Most of us know about the clarity of the vibrant blue waters before we visit the Bahamas. Seen from space, the water shines in the azure ocean, standing out dramatically from surrounding waters. Even with this knowledge, it is always a pleasant surprise to see the colors pop as the sun paints the sea around us each morning. As if the dawn light illuminating the sky isn’t enough, it then strikes the ocean. These famous blue waters glow dramatically.

Before us lay Conception Island. As part of the Bahamas National Trust, this whole island and the surrounding waters are protected. Therefore, they offer glimpses of the area’s natural beauty. As we approached, flocks of white-tailed tropicbirds circled, giving testament to the fact that these protections benefit the region’s ecology. During the morning, we explored the beaches. We enjoyed close looks at mangroves and the iconic queen conch. Wading birds flew by, shorebirds shuffled over the flats, and migrating warblers bounced around the foliage. As we returned to National Geographic Sea Lion, a pair of bottlenose dolphins inspected the Zodiacs with curiosity. It was an exciting moment in the water.

After a delicious lunch, we returned to the beach for a second round of activities. As we snorkeled through the mangroves, we encountered rays, turtles, and a variety of fish. Marine creatures utilize the valuable shelter provided in this ecosystem. While we explored via Zodiac, dozens of sea turtles jetted in channels, surprising all of us with just how fast a turtle can be. Oystercatchers and egrets flew about as we explored the winding streams, leading us to look closer at the nooks and corners of this expansive habitat.

Our evening consisted of drinks and conversation with friends, presentations by our natural history staff, and an incredible dinner prepared by our galley team. We have all been looking forward to this trip, and day one proves that our expectations will be met.