We embarked on an overnight cruise aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird, departing from Haines, Alaska, and arrived early at Neka Bay around 6 am. The sea conditions were a bit rough that evening, with south winds blowing at approximately 15-20 knots and a swell of around 2 feet. However, as we rounded the southern point of Chilkat Range and headed west towards the entrance of Neka Bay, the conditions started to calm down.
After dropping anchor and enjoying a delightful breakfast onboard at 7 am, the guests began preparing for hikes on the peninsula that separates North Bight and South Bight within Neka Bay. The field staff went ashore ahead of the guests to scout the landing and the surrounding woods, which would be explored without any designated trails. On our way to the beach, we passed a local trawler anchored further in, with a local gentleman and his yellow husky on board.
Upon reaching the shore, we found ourselves close to low tide, revealing an abundance of rock, kelp, mussels, beautiful sea stars, and a few large crabs. Equipping the staff with bear spray, we strolled along the beach until we discovered a small clearing that led us into the woods. We began our exploration before the guests arrived. Approximately 20 minutes later, once the guests landed, we divided into four groups: one group for a long bushwhack, two moderate hiking groups, and a small group that remained along the shore, exploring the intertidal area.
While hiking, we noticed signs of bear scat and deer, but none of the groups actually spotted any bears or deer. We heard and spotted various bird species, including woodpeckers, Pacific wrens, and warblers. The vegetation within the treeline consisted mostly of alder along the shore, with thick patches of hemlock and a few Sitka spruce trees, as well as abundant devil's club reaching heights of over six feet. Although there were plenty of blueberries present, they had not yet started flowering. After hiking and exploring for approximately 1.5 hours, the groups reconvened at the shoreline, where we spotted two harbor porpoises swimming about 10 feet from the water's edge.
Upon returning to the ship, the guests and crew enjoyed a delightful lunch and prepared for an afternoon of kayaking in the bay. The kayaks were divided into two groups: one for brown bears and the other for puffins. As the first group set out at 2:15 pm, we spotted a large humpback whale swimming towards the mouth of South/North Bight, heading west. However, as the kayaks were launched, the whale changed course and headed back out into the main channel, continuing south. The weather was warm, with partly cloudy skies and a few raindrops. The second group went out at 3:30 pm and returned at 5 pm.
Meanwhile, naturalists Kelly and Chelsea took a Zodiac further into North Bight, intending to snorkel. However, they encountered a large brown bear, prompting them to cancel their plans and return to the ship. After kayaking, CPI Paul and naturalist Kelly took a group of young explorers on a Zodiac lesson, teaching them how to safely operate a Zodiac while observing two harbor porpoises swimming in the bay.
Once everyone had returned and the crew had loaded the equipment back on board, National Geographic Sea Bird lifted anchor and headed south. While underway, we came across a pod of orcas engaged in hunting and feasting on a harbor seal. We watched the pod for about an hour before continuing south towards our next destination, where humpback whales were sighted throughout the evening.