Glacier Bay – Looking For The Big 5

The highlight of any trip to SE Alaska has to be Glacier Bay. And despite the name, the highlight of visiting Glacier Bay is the wildlife. We’re not sure what would be considered the Big 5 for Glacier Bay, but we tried to see them all.

We got a permit while we were in Hawaii and spent a great week with Ken and Claudia exploring the bay. Hard to imagine that 250 years ago there was no bay, ice came to the entrance, and now we go 50-60 miles up the bay to get to the ice. This is mostly a photo montage, but we had a great time and pretty reasonable weather.

At our first anchorage, Berg Bay, we were greeted by a flotilla of about 100 otters (even 20 years ago there were none here, now there are 9000).

Family Swim
Nap Time

As we rounded the corner to our chosen anchorage we were met by a young black bear – two out of 5 and we haven’t even dropped the hook yet!

Where’s Mom?
Our first anchorage – Berg Bay

The next day, as we moved north in the Bay, was whale-watching day. Lots (and lots) of humpbacks. None of them doing the terribly exciting breaching and spy-hopping, they were intent instead on their summer feeding, but still quite fun to watch.

Searching for spouts
Nothing quite like looking up a whale’s nose
Big fellow
Heading for the bottom

Toward the end of the day we came across a brown bear grazing along the shore. Not bad for the second day.

After all the wildlife it was time to visit the namesake glaciers. Things are changing rapidly in Glacier Bay, the glaciers are barely tidal any more and as a result there are a lot fewer bergs and much less calving activity than in the past.

Baby it’s cold outside
Still looking for spouts
There’s a glacier around that point
Misty moment
Deep blue
Calving – not like it used to be

Next up was John Hopkins Inlet and glacier to look for more ice – and seals.

We can fit one more on this berg
I get this one all to myself
Iceberg Art

Then there were the birds – everywhere birds (I think I remember a horror film along those lines).

Taking flight – elegant
Heavy lifting
Conjoined twins?
One big bite could take out the whole flock
Waiting for salmon

While we had a couple of days of clouds, wind, and rain, as you can see from the photos we had mostly good weather.

Scanning the horizon
Enjoying the weather
Plant art

On the way out of the bay we finally came across a large herd of sea lions. We can’t count them among the Big 5 since you can see them at Pier 39, but still nice to see in a less urban environment.

Basking time – that rock will be gone in about an hour

And sometimes it’s the littlest wildlife that catches our attention.

I hope it doesn’t bite

Leaving Glacier Bay we still had one empty box to tick on our list, and then these Orcas conveniently showed up and allowed us to fill our card.

Fins to the left, fins to the right
Heavy breathing


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