We came to Alaska in search of the charismatic megafauna and untamed landscapes. Our first full day of exploration along the rugged coastline of the Inside Passage did not disappoint. We began our morning by sailing through Peril Straight, en route to our afternoon anchorage at Kelp Bay. We didn’t make it far before spotting a coastal brown bear foraging in the intertidal zone. Later, humpback whale plumes filled the air. As we approached, we counted 6… 7… 8… 9 spouts gathering around a rocky reef known as Morris Reef. The whales began to dive simultaneously, and they came to the surface several minutes later in a group lunge. The whales were exhibiting an incredible behavior known as bubble net feeding, wherein each whale performs a specific role to corral bait fish so they can feed together. We watched for an hour as the whales repeatedly dived and surfaced with their mouths wide open. The naturalist team described what was happening beneath the surface of the water. We didn’t want to leave, but by lunchtime we were on our way to Kelp Bay. We hiked in the temperate rainforest and kayaked in the protected waters of the bay’s middle arm. Bald eagles perched in the canopy of the spruce and hemlock, completing our dramatic introduction to the landscape that we will spend the next four days discovering.

Photo caption: A group of humpback whales cooperatively feeds along the coast of Chicagof Island.