- Visit Smith Island and Tangier Island—some of the Chesapeake’s only inhabited islands—and discover the unique culture and history of the bay’s watermen.
- Paddleboard, kayak, and ride Zodiacs along the tributaries, remote islands, inlets, and coves of the Chesapeake.
- Learn about the delicate ecosystems of the Chesapeake and the work of conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the ecological balance of the bay.
- Experience the diversity of the birds of the Chesapeake—black skimmers and royal terns on the open water, snowy egrets, tricolored herons wading in the shallows, and summer songbirds in bayside woodlands.
Delve into the wilderness of America’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, sailing to the islands and wildlife refuges along Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Virginia’s Barrier Islands. See a little-known side of the bay, exploring quiet back channels and wetlands by kayak and paddleboard, and witnessing the fruits of habitat renewal in protected areas where hardwood forests meet salt and freshwater marshes, and where birdlife prospers. Along the way, encounter the timeless culture of the Chesapeake’s watermen as we venture to long-isolated communities on the bay’s islands.
This trip is operated in collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions.
Arrive in the nation’s capital and transfer to the lovely waterside town of Annapolis, Maryland, where the National Geographic Sea Lion awaits. Settle into your cabin and set sail in the early evening hours, cruising toward the Delmarva Peninsula, which separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll pass Poplar Island, the site of an innovative environmental restoration project.
National Geographic Sea Lion for the entire voyage
Anchor at Smith Island in the morning, just as local watermen make their way from the harbor out into bay in search of Maryland’s legendary soft shell crabs. Take a walking tour of the island’s main village, and learn about the culture of the island’s community and the challenges they face as the forces of erosion continue to hammer at these sandy, marshy Chesapeake outposts. Set out by kayak this afternoon, exploring some of the many water trails that wind through and around Smith Island. Watch for ospreys and egrets, as well as colorful American oystercatchers on the sandy beaches.
Head to Cape Charles near the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula today, and continue to the wild Virginia Barrier Islands, which buffer the peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll enjoy a day of exploration in these islands, following nature’s cues and gliding into little-known back channels in Zodiacs. Depending on sea conditions, we may stop to visit Cobb Island, or Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area.
With a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Tangier Island harbors a community of crabbers and watermen that have been isolated from the mainland for nearly 250 years. Residents here developed a unique dialect, and a visit to the island takes us back in time. With community guides, discover the town by foot and golf cart while learning about local culture. Tangier Island is comprised almost entirely of salt marshes, which we’ll venture into by kayak this afternoon, watching for glossy ibis and other birdlife.
Known as the “Everglades of the North,” Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established in the 1930s as a waterfowl sanctuary for migrating species, and has been internationally recognized for its ecological importance. Here, lowland forest borders tidal wetlands with areas of shallow, brackish water, and the three habitats draw a diverse range of birdlife—more than 250 species have been recorded. Spend the morning exploring the refuge, keeping an eye out for bald eagles and the Delmarva fox squirrel, a once-endangered species whose recovery has largely happened within the refuge. In the afternoon, we arrive at the mouth of the Choptank River. Head into its numerous tributaries and small creeks by kayak, discovering its calm backwaters.
Return to Annapolis this morning to disembark and transfer to the airport for your flight home.