Back in July I was privileged to lead Wildlife Worldwide's Seldom Seen Alaska photography tour. This unique tour had been developed in partnership with a local skipper, focussing on the region's exceptional whale watching and enjoying a plethora of other marine species and land-based wildlife too. Without a doubt though, it was the whales that really captured the group's imagination and the respective photography opportunities were world class.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy the wild delights of Alaska's Alexander Archipelago.
Almost immediately, setting out on the water, we were blown away by the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery. The image above, is just one of the many incredible views we enjoyed of the mountains on Chicagof Island. This is just to whet the appetite ...
As I mentioned before, despite the cetaceans of the region being the obvious draw, other marine mammals to put on a show included sea otter (in fact we saw hundreds throughout our voyage) and plenty of Steller's sea lions too.
Within the first few days we had been treated to some truly exceptional encounters with countless humpbacks, a pod of transient orca (including a successful porpoise hunt) and both species of porpoise. However, it was the four or five days after that really took it to another level.
We were treated to some mind-blowing behaviour. We witnessed hundreds of bubble-net feeding events. This is where a group of whales come together, with one lead whale blowing a ring of bubbles around a school of herring, before instructing the other whales to lunge in unison towards the bait ball at the surface. Not only is this a magical sight to see, but it is also one of the most remarkable things to hear.
The lead whale calls as it blows the ring of bubbles, slowly forcing the fish into a tighter ball, before changing its call for the feeding frenzy. This call is audible when on the boat, as the sound resonates through the hull. Even now it gives me goosebumps just thinking back to it.
We were also able to enjoy a couple of days enjoying the wildlife on shore around the small community of Kake on the island of Kupreanof. Here we were able to spend time at a salmon hatchery which was great for watching black bears as they tried their hand at fishing. Always watching on, looking for an easy meal, were the bald eagles, while other highlights included porcupine, deer and Pacific marten.
The whale action didn't stop after our stay in Kake. In fact, you might say that the best was yet to come. We saw even more whales bubble-net feeding, with one event having more than twenty different whales take part. It was jaw-dropping. One of those moments where you feel the need to pinch yourself to ensure you aren't dreaming. We also had a whale breach over and over and over. What a sight.
We spent two weeks exploring the waters of this stunning part of Alaska. Constantly blown away by the magnificent scenery, welcoming people and of course the wildlife.
If you would like to experience this for yourself, I can't recommend the trip enough. You can find out more and book your place here.