absolutely. I studied Zoology at university and most of the travels I’ve done in the 25 or so years since, have involved wildlife. A few years ago I published a book, Wildlife Travel which is a worldwide guide to the best wildlife destinations. Alaska, of course, is in there!
How does Alaska rate as a wildlife destination?
I think it is right up there with the Serengeti, Galapagos, Amazon and other iconic wildlife destinations. The bear watching – especially in national parks like Katmai – is incredible, while the whale-watching never disappoints. However, it’s witnessing the bears, caribou, moose, whales etc. against a backdrop of towering mountains or a glacier-encrusted coastline that really elevates Alaska into the ranks of the world’s top wildlife locations.
You travelled to Alaska with your children – what parts of your trip particularly resonate with them?
Kayaking with sea otters in Kachemak Bay; stopping to pick wild raspberries by the roadside then stuffing them in marshmallows roasted over a campfire; seeing their faces bloom into grins when we watched a young grizzly bear chasing a duck across a pond in Denali National Park; the thrill of circling over a large pod of beluga whales as we flew in a floatplane over Cook Inlet… the list goes on and on!
Apart from the obvious appeal, what inspired you to become a travel writer and photographer?
It was simply a desire to see and experience as many of the world’s natural wonders and amazing wildlife as possible. And, if by writing about them, I could encourage others to visit and support conservation projects and responsible travel in the process – then that would be brilliant. Of course, since having children, my writing has also taken a strong family focus – I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to take them to places like Alaska. I hope it has opened their eyes to the importance of safeguarding the world’s last remaining wild places.
Describe Alaska in three words…
Adventure, wilderness, wildlife