Alaska’s Trifecta: Mendenhall Glacier, Brown Bears and Humpback Whales

On July 25, 2012, we booked the” Trifecta” with Alaska Galore Tours in Juneau.  This afternoon tour lasted approximately seven hours and it was hands-down one of the best day tours I’ve ever been on.  We started with a scenic flight from Juneau Airport over Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau Icefield.  It was a cloudy afternoon so our photo op’s suffered a bit, but the flight was thrilling.

Scenic flight over Mendenhall Glacier.

We then flew to the town of Hoonah on Chichagof Island where we started our search for brown bears.  The weather on Chichagof was sunny and warm and the salmon were just starting to run in the local rivers.  These conditions were less than optimal for spotting brown bears.  They tend to head into the forest where it’s shadier and cooler on days like these.  However, we did spot two different bears in clear cuts as they were feasting on ripe blueberries and salmon berries.

River on Chichagof Island.
Salmon run – Chichagof Island.
Brown bear on Chichagof Island taking a break from feeding on blueberries and salmon berries.

If we had stopped the tour then and there, we would’ve been happy.  Little did we know that the best was yet to come.  I have a long list of bucket list items that involve the world’s best wildlife experiences.  For Alaska, seeing humpback whales bubble net feeding was at the top of my list when I started this trip.  I now have one less item on my list.  Unless, of course,  I add seeing bubble net feeding by a group of humpback whales in Alaska to it.

Within 10 minutes of boarding our vessel, our captain spotted a humpback whale close to shore.  As we started our slow approach, I noticed bubbles breaking the surface of the water.  Closer examination revealed the beginning of a bubble net and once completed, a lone humpback whale lunged to the surface, mouth wide open, ready for a feast of herring.  All told, we saw this single whale form four bubble nets along the shore of Chichagof Island.

Bubble net created by a single humpback whale.
Humpback whale bubble net feeding near Chichagof Island.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5OQYecyA8Y]

As we traveled back to Juneau, we saw four more humpback whales feeding in the waters close to Juneau.  If you find yourself in Juneau and ready for adventure, check out the Trifecta.  It’s well worth it!