Posted on Friday, August 3, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego continues his deluxe Alaskan expedition on board American Safari Cruises MV SAFARI ENDEAVOUR.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
We arose to find SAFARI ENDEAVOUR anchored off George Island in the southwestern waters of the Icy Strait (near the mouth of Glacier Bay). It was one of those rare, picture-postcard-perfect days with a mild breeze, brilliant sunshine and the snow caps of the rugged Fairweather Range in full view across the strait.
The morning options included a lengthy kayaking expedition or a short hike that could be combined with either a short kayak or small boat ride. We opted for the hike and boat ride, joining a small group of fellow passengers for a trek along a densely forested trail.
The scenery was spectacular but the fauna sightings, other than a banana slug, minimal.
Before long, we were at a promontory overlooking a rocky bluff. A rusting World War Two anti-aircraft gun was positioned rather incongruously in the midst of the pristine scenery.
Although they were largely out of sight, we could hear the nearby spouts of humpbacks and grunting of sea lions.
When we arrived back at the beach to embark the small boat, the ENDEAVOUR’s bartender Meril was waiting with hot chocolate and Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur.
As soon as the boat rounded the outer edge of the island, a gorgeous natural arch came into view. Normally, the seas in this region are anything from rough to completely impassable, so we were afforded a rare opportunity to get within touching distance.
We slowed to watch a curious otter floating through the kelp beds, seemingly unfazed by our presence.
Under the arch, the colorful and variegated sea life included starfish, anemones, lichen, kelp and mussels.
Our expedition leader Aaron (aka “Bosun”) plucked an orange star from a tide pool and passed it along for all to see before returning it to its perch.
From the arch, we headed into the Strait, where the influx of the Gulf of Alaska waters stir up the nutrient-rich glacial runoff. When not engorging themselves in the feeding ground, Steller sea lions wrestle and play in the surf like pelagic golden retrievers.
For a brief moment or two, the floating panorama included a pair of tufted puffins and, in the general vicinity, breaching humpbacks.
Back aboard the ENDEAVOUR, an instant line formed its way around the dining room for a glorious buffet of Greek offerings that included made-from-scratch horiatiki (Greek Salad), chicken souvlaki, roasted chick peas and tzatziki (garlic-infused yogurt).
After lunch, Chef Mike and his crew welcomed a cluster of ENDEAVOUR guests into the ship’s small galley for a short tour.
For the rest of the afternoon, Captain Kendra slowly guided the SAFARI ENDEAVOUR through Icy Strait in search of “Charismatic Mega Fauna”. Expedition leader Matt hosted a talk about cetaceans on the open bow, as his subject matter performed an endless ballet of flukes and blows.
It would not be a proper Alaska cruise without an all-you-can-eat crab fest. The prior night’s delivery of freshly caught, live Dungeness at Bartlett Cove had since been steamed into a butter-dipped frenzy of cracking shells and the scrapes of tiny crab forks.
Under a half moon and twilight skies, SAFARI ENDEAVOUR made a southerly course through Chatham Strait to her next anchorage, remote Red Bluff Bay on Chicagof Island.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
My first reason to cheer on the new morning: the espresso machine had been repaired. Its steamy blasts and the aroma of organic French Roast Pura Vida Arabica would be a welcome constant for the rest of our un-cruise.
My second reason for morning glee: it was another gloriously sunny day in the “South East”. Alaska, that is…
Time to insert a momentary nod to the SAFARI ENDEAVOUR’s gorgeous full-wrap-around Upper Deck promenade, lined in freshly scrubbed teak.
Our excursion choices included a long kayak in one direction or a boat ride in the same direction (north) followed with an option of taking a shorter, southbound kayak. We began with the boat ride.
As Bosun sped us to the head of the inlet, bald eagles soared overhead…
…and a brown bear foraged in a sprawling meadow, occasionally standing on his back legs to peek over the waist-high grass.
We buzzed under a gushing waterfall.
The kayakers had just caught up to us as we headed back to the ship.
On our second expedition, we kayaked into a cove where a single brown bear had spent the entire morning eating all the grass and berries in sight.
On and on, he ate, occasionally looking up at us as we drifted silently in unison, our arsenal of cameras clicking away at his furry flanks.
Our kayaking caravan oared onwards towards the mouth of Red Bluff Bay, circling a tiny islet before returning to the mother ship, which was dwarfed by Chicagof Island’s snow-capped peaks.
In this era of boxy monoliths, the glistening SAFARI ENDEAVOUR seems all the more handsome with her long, raked bow and nicely proportioned superstructure.
During lunch, we hoisted anchor and began to motor slowly towards Frederick Sound. The day had only just begun…
End Of All-Incluve Alaska On The SAFARI ENDEAVOUR, Part Two.
More to follow…
Special thanks: Page Saurs, Sarah Scoltock, Matt and Terry