Following in the path of Alaska’s historic fur trade, you will experience the diverse ecosystems and landscapes of Alaska, encounter its incredible wildlife and discover some of the native peoples of Alaska during a 15-day Expedition Cruise with National Geographic.

You will travel in the company of both a National Geographic photographer and Expert, who through lectures, workshops and one-on-one discussions, will give you a deeper understanding of the sights and significance of your journey and teach you how to capture the story of this incredible Expedition through your own photography.

Starting in the gold rush city of Nome, where the beaches are still mined for gold, your journey will take you from Nome to Vancouver, visiting some of the most remote regions and seldom visited islands. Your journey will take you from the wild tundra landscapes of the North, with the incredible bounty of the Bering Sea, down through the mountain coastlines of the southeast with a mix of lush temperate rainforest and gigantic glaciers that are found throughout these deep fjords.

Sail south through the Bering Sea to the Pribilof islands, known as the “Galapagos of the North”. We will use our Zodiacs® to visit this isolated community centred around the bounty of the shores. Walks will take you to the birding cliffs and fur seal breading beaches where you will witness the scale of life that calls these cold waters home.

The Aleutians mark the boundary between the Bering Sea and the Pacific. As we sail along the Alaska Peninsula, we may catch sight of the volcanoes that extend down into this archipelago and define the landscape. These waters and shorelines are full of life, supported by the abundance of fish and nutrient rich soils. We will then cross the Gulf of Alaska to the magnificent Icy Bay, so named for the abundance of glaciers that roll down into this beautiful fjord, making for perfect photo opportunities.

As we sail through the coastlines of southeast Alaska and British Columbia, you will be surrounded by mountain landscapes covered in temperate rainforest. These mountain forests are home to a wide variety of wildlife, while the channels beneath are some of the most productive waters on the planet. On this journey south you will experience the variety of landscapes and abundance of wildlife that Alaska has to offer, all in the company of a National Geographic Expert and photographer, who will bring it all to life and help you capture your story of this incredible expedition.

At the end of your trip, sit down with your National Geographic Expert and photographer and reflect on the experiences you have shared on your voyage and how they have changed you upon your return. National Geographic and Ponant share the deep belief that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s L'Austral, part of the Sisterships fleet.

Trip highlights

Travel alongside a National Geographic photographer and Expert who will enrich your expedition experience by conducting workshops, sharing their photography tips and recounting tales of their National Geographic assignments.

Visit traditional villages and encounter the indigenous people of the Far North: the Yup’ik, Aleuts, Tlingits, and Kwakwaka’wakw,

Hike on the island of Chankliut Island in Alaska, an uninhabited land offering mountainous terrain, lush moors, an expanse of valleys and picturesque lakes.

As you journey through these remote lands, keep an eye out for a magnitude of wildlife including brown bears, grizzlies, Arctic terns, seals, whales and orcas.

By travelling with National Geographic to Alaska, you will also be doing your part to protect it, as part of the proceeds of your trip are returned to the National Geographic Society, who works to further the understanding and protection of our planet.

Itinerary - 15 Days

1 Nome, Alaska

Begin your expedition cruise in Nome, Alaska that sits on the Seward Peninsula overlooking the Bering Sea. This gold-mining town still has the feel of a frontier community, set within the heart of the magnificent wilderness. As you discover the city’s heritage you will learn of the famous serum run that spawned the Iditarod dog sled race that has its finish line in the main street. Less well known is the fact that the beaches are still mined for gold to this day and reindeer are still herded in this region. Don’t miss the opportunity to look for Arctic wildlife that can be found in the areas surrounding the city.

2 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard L’Austral. Meet your onboard National Geographic Expert to get greater insight into Alaska via lectures and discussions over coffee in the bar. Meanwhile your National Geographic photographer will give initial talks and workshops to help you capture the story of your adventure with your camera, whether you are a seasoned photographer, or using your phone. Come and learn how to make the most of the incredible photographic opportunities you will find along your voyage. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below alongside one of our naturalists.

3 St Matthew Island

Located in the heart of the Bering Sea, St Matthew Island is more than 200 miles from the nearest Alaska village and is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR) and represents the southernmost limit of the Polar Bear’s range. With its black sand beaches and high cliffs, this is the perfect nesting habitat for a variety of birds, including Tufted Puffins, Crested Auklets, Thick-billed Murres, the elusive Red-legged kittiwake and the rare Mckay’s Bunting.

It was the observations of the incredible seabirds nesting on St. Matthew by the Harriman Expedition in 1899 that convinced Teddy Roosevelt make St. Matthew a Federal Bird Reserve in 1909, a precursor to its current status as part of the AMNWR.

The uninhabited island is furthermore home to an array of other wildlife including Arctic foxes, and even the whistling vole, which you may be lucky enough to spot.

4 Saint Paul Island, Pribilof Islands

Saint Paul is the largest of the Pribilofs, located 240 miles north of the Aleutians and is known as “The Galapagos of the North” due to the incredible abundance of wildlife that is found here. Today, there is an Aleut community of 500 people which was founded by the Russian fur traders in the 18th century and who relocated the Aleuts here to harvest the northern fur seals that breed on the shoreline. With the ending of the commercial fur seal trade, today 500,000 fur seals can be found on the beaches in the summer breeding seas. Additionally, the cliffs are home to millions of sea birds as the island is surrounded by some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

During your visit here, you will have the opportunity to witness this incredible abundance of wildlife by visiting both the bird cliffs and breeding beaches as well as having the opportunity to visit this small remote community that calls St Paul home.

5 Dutch Harbour, Unalaska

Unalaska Island and its port, Dutch Harbour, is one of the exceptional stops of this voyage. This is the only deep-water port of the Aleutian Islands and the landscapes are utterly unique; volcanic summits surrounded by the sea and lush green valleys. Unalaska is not only an island with astonishing nature and very varied wildlife, it is also rich in history, with the ancient Aleut culture and having played a significant role in World War II during “the Forgotten War”. Today, Dutch Harbor is famed as one of the busiest fishing ports in the world and is home to the famous “Deadliest Catch” king crab fishing fleet. During your visit you will learn about the key role of the Aleutians in World War II with the only battles fought on American soil, as well as modern life in this outpost of western industry on the boundary of the Pacific and the Bering Sea.

6 Unga Island

Head out on our Zodiacs® and explore Unga Island with our team of on board naturalist-guides. Begin the exploration in a former village of which many vestiges remain, run-down wooden houses scattered around a flowery meadow, a church with crumbling walls but a roof that still stands.

Originally called Ougnagok by the Aleuts, this small hamlet, which was home to some 100 inhabitants in the 19th century, was renamed Delarof, after Evstratii Ivanovich Delarov. While working for the Shelikhov-Golikov Company, he was the first Greek mariner to discover the Aleutian Islands. Today, this small ghost-village is overrun by willowherb and has been renamed Unga.

7 Chankliut Island

Off the Alaska Peninsula hides a small gem: Chankliut, a completely uninhabited island. Offering mountainous terrain, lush moors and valleys covered in sea lyme grass.

As part of the Aleutian archipelago, Chankliut Island offers a unique landscape which you can head off and explore. Take a walk around the picturesque lake and cross a sumptuous meadow where beautiful aconite and willowherb vie for attention. You will also have the opportunity to explore the neighbouring valley and its ancient calderas to admire the splendour of the scenery.

8 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard L'Austral. Look out for wildlife in the air and the sea, catch up with our onboard National Geographic Expert and photographer as they give greater insight into the destination via lectures and workshops, or visit the photo gallery area where you can take a look at some of the professional photos that have been taken during your trip so far. Alternatively, head to the observation lounge to enjoy some reading through a collection of National Geographic magazines and books or, if you prefer some privacy, head to your room where you will find a range of National Geographic documentaries to watch.

9 Tsaa Fjord, Icy Bay

Formed by the retreat of the Guyot, Yahtse and Tyndall glaciers over the past 100 years, Icy Bay is one of those timeless places where silence reigns supreme.

Marvel at the spectacular beauty that lies ahead as we enjoy the views over the Saint Elias Mountains. The bay, which is several kilometres wide, is often scattered with icebergs sliding on clear and deep waters. Watch for harbour seals that call these fjords home and listen for the sound of “white thunder” as the glaciers crack and calve thousands of tons of ice into the waters below. A landscape made of mountains, ice and water gives insight to the history of the lush fjords that make up the remainder of our voyage.

10 Sitka

Situated on Baranof island, to the west of the Alexander archipelago, Sitka is a perfectly nestled at the foot of magnificent glacial carved mountains facing the Pacific Ocean. Historically, the Russian Capital of America, Sitka was once known as the Paris of the Pacific and governed territories extending as far as California.

The historical national park of Sitka shelters totems carved out of red cedar, a tree that is omnipresent in the region. These totems are testimonials of the presence of the Tlingit Indians, who despite losing the battle of Sitka against the Russians in 1804, continue to live throughout southeast Alaska to this day.

Explore the many natural wonders of this area; from the imposing mountain ranges to the snow-peaked Edgecumbe volcano and the numerous islands scattered around Sitka stretch out before you in a vision of preserved Alaska.

11 Kake

Scattered throughout southeast Alaska are small, isolated settlements that while seldom visited, are home to thriving communities. Today, we will discover the small Tlingit village of Kake, on Kupreanof Island, home of the largest totem pole in the world. Located in the heart of the temperate rainforests of southeast Alaska, the hills are often shrouded in the mists that transform this land into lush forests. This “salmon forest” demonstrates the connectivity between the sea and land and the peoples that call it their home. As the salmon return to the rivers, the bald eagles and black bears feast on this bounty bringing key nutrients that enable the trees to thrive. During our visit we will meet the Tlingit community and have the opportunity to experience their rich cultural heritage first hand, and we may be lucky enough to spot some of the wildlife that also call this their home.

12 Prince Rupert, Canada

Located on the remote Kaien Island, Prince Rupert is a small gateway city to northern British Columbia. The small town, which was founded in 1910 as the terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and a critical trade link, incorporated the lands of the Coast Tsimshian people who had occupied Prince Rupert Harbour for 5000 years. During your time at Prince Rupert, explore the picturesque residential districts set in grandiose landscapes. The exceptional Museum of Northern British Columbia is a highlight as it aims to share the story of the Tsimshian and their history in the region.

13 At Sea

As we sail south, we will pass through the beautiful channels that make up coastal British Columbia. With its sheltered waters, mountain landscapes and lush forests, it is a major thoroughfare that dates back through history, used by the First Nations, explored by Vancouver and still today the major link to both Canada and the USA. These forest shores are home to some remarkable wildlife, such as the Spirit Bear, and the waters are home to Orca, so it is worth taking time out on deck to see what can be spotted.

Today is your last day at sea and we encourage you to make the most of your time onboard L’Austral. Catch up with our onboard National Geographic Expert and photographer to recap on your Alaska adventure and better understand its people and landscapes. National Geographic and Ponant share the deep belief that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

14 Alert Bay & Sailing in the Johnstone Strait

Situated by the north coast of Vancouver Island is Cormorant Island. Surrounded by pebble beaches, this is the perfect spot for hiking and whale watching. When the ship calls at Alert Bay, a small sheltered fishing port located in the island’s south, set off to discover the indigenous culture and its traditions. The Namgis community, which is part of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, lives here and you will be able to share their cultural heritage through the totem poles, Big House and U’mista cultural centre that play an important role in the community to this day.

Johnstone Strait is a 100 km-long channel formed by an old glacier bed, dotted with a string of lush islands. The strong currents here bring food to the surface, making this an abundant feeding ground for wildlife. Look for bald eagles fishing, the local populations of orca, and even Pacific white-sided dolphins that can all be found here. Take the time out on deck to see what you can find as we sail through these scenic channels.

15 Vancouver

Complete your expedition cruise in the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver. Located in British Columbia on Canada's west coast, Vancouver is a meeting of two worlds, the picturesque mountains which surround the sky rise buildings in the city centre.

From the bustling Chinatown to the Indian district; Vancouver is a melting pot of cultures across the globe. Explore the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is known for works by regional artists, while the Museum of Anthropology houses important First Nations collections. Granville Island Jetty is a fascinating revitalised industrial area that hosts galleries, restaurants and a huge produce market.

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