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Margerie Glacier, Alaska, USABald eagle, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USAMargerie Glacier, Alaska, USAHumpback whale, Frederick Sound, Alaska, USABear Cub, Anan Creek, Alaska, USAHorned Puffin, Juneau, Alaska, USASafari Quest, State Room, Alaska, USASafari Quest, Alaska, USA
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8 Days / From $8895 (800) 543-8917 for Availability
Home Alaska & Northern Alaska's Inside Passage Wildlife Explorer Itinerary

Alaska's Inside Passage Wildlife Explorer

A Private Small-Ship Adventure into Southeast Alaska's Remote Coastal Wilderness
Please note: Our August 5, 2016 departures operate in reverse, beginning in Ketchikan and ending in Juneau.

Day 1: Juneau, Alaska
Arrive in Juneau, the most scenic state capital in the U.S. Accessible only by air or sea, Juneau hugs the shore of Gastineau Channel at the base of steep coastal mountains capped by the Juneau Icefield. You’re met at the airport by our representative who accompanies you to our private yacht, the Safari Quest, moored in historic downtown Juneau. The captain and crew welcome you aboard with smiles and champagne, and soon we’re cruising the scenic channels of the Inside Passage while relaxing with hors d'oeuvres and cocktails as we get to know our new shipmates. Tonight, we anchor in a secluded bay for dinner and fine wines, surrounded by pristine wilderness scenery.

Day 2: Glacier Bay National Park
Accompanied by a park ranger, we spend the next two days exploring Glacier Bay National Park, a diverse marine wilderness encompassing tidewater glaciers, ice-edged mountain ranges, ocean coastlines, deep fjords, freshwater rivers and lakes, and temperate coastal rain forest. No big cruise ship offers these intimate perspectives as we travel to the head of the bay, floating near shore to observe Steller sea lions basking on the rocks or watching Dall’s porpoise swimming in our bow wake as we cruise up Tarr Inlet to Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers. These towering walls of ice rise 250 feet above the surface of the water, with another 100 feet invisible below. As we bob before the stark blue face of the glaciers, we’ll hope to see icebergs calve with a reverberating crash.

If conditions permit, we'll lower the skiffs and weave among the floating bergs. The land around us in the bay’s upper reaches, recently uncovered by the glaciers’ continuing retreat, is barren and austere, primordially new. The bay was barely an indentation in the coastline when Captain George Vancouver charted these waters in 1794, and we are privileged to experience an ecosystem that is constantly evolving as that ancient 4,000-foot-thick river of ice has receded over the past two centuries. Enjoy the long summer daylight as we spend the evening at anchor, with no one else around to disturb our reverie.

Day 3: Exploring Glacier Bay
In the still of morning, join our Expedition Leader as we paddle kayaks in the silence of this pristine 3-million-acre wilderness. Glacier Bay is renowned for kayaking, and we discover there’s no better way to get close to marine mammals than at eye level. We could spot humpback, orca or minke whales, Dall’s porpoise, sea otters or puffins bobbing alongside us. Ashore, keep a keen eye out for wildlife along the fringe of coastal rain forest that lines the outer reaches of the bay. Amid the ancient Sitka spruce and yellow cedars that rise over the lush understory of moss, ferns and salmonberries, we may spot moose, mountain goats, black bears and eagles. Glacier Bay is at its most captivating when explored by small groups with unhindered time for hiking and kayaking inside this raw, primal wilderness.

Day 4: Icy Strait—Whale Watching
Today we set our course for the richest whale waters in Alaska. We're welcome to join the captain on the bridge or our Natural Habitat Expedition Leaders and the ship’s naturalists out on deck as we cruise in search of marine mammals. These nutrient-rich feeding grounds are laden with cetaceans and offer an excellent chance to see humpback whales, orcas, and Dall’s and harbor porpoises. The entertaining humpbacks are gentle giants that grow 40-50 feet long and weigh up to 39 tons. They are famous for their acrobatic movements, frequent vocalizations, and unique bubble-net feeding habits. Keep watch for their telltale spout or the slapping of their flukes as we scour the water’s surface. Late this afternoon, we’ll drop the skiffs and kayaks for a closer inspection of the isolated coastline, training our eyes on shore for possible bear sightings. This evening, savor the solitude of the Alaskan wilderness while relaxing in the hot tub on the upper deck, or enjoy a nightcap with your fellow travelers in the salon.

Day 5: Kuiu & Baranof Islands
With no binding agenda, today we cruise the coastlines of Kuiu and Baranof islands in the northern Alexander Archipelago, rich in indigenous Tlingit culture and Russian exploration heritage. We marvel at the scenic grandeur of the Southeast Alaska wilderness as the captain and crew expertly guide us among wildlife hotspots known only to locals. This evening there will be opportunities to explore by skiff, go beachcombing, trek ashore with an Expedition Leader, or look for sea otters and bears from the kayaks before calling it a day. As the sunset's layered colors finally fade, we relish another night in secluded silence, perhaps tucked away in a waterfall-laced fjord. 

Day 6: Frederick Sound
Lush rain forests, silver waterfalls and wildlife are all in abundance in Frederick Sound, a vast expanse of sapphire water that separates Kupreanof Island in the south from Admiralty Island to the north. The sound is a popular place for whale watching, offering some of the best sightings of humpbacks and orcas in Southeast Alaska. Look for a shiny black tail fluke gleaming in the sunshine as a humpback prepares to sound for food, or hope for the thrill of a spy hop or full breach.

Seabirds abound here, too, and we may see loons, puffins, guillemots and marbled murrelets. Keep watch along the coastline, too, for wolves and bears. With many secluded coves to choose from, we’ll slip into one or two of these hidden gems to explore by skiff, paddle a kayak, or enjoy a guided hike. We’re likely to see more Steller sea lions and sea otters, as well as bald eagles in the treetops, ready to swoop down in pursuit of unsuspecting salmon swimming below. This evening, toast another day of amazing adventures with a cold microbrew or cocktail before savoring a delectable dinner.

Day 7: Wrangell Narrows / Anan Creek Bear Observatory
This morning we pass through the Wrangell Narrows, a scenic, snake-like 22-mile channel dubbed “Christmas Tree Lane” for its many red and green navigational lights. Along the way, watch the shore for Sitka black-tailed deer, black bears, bald eagles and seabirds. This afternoon we anchor in a quiet cove tucked into Wrangell Island, from which we commence a walk into the woods, led by local guides, to the Anan Creek Bear Observatory. Accessible only by floatplane or boat, Anan Creek is off-limits to big cruise ships, and we find ourselves nearly alone in this tract of verdant wilderness. Following a half-mile boardwalk trail through lush rain forest along the lagoon, we arrive at a wooden observatory platform overlooking the creek. From the safety of this large deck we watch the bears below, vigorously fishing for spawning salmon. Anan Creek supports one of the largest pink salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, and it draws fish-eaters in abundance. While we do see brown bears here, Anan is known mostly for its prolific black bear population. A photography blind is available, allowing for close-up photos at eye level. Tonight we enjoy a last dinner aboard the Safari Quest as we prepare to disembark tomorrow.

Day 8: Ketchikan / Depart
Cruising through the Tongass Narrows we reach Ketchikan, Alaska’s most southerly city famed for its fishing, forestry, heavy rainfall and rich Native heritage. Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people have been at home here for milliennia, thriving on the abundant natural resources. Cedar trees from the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest provide material for contemporary carvings and traditional totem poles, and Ketchikan is renowned as one of Alaska’s most vibrant centers for Native arts. Today, commercial fishing dominates the economy of Ketchikan, which is known as “The Salmon Capital of the World.” Here at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage we’ll share a farewell breakfast together before disembarking the yacht this morning. A transfer is provided to the Ketchikan airport.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate

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Voted Best of Travel 2015

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