Simply put, today was a whale of a day. It started even before the early risers’ breakfast when two humpback whales, a mom and calf, slowly swam around the ship, seemingly with no place to go. For several minutes, they were just below the surface, probably sleeping. After watching the tranquil scene for nearly an hour, we ate breakfast while sailing to Saginaw Bay for a morning of hiking and kayaking. The sea was glassy…the sun was bright…the sky was clear. A beyond perfect day for both activities. And for some, an opportunity to sample and evaluate the culinary delights of three species of kelp!

During lunch, we sailed to the Keku Islands for an afternoon of cruises, and the magic continued. En route, several Dall’s porpoises rode the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird for several minutes. During the cruises, we saw another humpback whale swimming close to shore in the kelp beds, a Steller sea lion, several harbor seals, many eagles, a black bear, and of course, kelp. The water was exceptionally clear, allowing us to see to the bottom at 30 feet as the attached kelp rose to the surface. As we got closer to shore, it was possible to view many sea stars and sea anemones through the clear water.

But wait! It got better! Just after dinner and before dessert was served, we were called to the decks to view some distant humpbacks. As we inched closer and closer, we saw fantastic lunge feeding! Time and time again, for over an hour and well past dark, the whale lunged horizontally again and again on the surface for, presumably, krill. A few times, the action was close to the vessel, allowing all to view the expanded throat, open mouth, and baleen extending from the upper jaw. Screams and shouts of joy erupted from the assembled guests (and staff and crew!) after every lunge, which soon evolved into a collective ‘wave’ of appreciation. As if this wasn’t enough, just as we started to pull away, the whale erupted from the sea in a magnificent breach, followed by a ‘blow’ before flashing its flukes as it dove. The fitting finale drew enthusiastic applause from us all. Applause was also given to recognize the captain’s skill which allowed us all to observe, but not disturb, this wonderful whale.

So the day was ‘bookended’ by humpback whales, and it truly became a day etched forever in our memories.