Early this morning, we had an unexpected and exciting start to the day. An hour and a half before breakfast, our fearless leader and expedition leader, Don Heath, gently alerted our guests to the presence of humpback whales bubble-net feeding off the bow of the ship. Coffee cups and binoculars in hand, everyone quickly made their way to the front of the ship to witness the spectacular event. As one misty-eyed guest joyfully exclaimed, “This is so incredible, I am wordless.” Everyone was in agreement.

Later in the morning, we arrived at Iyoukeen Cove for hikes that started in the intertidal zone and returned via wildlife trails within the forest. Tides in Southeast Alaska can vary, and today was no exception. Once on shore, we trekked a few hundred yards up the shoreline to safely stow our life jackets before heading out to explore. As we walked along the beach, we examined sea urchins, acorn barnacles, blue mussels, and rockweed. The sunlight illuminated the various colors of the small stones scattered along the shore. Turning into the forest at the river’s edge, we discovered perennial bear tracks weaving through the Sitka spruces and western hemlocks. The bears left behind elephant foot-sized depressions in the ground during repeated visits. Banana slugs greeted us from the forest floor while a mink scurried along a fallen nurse tree.

After lunch, photo instructor Rich Reid gave an informative and insightful presentation teaching guests tips and tricks on how to take beautiful photos with their iPhones. We spent the afternoon on the bow, searching for wildlife along the shoreline. Our patience and diligence were rewarded handsomely. A large brown bear sauntered out of the woods, located a moss-covered boulder, and then proceeded to nap face down (and paws up!) in the sun, giving us a good long look as it snoozed.

Shortly after dinner, we gathered on the bow again to watch as a pod of orcas calmly played in front of us. Two large males accompanied the females with three small baby orcas. For a few hours they dove, rolled, and breached. ‘Do they know it is National Orca Day?’ one of our younger guests excitedly asked. We would like to believe so.

With smiles across all our faces, we wrapped up the day with gratitude and great anticipation for what tomorrow will bring!