After exploring the glaciers and open waters of the northern Inside Passage, we sailed south through the night and returned to the starting point of our journey, Baranof Island. This island, along with Admiralty to the east and Chichagof to the north, is home to one of the highest densities of brown bears in the world. To search for evidence of the bears as they begin their yearly salmon feast and continue our exploration of the temperate rainforest, we anchored in Kelp Bay to kayak and hike the shoreline throughout the morning. Later in the afternoon, we welcomed Dr. Andy Szabo of the Alaska Whale Foundation to learn more about ongoing research taking place in Alaska on the unique bubblenet feeding behavior we witnessed earlier in the trip. Only in Alaska can you experience the forest, salmon, bears, and whales all in one day.
National Geographic Venture
After a steamy frothy espresso and some toe-touching with our wellness specialist, our blood was flowing properly, and we were ready for another day in the Great Land. Diners were joined for breakfast today by a humpback whale cow and calf engaged in restful “logging” activity, setting the stage for a serene morning sail. They turned out to be the first of many majestic M. Novaeangliae we would encounter, most being much more active. We soon found ourselves approaching Morris Reef, and surrounded by not one, but two groups of humpbacks engaged in cooperative bubble-net feeding behavior! We spent time with both pods, viewing and photographing many spectacular lunges, with up to nine of these leviathans’ gaping maws breaking the surface simultaneously and in tightly choreographed formation. Our Global Explorers were then given an opportunity to receive Zodiac driving lessons from our USCG-licensed captains. All souls returned. We continued into the storied seven-mile-long Sitkoh Bay. Here we hiked an old logging road; amongst towering Sitka spruce, frequent bear signs, black-tail deer, and banana slugs galore! Once the wind abated, we also had the opportunity to launch our kayaks and enjoy a leisurely paddle in the bay, with views of National Geographic Venture , bald eagles, and an early 1900s cannery sight. At the end of the day, the ship embraced our return with cocktails, charcuterie, and conversation. A typically highly succulent dinner was followed by a night-capping presentation on birds of the region from our resident ornithologist.