Shelikof Strait and Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park

Jul 22, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


Our first full day of this epic, 20-day Alaskan-Russian itinerary started with a bang, and a blow! First thing this morning a string of bushy breaths on the horizon materialized into a pod of 12-15 resident killer whales in the middle of Shelikof Strait, the body of water separating Kodiak Island from the Alaska Peninsula.

Sunny skies and calm seas, glaciated peaks on the horizon and all eyes were on the ocean. It only took a few close passes to see this was a fairly large group of whales of mixed ages. Some were only a few years old and others full adults. One adult male had a dorsal fin so large it couldn’t hold it upright as it leaned to the side at every surfacing.

With our morning destination looming on the horizon we excused ourselves from our first charismatic megafauna sighting of the trip for another.

On the muddy banks of Kukak Bay, within the southern boundary of Katmai National Park we found bears. Big, fuzzy, hot brown bears. These famous residents of this area all busy foraging on clams, mussels and other slimy morsels beneath the intertidal rocks – completely uninterested in our presence. When the effort of lifting 50–100lb stones from the banks of the bay became too much, the bears went off would cool themselves in the balmy waters, seemingly appreciative of their access to the sea on warm days such as these.

An iconic part of the world ushered us into Alaska, and we get the pleasure of spending another day here tomorrow. May the bear sightings continue!!

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About the Author

Eric Guth

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Eric began work with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in 2006 as a means to see the world, work with great photographers and engage his environmental studies degree beyond the classroom. His initial years with the company were spent working the waters of Southeast Alaska and Baja California. His move to the National Geographic Explorer in 2008 helped earn him the experience and knowledge needed to establish himself as a trusted boat handler, naturalist and respected photographer in nearly all the environments Lindblad-National Geographic travels.

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