As the mammals dove, their iconic tail flukes were poetry and power in motion. Nitakuwa, a PhD marine biologist, told us that the tail muscle of the Humpback whale is the strongest muscle in the animal kingdom.
Another nominee for the best highlight award began as we all sat down for a leisurely brunch in the dining room-a well-traveled British couple, a creative New York couple (in publishing and music), a Hollywood couple (an actress and her studio-executive husband), and my happy-to-be-there husband and me. As the yacht got underway, I used a telephoto lens to take some pictures of a waterfall spilling into an estuary before I sat down to eat. I thought I saw some moving brown dots, but the crew was way ahead of me. The yacht stopped, and Nitakuwa ran in to ask "Who wants to see bears?"
Champagne flutes down. Brunch would wait. We donned our bright-orange Mustang suits and piled into the inflatable. A mother bear and her three cubs ambled about, oblivious to us. We floated close enough to hear the mother chewing sedge grass. Deer crossed the pools of a nearby waterfall, completing the sublimely beautiful panorama. A few months before, on safari in Kenya, I had cruised through seas of grass to watch wild animals in their own habitats. Now I was on safari on the waterways of my own country.
Safari Spirit could anchor in places that larger ships couldn't, so when we settled in for the night, we usually had the sense that the only things existing above the waterline were the stars, the owls, and our floating heaven. We inhaled the peace and the clean, crisp, oxygen- rich air from the nearby waterfalls and tall trees. One night we found ourselves sharing a treasured bay with two other yachts. Our fellow travelers kept a respectable distance between us for mutual privacy, and actually added to the landscape.
That next morning, as wisps of mist lifted over the bay, we all wanted to be on the water. My husband Victor and I paddled a kayak up one little inlet, and I photographed an eagle flying overhead. Another twosome banked their kayak to photograph a bear. Starfish clung to the rocks and made looking down as rewarding as looking up and around.
An otter came tantalizingly close to our kayak but ducked down as soon as my camera was raised. The curious fellow glided back and forth between our kayak and that of another couple, playfully eyeing us and then disappearing as soon as a camera stared back.
Dan Blanchard, the adventurous principal of American Safari Cruises, joined us for a couple of days. He clearly enjoyed seeing everyone living "the good life" in a moving feast of pleasures, watching with delight as we found our favorite niches on the yacht. The English gent liked to go topside every morning to survey the expansive vista in the bracing open air. The Hollywood studio executive enjoyed sinking into the cushions in the comforting library, with an elevated view above the captain's wheel and good reading material nearby. The most athletic of the women opted for the stationary bike on deck, pedaling away as we slid smoothly past cascading waterfalls and dramatic fjords. The Jacuzzi on the top level offered a pampering place to relish a cocktail while surveying the horizon for whale tails. Even the sauna sported a window, so no one was ever deprived of rapturous scenery. My husband liked to meander into the galley (which also had a window) so Chef Dave, who catered to our culinary whims, could teach him about deboning fresh fish and making new sauces.