We woke to pretty clouds above the tree-covered hills as we sailed into Idaho Inlet, seeking wildlife. After breakfast, we landed at Fox Creek and hiked into a small waterfall along a salmon stream, through stately spruce and hemlock trees. The temperature was cool in the forest and black-capped chickadees sang to us as we walked along. Kayakers paddled in a beautiful cove with mirror-like waters, and other guests headed out on a cruise along the shoreline to search for wildlife and birds. It was a stunning morning. We sailed to the Inian Islands anchorage during lunch, and soon we were launching our expedition landing crafts to explore. The waters of the Inian Islands and Cross Sound are rich with nutrients due to the mix of upwelling currents and flooding tides, providing a wonderful food source for marine wildlife and seabirds. On this wonderful day, we saw Steller sea lions, sea otters, many humpback whales, and a minke whale. Late in the afternoon, we sailed over near Elfin Cove and went ashore to explore this picturesque and quaint fishing village on foot, making friends with the local dogs and talking with fisherman as we walked along the boardwalks of town.
National Geographic Sea Bird
During the morning, we explored the scenic cove of Pavlof’s Harbor on the southeast shore of Freshwater Bay, Chichagof Island, and area known for its healthy salmon stream. We were optimistic that we might still see a bear during our last day exploring Southeast Alaska. We were not disappointed! At the base of a small waterfall, we spotted a coastal brown bear casually gorging itself on salmon as we watched, spellbound, from the safety of our expedition landing crafts only a few yards away. The bear, enjoying its meal, seemed oblivious or at least indifferent to our presence. For nearly an hour, we watched the animal devour fish after fish until it calmly walked up the river bank rocks and into the forest. Late summer and early fall is the time to fatten up and prepare for the long winter ahead. Come November and the onset of snow, brown bears will leave the coastline and head to higher elevations near or above treeline. Biologists debate whether bears truly hibernate or just den up and sleep during the winter. Pregnant sows will give birth to tiny, one-pound cubs while sleeping within the den and nurse them until spring. We returned to the ship after our morning adventures for lunch and were relaxing in the lounge when another bear was spotted on the beach south of Pavlof Harbor. Although more distant than our first encounter, we all enjoyed another exceptional sighting of a coastal brown bear. But the wildlife viewing wasn’t over yet! As we sailed south along Chatham Strait, we encountered a pod of killer whales swimming nearby. Crusing alongside the pod, we counted a group of about ten that included one large male. His large dorsal fin rose nearly six feet above the water‘s surface. Guests spent the remaining time reading or chatting with friends. We wrapped up our day with the captain‘s dinner followed by the guest photo slideshow, which we enjoyed as we sailed toward Sitka through Peril Strait. Have we seen it all? Hardly! But we left with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that we saw a lot! And maybe one day we‘ll return and finally see some elusive moose!