|May 4||Fly to Cordova, overnight at the Orca Adventure Lodge|
|May 5 - 6||Copper River Delta|
|May 7||Hartney Bay in Cordova|
|May 8||Embark in Prince William Sound|
|May 9||Eastern Prince William Sound|
|May 10||Southern Barrier Islands|
|May 11||Hinchinbrook Island|
|May 12||Montague Island|
|May 13||Western Prince William Sound|
|May 14||College Fjord and Cascade Falls|
|May 15||Cruise to Whittier, disembark and return to Anchorage|
|May 16||Flights homeward or extend your stay|
Return to top
May 4, Friday: Arrive in Cordova, Alaska
Please choose the best route for you to get to Cordova, Alaska, arriving in time for dinner on May 4. Hugh Rose will meet your flight if you arrive this morning or afternoon and arrange your transfer to the lodge where we will have a fabulous welcome dinner together. Contact us if you plan to arrive early.
Lodging: Orca Adventure Lodge, Cordova, for four nights.
Photographing Western Sandpipers
in the Copper River Delta
May 5 - 7, Saturday - Monday: The Copper River Delta
With three full days in the Copper River Delta, there will be many opportunities to concentrate on the massive shorebird flocks. In order to assure the best shorebird access, trips are timed to coincide with the daily high tide. The rising tide concentrates the birds along the upper intertidal zones. Travel up the Copper River Delta to the Alaganik Slough Boardwalk trail for superb scenery, photography, and birding, plus a wonderful picnic lunch. The expansive Delta region is accessible by van on a 50-mile gravel road that ends abruptly just past Child's Glacier at the Million Dollar Bridge. The bridge is a dilapidated railroad bridge built in 1910. It was damaged in the 1964 earthquake and recently repaired by federal highway money to the tune of 20 million dollars (hence the name). The road weaves throughout the tidal flats providing ample opportunities to view the variety of birds. Another fantastic trip will be to Hartney Bay where we'll see concentrations of up to 100,000 shorebirds flying overhead and feeding on the mudflats! This is a truly unforgettable sight for birders and a remarkable opportunity for the photographers. Weather permitting, there will be an opportunity to take a scenic flight over the delta (extra fee may be paid at that time).
Here in Cordova, spring life also pulses anew for the 3,000 human residents, as commercial fishermen bustle about the harbor tending to the many details of a short, but intense, working season. The region's fish are a vital resource to the survival of this seafaring community. Experience a genuine encounter with the colorful local lifestyle in this unique and remote corner of Alaska. In and around Cordova, we will be watching for ducks, swans, and geese, the forerunners to the millions of migratory birds that stopover within the resource-rich Copper River Delta region. There are also many opportunities for great photos right in town, particularly Cordova's downtown district.
Lodging: Orca Adventure Lodge, Cordova.
Orcas in Prince William Sound ©Hugh Rose
May 8, Tuesday: Embark on the Discovery in Prince William Sound; cruise Sheep Bay
At the Cordova dock, meet the captain of the Discovery, Dean Rand, and the crew for a warm welcome onboard. After getting settled in your cabin, depart the Cordova Harbor and begin an amazing week's voyage into the prized seacoast region of Prince William Sound. This region displays an intricate and phenomenal "web of life" as numerous birds and animals play their role in the Sound's theater of natural wonder. We will respectfully interact with the environment during this exciting season. Enjoy a great deal of flexibility in the following eight days as the factors of weather, guest's interests, photographic opportunities, and regional wildlife activity influence each day. On-board kayaks provide a great way of getting close to our surroundings and observing marine mammals and birds from a water-level perspective. If you have never kayaked before, don't worry, instruction will be provided and experienced kayakers will accompany beginners! Landings are planned to capture optimum lighting for both observation and photography. The Discovery carries a good selection of knee-high rubber boots for possibly muddy trails, so you do not have to bring this item unless you already have your own favorite pair. Early days and flexible breakfast times allow us to take advantage of the beautiful morning light.
We begin in eastern Prince William Sound, at the Orca Inlet, and continue westward as the week progresses. Sail west through Orca Inlet and into Orca Bay, watching for Bald Eagles, sea otters, sea lions and migratory species. View large groups of Common Murres, Oldsquaws, gulls, murrelets, mergansers, scoters, and cormorants, to name a few of the species that over-winter here. The boat acts as a blind from which to photograph all these species of birds and we will maneuver around flocks to allow for ideal angles and up-close photography. Abundant concentrations of small fish and crustaceans serve as a critical fuel source for the epic migrants, the Arctic Terns, as well as the phalaropes, jaegers, and loons commonly viewed along this route. Flocks of acrobatic shorebirds rhythmically fly in unison, sweeping and turning along the convoluted shores. Some shorebirds travel 1,900 miles in 48 hours!
One of our first stops will be Sheep Bay and Sahlin Falls where we will enjoy a fresh gourmet dinner. We'll launch the inflatable boats in the lingering daylight that lasts until 11:00 pm and explore an adjacent saltwater lagoon at the head of Sheep Bay. The shallow waters and intertidal shores of the lagoon offer a bounty of food for birds and land animals. Harlequin Ducks, Black Oystercatchers, and others forage for food here and enjoy the blue mussels, limpets, and clams of the intertidal zone. During this time of year, juvenile salmon (called "fry") migrate out from the nearby freshwater streams into the lagoon and serve as an important food source for diving birds such as murres, mergansers, guillemots, murrelets, loons, and scoters. This seasonal phenomenon occurs in many of the sound's fjords, bays, and inlets that contain streams where salmon spawn, thereby attracting numerous birds and providing excellent bird watching opportunities. Both Black and Brown bears are occasionally seen foraging along the shores. As opportunistic feeders, the bears scavenge for animal carcasses, graze on the new growth grasses, overturn rocks in the intertidal zone in search for small crabs and fish, and feed on Pacific Herring egg masses that have drifted on shore. We'll anchor for the evening in the serene waters of Sheep Bay.
Lodging: Onboard the Discovery
Kayakers in Prince William Sound ©Hugh Rose
May 9, Wednesday: Eastern Prince William Sound, Montague Strait
Today we continue west and south through the sound's southern most barrier islands, observing the birds and other wildlife along the way. The nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf of Alaska pour into the sound through Hinchinbrook Entrance, a narrow passageway between Hinchinbrook and Montague islands. The ocean currents from the Gulf of Alaska and Pacific Ocean bring much of the region's food (in the form of plankton and small fishes) through this waterway creating a popular feeding ground for birds, fish, and marine mammals, including both Humpback Whales and Orcas. To observe the sights and sounds of these powerful giants is truly a remarkable experience.
We will then head south through Montague Strait along the beautiful shores of Knight Island. Smaller islands along this route are inhabited by colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and both Tufted and Horned puffins. Weather permitting, we will deploy the inflatable boats and take a zodiac cruise around colonies in order to get a close-up perspective. The playful Dall's Porpoises occasionally join the Discovery and dart back and forth literally a few feet from the bow. From the deck, we may get an overhead view as these artful swimmers enjoy the pressurized wake created as the ship slices through the water. With black and white markings somewhat like Killer Whales, these powerful swimmers are among the ocean's fastest marine mammals. Depending on the timing of the activity at sea, we may also enjoy a landing along the beach and intertidal shores. Here you may wish to do macro-photography of invertebrates and flowers or walk through the world's northernmost temperate rainforest, rich with ferns, mosses, towering spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees. Relax in the evening to a delicious meal and enjoy a very pleasant anchorage in a secluded lagoon.
Lodging: Onboard the Discovery
Return to top
The Discovery sails in
Prince William Sound ©Hugh Rose
May 10 - 13, Thursday - Sunday: Western Prince William Sound and its islands
This season marks the peak of the herring spawn and is therefore a feast of grand proportions for wildlife. The spawning of Pacific Herring plays a crucial role in the region's ecosystem, providing a major food source for many of the regional and migratory birds that pass through the sound. At times, the spawned herring eggs (called "roe") can be as thick as two or three feet as they drift ashore and collect in the intertidal pools. In previous seasons during the herring roe gorging session, we've witness amazing action including 40,000 Glaucous-winged Gulls, mixed groups of more than 30,000 Surfbirds and Black Turnstones, thousands of Common Murres, Oldsquaws, Pelagic and Red-faced cormorants, Horned and Red-necked grebes, Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled and Kittlitz's murrelets, Common and Red-breasted mergansers, Arctic, Red throated, and Yellow-billed loons, Horned and Tufted puffins, groups of Mew, Bonaparte's, and Herring gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Harlequin Ducks, Surf and White-winged scoters, Arctic and Aleutian terns, hundreds of Bald Eagles, and the list goes on. Plus we'll see mammals such as several hundred Settler's Sea Lions, pods of Orcas and breaching Humpback Whales, and occasionally Brown Bears – all witnessed within one bay! Due to the incredible activity in this area, we will devote a few days to observe, photograph and explore the surrounding natural wonders. At this time of year, California Grey Whales are also often in the sound. We'll remain flexible and opportunistic in order to capitalize on local marine activity or special wildlife sightings. If time permits, we'll sail to Montague Island and visit the field camps of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Copper River Delta Institute, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Enjoy evenings at anchor in a protected bay or cove.
Lodging: Onboard the Discovery
May 14, Tuesday: Northern Prince William Sound; Cascade Falls and College Fjord
Cruising north, the Discovery crosses the open waters of northern Prince William Sound to Cascade Falls, a 300-foot high waterfall that thunders fresh water into Eaglek Bay. After a visit to the falls and possible overnight anchorage, travel south along the bay's remote shores to stop at the Oyster Farm of David and Susan Sczawinski. Oyster lovers will enjoy one of the sound's most delicious sea products – fresh "Pristine" oysters. Sail northward through the serene Esther Passage to the fringes of College Fjord.
Passing through corridors of breathtaking beauty, we will enter some of the world's most spectacular scenery, with sprawling glaciers and a panoramic skyline of mountain grandeur. Harbor Seals hauled out on the flotillas of icebergs watch us closely as the Discovery navigates the icy, blue waters of Barry Arm. The enveloping mountains of this inlet stretch skyward to nearly 10,000 feet, with glacier after glacier descending the terraced mountain valleys. Alaska's lush rainforest vegetation drapes the hillsides in green, as streaming waterfalls drop from the rocky cliffs. Listen to the cracks, pops, and occasional roars of the Cascade, Barry, and Coxe glaciers while the Discovery, dwarfed by white and blue walls, drifts quietly past these actively calving rivers of ice. Our last night will be spent anchored in the shadow of 10,000-foot tall Mt. Gilbert at the head of Harriman Fjord, named for the historic Harriman expedition of 1899.
Lodging: Onboard the Discovery
Stellar Sea Lions ©Hugh Rose
May 15, Tuesday: Return to Whittier; disembark and drive to Anchorage
After a breakfast onboard the Discovery, you will have one final opportunity to take a walk on shore to enjoy and photograph the pristine surroundings of the sound and the icebergs found along Black Sand Beach. We will then depart for the cruise to Whittier. Our last stop will be to visit the bustling Black-legged Kittiwake colony located across Passage Canal from Whittier. This picturesque colony of over 5,000 birds is located on a 200-foot high cliff with three waterfalls pouring down its face. The colony is a buzz of breeding activity as birds are establishing pair bonds and building nests. A Peregrine Falcon often nests half a mile down the shore on a separate cliff and makes frequent hunting trips to the colony, stirring thousands of birds in the air at once for an unforgettable experience of sight and sound!
After arriving in Whittier, we'll bid a fond farewell to the Discovery and her crew. Drive by van from Whittier to Portage through the longest car tunnel in North America. A different world awaits us on the other side as we drive along the shores of scenic Turnagain Arm. We will take time to stop and look for Belugas, which are becoming a species of concern due to the dwindling numbers in Turnagain Arm where they used to thrive. We'll also scan the hillsides for Dall Sheep. Our destination is Anchorage and the Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast, where we'll spend our final night. A festive farewell dinner is planned at a local restaurant.
Lodging: Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast
May 16, Wednesday: Homeward
After breakfast, transfer to the Anchorage airport, which is a short cab ride (not included) from the Susitna Place Bed and Breakfast. If you decide to stay longer in Anchorage, it will allow time to explore downtown Anchorage and its fine museums, especially the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, which contains excellent exhibits of Alaskan history, culture, geology, flora and fauna. For a city its size, Anchorage has an amazing diversity of wildlife. Loons, ducks, and Red-necked Grebes are frequently observed on lagoons in parks within the city limits, such as at Westchester Lagoon. Anchorage is the largest community in North America with a population of breeding loons. The loud resonant call of a loon late in the evening across a still lake is an unforgettable experience, especially in an urban setting. Wolves, Moose, and Brown Bears occasionally venture inside the city from their more permanent habitats in the adjacent Chugach Mountains. Avifauna found here includes Hudsonian Godwits, Alder Flycatchers, Common Redpolls, Rusty Blackbirds, Boreal and Black-capped chickadees. Contact us for suggestions or assistance if you'd like to extend your stay in Alaska.
Return to top
Discovery with Black-legged Kittiwakes
The MV Discovery is fully certified and inspected by the US Coast Guard and is meticulously fitted to combine the finest blend of luxury, comfort, and utility. Named after one of Captain Cook's ships, the Discovery's atmosphere is one of charm and style. The lower deck includes sleeping accommodations for up to twelve guests in six cabins, plus crew quarters, two bathrooms with hot showers, and stowage space. Guests can readily view and photograph the panoramic scenery and marine life from the ship's complete walk-around deck and expansive windows. Unlike the cumbersome cruise ship giants, the Discovery's size enables access to Alaska's lesser-traveled, more intimate inside passages. The friendly crew have been hand-picked and are dedicated to enriching your Alaska experience. The Discovery crew typically includes one to three canine members that are also seasoned veterans of Prince William Sound. The dogs stay on board the vessel when we are in sensitive wildlife habitat and are kept under control so as to not interfere with photographic opportunities. Please contact us if you have any concerns or allergies. Review more ship details including the deckplan.
Return to top
Payments and Cancellations: All reservations require a deposit due at the time of making the reservation. Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form, we will send trip materials with additional information to help you prepare for your safari. Until the final payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person. This fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date. There are no refunds given after the final payment due date. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between now and the date of travel.
|Cost per Person|
|Deposit - to reserve your space||$500|
|August 1, 2011 - second payment||$500|
|February 1, 2012 - final payment||remaining balance|
Return to top
To Make a Reservation: Please contact us (there are many methods of contacting us) to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.
|Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris
20800 Kittredge Road
Saratoga, CA 95070
|Toll Free: (800) 527-5330
Fax: (408) 741-0358
Return to top
Our leader, Hugh Rose
Leaders: Hugh Rose is an outstanding resident naturalist, geologist, and professional photographer. Hugh has led Alaska trips since 1991, receiving unending praise for his amazing knowledge and attention to every trip detail as well as his expert leadership. He not only has an extensive knowledge of all aspects of Alaskan natural history from bird behavior to geology, he is also a top-notch photographer, see his work on his website.
Dean Rand is Captain of the Discovery and knows Prince William Sound and all its special places probably better than anyone else after more than twenty years of experience on Alaskan waters.
Flights: Arrive at the Cordova airport (CDV) by late afternoon on May 4, at the latest. The best flights are typically on Alaska Air. Depart from Anchorage (ANC) on May 16 or extend your stay in Alaska. Please let us know if you would like assistance in arranging flights or booking extra hotel nights before or after your voyage. Separate transfers in Cordova may be arranged at an extra cost.
Seasickness: Don't let a fear of seasickness prevent you from signing up! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is optional, but encouraged, for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.
Detailed information about your specific tour will be sent to you after you make your reservation with us. These trip materials include information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. Please take a moment to read this important informtation upon receipt.
If you would like to be on our mailing list or request information, please use our online information request form or contact us to give us your name, address, email address and phone number. Please note we will never share your personal information with anybody!
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California, act only as agents and shall not be responsible or become liable for any delay incurred by any person in connection with any means of transportation, nor for the loss, damage, or injury to person or property by reason of any event beyond the control of the agency or default of such agency suppliers. We reserve the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. All rates are based on current tariffs, exchange rates and fuel prices and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited. Baggage is at the owner's risk.
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.
Return to top