Friday, July 2, 2010


Denali National Park and Preserve is over six million acres of "pure, rugged wilderness", 240 miles north of Alaska. It is home to Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America. This elusive mountain is visible to fewer than 30% of Denali visitors, and we were lucky to get a glimpse of the snowy slopes when the clouds disappeared for a generous few seconds.

Denali is completely different in every way from a South African game reserve. Whereas in the Kruger you can drive your own vehicle along the many park roads and spot wildlife around every corner, in Denali there is only one 90-mile long road in the entire park, and access after mile 15 is only available on tour or shuttle buses.

Another big difference is the lack of wildlife. Very few animals choose to stay in Alaska over the winter, and only a few return for the summer. Thus animal sightings are generally few and far between, but we felt like we had the two luckiest days in the park. We saw the Alaskan Big Five, as well as a red fox, snowshoe hares, Arctic ground squirrels, and lots of birds, including golden eagles, northern harriers, goshawks and shrikes, and even a little short-eared owl.

One of the most impressive aspects of the park was the magnificent views. Two mountain ranges meet in the park, amidst intertwining river and glacial valleys. In the dappled sunlight, the landscapes were extraordinary.

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