My wife and I recently joined eight other passengers and six crew members on an amazing trip from Port Hardy, BC (on Vancouver Island) to Sitka in Southeast Alaska. Along the way we did many beautiful dives, saw white-capped mountains perfectly reflected in calm bays, and observed seemingly endless wildlife. The wild nature of the trip was contrasted by the comfortable accommodations and luxurious meals provided aboard the Nautilus Swell.
On a trip like this, quality of diving is paramount, and the BC and Alaskan waters did not disappoint. On a dive soon after we made it to Alaska, I came across an octopus sitting on the top of a wall in about 20 feet of water. Above it was a kelp forest and below was a wall of invertebrates that seemed to go down forever. I approached the octopus with my camera and got a few photos. Then I got my wife’s attention. She approached the octopus slowly and tried to get close enough that I could get her in a photo. The octopus had been indifferent to me but was very curious about Shannon. It almost instantly reached out an arm to touch her, and it seemed to like what it felt. Soon it was climbing all over her. I could tell Shannon was thrilled but also a little bit apprehensive. I laughed out loud when I saw her grab her regulator to make sure the octopus couldn’t remove it from her mouth. After having a laugh and taking a few quick pictures of her, while being careful to not touch anything other than the suction cups, I peeled the octopus off of her. It just lasted a few moments, but it was the type of memorable experience that will certainly have us heading back for more.
On another dive, we went to the famous Dillon Rocks dive site in British Columbia. If you ask a knowledgeable local about Dillon Rocks, the thing you hear over and over again is “wolf eel condo”, and our dive didn’t disappoint. Several wolf eels came out of their dens and swam among us. At one point, two of the wolf eels had a dramatic spat among themselves while we watched. One grabbed the body of another with its mouth and ejected it from the ledge it was hiding under. There were so many wolf eels around that we couldn’t keep track of them all. Early in the dive I saw a group of divers gathered around one wolf eel. I swam up closer to check out what they were watching. As I approached I realized that, unbeknownst to one of the divers, there was a second wolf eel two or three feet directly below him. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed straight down. The look on his face when he saw it was priceless.
Topside is what makes a diving trip to Alaska unique. What we experienced above water equaled our underwater experience. Every morning we woke up surrounded by peaceful beauty. We saw countless eagles, gushing waterfalls, curious sea lions, and shy seals. The highlight was walking out of the salon at dusk to witness a pair of whales bubble feeding right next to our anchored boat. Another was taking the small putt-putt boat out, in the rain, to see a family of three otters lying on their backs and enjoying a scallop dinner. With orcas in the distance, dolphins riding the bow, cormorants posing on rocks, and a rainbow arching over snowcapped peaks, we grabbed our cameras often feeling grateful to have nature all to ourselves.
Towards the end of our trip, we spent a day at the La Conte glacier. This was a terrifically fun day. Captain Tim slowly maneuvered the diving skiff into a field of icebergs until we were completely surrounded by floating ice. One by one the guests left the skiff to climb to the top of one of the larger icebergs. At the top we discovered a picturesque pool with icy blue water. It was the perfect group photo spot, so we slid down into the pool and took one. Another side of the iceberg had a cliff that dropped off from about fifteen feet high into the bay. Since we all had our dry suits on, we were able to jump off the small cliff and swim with the icebergs. With some encouragement from dive master, Dan, I challenged myself to see how small of an iceberg I could stand on for eight seconds without falling off. It all sounds like a child’s games, and that is exactly what it was, ten adults playing and laughing like kids (plus adult beverages, some poured over glacial ice).
The enjoyment of the wild surroundings was matched by the comfort and service provided aboard the Swell. With a limit of twelve guests, the crew gives personalized service that can’t be topped. I was particularly impressed with the chef, Liam. A few guests had specific dietary concerns. Shannon requested gluten and dairy free meals. On many boats this means you just get items removed from what everyone else is eating, but this was not the case on the Swell. The chef went out of his way to give perfect substitutes including pasta, pizza, and desserts. Shannon was astounded by the delectable meals he was able to create given the constraints of being on a boat and her limited diet. We learned that the Nautilus way means doing everything possible to please the guest.
Lucas Price is an award winning photographer and avid scuba diver. More of his work can be found here.