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ADVENTURES

Alaska Flotilla: Leg 1, Day 20 – Prince Rupert Lay Day

Hands down, one of the best days of wildlife viewing, all accredited to the Prince Rupert Adventure Tour! They absolutely delivered on their promise of a unique opportunity to see various creatures and critters within a remote national preserve.

Zooming up the fjords in the K’tzim-A-Deen Gizzly Bear Inlet Sanctuary in a stylish, futuristic catamaran at 24 knots, we covered a lot of ground quickly! The tour guides aboard were very informative on local villages such as the Metcalkcatla meaning: “A passage between two bodies of salt water.” It was famous for where William Duncan built the biggest church on the west coast during the mid-1800’s, providing a tannery, cannery, school, and much more infrastructure to the First Nations in the locality. After a large suspicious fire that spread through much of the town, the population dwindled from 1200 to less than 150 people in 1901.

The setting was spectacular as we entered the grizzly bear sanctuary. A natural, untamed landscape of snow-capped fjords, large waterfalls, and bright green rainforest under a blue-bird sky. The water was glass-like, reflecting the tall mountains in our wake as the boat glided silently up the inlet to large beaches covered in lush sedges; a perfect early summer foraging ground for the hungry bears waiting the return for salmon.

Sure enough, not one but four grizzlies were spotted right away and the crowd rushed the rails of the boat to starboard for their first glimpse of these powerful animals. It was a mother with her three cubs, a rare sighting but also indicative of the plentiful food in the conservancy. There is a no-kill regulation for 3,000km2 around the sanctuary giving a rise to the local population of black and brown bears. A total of 15 bears were sighted in two hours. Even better, we saw two different mother grizzlies with a set of triplets, and a pair of males aggressively defending their stretch of the river.

Now, I thought I had seen a lot of eagles along the way up to Ketchikan but I was mistaken. As part of the tour, the captain throws pork fat into the water where more than 30 eagles came flying within an arm’s reach over our heads, dive bombing into the water after these high-protein snacks. At one point, there were so many of the eagles in a small air space that mid-air collisions and fights took place. The sound of cameras clicking, shooting capturing hundreds of photos could be heard everywhere aboard.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention there was also a small humpback whale spotted near the cliffs on the way home. By small, I mean in comparison to adult whales that reach lengths of over 50 feet. This little guy (or gal) was estimated around 25 feet and, though he showed his fluke in a deep dive, there was no marking or white patches on the tail for identification.

There you have it. The best day we have had in the sun, on another boat, looking at so much wildlife that I scored 627 photos in seven short hours! The whole trip has been very enjoyable, but I believe this excursion was the highlight for many in the Mother Goose Flotilla.

I almost forgot to mention the British Columbian Coastal Museum. WOW! What an amazing collection of the most elaborate, complex tapestries, baskets, ceremonial dresses, and art I have ever seen of the First Nations tribe, the Tsimshians! I cannot express the artistic talent this tribe has, and the relics of art passed down by many generations until, finally donated to the museum. The curator presented the masterpieces of this great people very well and I would highly recommended taking the tour in Prince Rupert. Wow – with so many intense and extraordinary experiences in just one day, it really is a day you have to experience on your own to truly understand the feeling.

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