Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now for Something Entirely Different - Alaska

I know this is a bit early to get excited for a trip that is not scheduled until summer 2011, but we did a trip to British Columbia and Alaska several years ago aboard the Nautilus Explorer, and that still remains vivid in my mind as one of my all time favorite live-aboard adventures.

For that one, please see:

The summer cruising season to this region is very short, and 2010 and all the rest of 2011 is sold out for the Nautilus Explorer. However, we were fortunate enough to have them hold a charter for us in the very heart of the best-of-the-best time to be there. This time it is a special itinerary to Alaska only. See the letter below from Captain Mike Lever of Nautilus Explorer to know what to expect:

"Our Alaska journeys have continued to evolve and get better and better since you were last onboard. The diving, scenery and experiences up here were always spectacular but with each passing season, we are getting more and more dialed in, discovering more "kick-ass" dive sites, obtaining additional permits and fine tuning the very best places to see the big critters -- humpback whales, sealions, sea otter, grizzly bears, giant pacific octopus and wolfeels. We now have one site with 10 wolfeels and can practically guarantee octopus sightings for example!

Sample Itinerary: Departure Date: Wed Jul 6, 2011. The ship will be available for boarding in Juneau at 6:00 pm. The ship is scheduled to sail at 8:00 pm. Disembarking in Ketchikan on Sat Jul 16, 2011 at 9:00 am.

Day 1: Dinner-time board in Juneau. Evening steam and anchor before midnight.

Day 2-4: Wake up at Point Adolphus at the entrance to Glacier Bay for the best humpback whale viewing in southeast Alaska plus eagles and stellar sealions. 3 hour sail to Indian Island at the entrance to Icy Strait where we will anchor for the next 3 days. Excellent invertebrate diving plus stellar sealions on every dive with vis usually 20 - 30 feet. Zodiac tours and kayaking with fantastic photo op's up close with humpback whales, sealions, sea otters, bald eagles, etc. Finish off with an evening visit to the tiny boardwalk community of Elfin Cove.

Day 5: Wake up at Baranoff Warm Springs. 2 great dives with loads of scallops, anemones and kelp plus a visit to the hot-springs.

Day 6: Patterson Point. Reliable octopus sightings. Breathtaking scenery at anchor in a steep sided fjord. This is the most beautiful inlet we have ever seen and we have seen grizzly bears on every visit here.

Day 7 - 8: Port Alexander/Wooden Island. Great place for zodiac tours and kayaking and shore visit to Port Alexander not to mention varied and excellent diving - both invertebrate and critters including 10 wolf eels around a single rock.

Day 9: Le Conte glacier. Iceberg day!!

Day 10: Prince of Wales Island. Steep wall diving, 10,000 swimming
scallops, varied diving, early evening arrival Ketchikan.

Day 11: morning disembark”

I know what some of you may be thinking ... I don't do cold water. I had that thought the first time to British Columbia and Alaska as well, but with modern drysuits the cold is not an issue, and truthfully, I have never seen greater density and diversity of life underwater than beneath these Emerald Seas. Plus, for the most part, things don't move quickly and the photo opportunities are extraordinarily productive. Yet, for all of that, the best of this trip happens above the water. Seeing glaciers calf, watching eagles and grizzly bears and stellar sealions, trying our hand at over/unders with salmon, relaxing in a natural hotspring, and photographing humpback whales are pure phototgrapic inspiration!

My wife Barbara and daughter Alexa were aboard for the last trip and they didn't even go diving. Still, they found this was one of our best family vacations ever. In fact, Barbara just came in and looked over my shoulder as I was looking at photos from the last trip, and she confirmed, emphatically, that she wouldn't be diving this time either! Oh well, her loss, because for sure I'll be diving. You can dress for cold, but you can't experience the magic below without jumping into it.

Even though 2011 is a long way away, this is a very special trip, and I appreciate the cooperation and consideration our friends at Nautilus Explorer have extended in giving us this absolutely perfect seasonal opportunity to visit Alaska.

As with all my dive travel and photo courses, please see WaterHouse Tours, for more information.,

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