By the time we awoke, the sun had been up for hours. As we approach the summer solstice, the remaining sliver of night gives way to the midnight sun, minute by minute. Sailing south along the eastern shore of Baranof Island, the smooth waters of the morning blended into the clear blue skies. Massive forests and snow-capped mountains reminded us of our location: we’re in the rainforests of southeast Alaska, just on a particularly pleasant day.

Our morning destination was the head of Takatz Bay. A meandering creek ended its journey at the head of the bay, fanning out in a large tidal flat. We set out to explore via foot, Zodiac, kayak, and paddleboard. Low tide gave us fantastic looks at the complex and diverse intertidal zone and all that inhabits this dynamic area. While the zone was exposed, the wildlife in the area took advantage of the buffet now available. Short-billed gulls plucked what they could find, river otters dashed from the sea to their dens, and mink scurried about the shoreline. We enjoyed wonderful views of the activity brought by these tides.

For the afternoon, we set out to Chatham Strait. This incredible fjord is one of the main passages in Southeast Alaska, and the nooks and crannies hold lifetimes of exploration opportunities. Having a ship as small as National Geographic Sea Bird allowed us to nose up to pounding waterfalls and get close to Morris Reef while watching humpback whales. The afternoon was full of marine life, from brants and scoters to sea lions and the aforementioned whales. Our photographic instructor gave us tips on how to bring home images of our trip, and our undersea specialist presented on the complex and fascinating world of whale neuroscience.

After a delightful cocktail hour followed by an incredible dinner, we wrapped up our night with a presentation about the birds of the area. Today was a great start to our voyage, with many promises of more adventure to come.