Conception Island National Park, 3/9/2022, National Geographic Sea Lion
National Geographic Sea Lion
Conception Island is 30,000 acres of what is considered the most
pristine environment in the Bahamas. Uninhabited for over 100 years, it was
incredibly special to be the only humans on the entire island today.
Kim is a marine biologist, adventure photographer, and full-time nomad. Not a fan of having her feet solidly on the ground, she spends most of the year diving, paragliding, skiing, hiking, kayaking, and working on ships. She made it to all seven cont...
We woke up in paradise off the coast of Cat Island in the Bahamas. The air was warm and the waters crystal clear. We aimed to kayak, snorkel, and take Zodiac tours within one of the famous flooded forests. The magical area is full of stunning mangroves–red, white, and black–as well as some silver buttonwoods on higher ground. We planned to see all kinds of wildlife, including birds, sea turtles, sharks, and rays.
What makes an island beautiful? Is it the biodiversity on land, the biodiversity in the water, or the landscapes? For Conception Island, it is all three, and for the guests on board National Geographic Sea Lion , this incredible island was on the horizon after a calm crossing from Exuma to start another Bahamas expedition. Many of us quickly gathered on the bow of the ship to watch as Captain Leader skillfully inched us closer and closer to our anchorage. We quickly learned that we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of this spectacular weather, as we met several other boats anchored off the northwestern side of Conception Island. Established in 1978, Conception Island National Park was created to protect pristine Conception Island and its surrounding waters. The park protects important habitats for nesting seabirds, like the white-tailed tropicbirds that greeted the ship upon our arrival. The park also protects vital coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove habitats; all play a critical role in the environment and for the people of the Bahamas. We started our day with briefings, snorkel gear distribution, and a photo talk by the on board photo instructor. Shortly after, we headed ashore for a hike across the island and up some gorgeous sandstone cliffs for our first dip in the clear azure waters of this archipelago. During this time, I shared about the history and geography of the island. After lunch, we returned to the island for our first snorkel, and the experience surely made a good first impression. Amongst the reefs, we saw several large spiny lobsters, great barracudas, and tons of colorful fish, including angelfish and parrotfish. We also observed an impressive small stand of elkhorn coral and a ‘garden of sea fans!’ After this snorkel, we returned to the ship for cocktail hour and dinner under the stars!
The last day of any voyage is usually rife with emotions high and low, and today was no different. Passengers aboard National Geographic Sea Lion awoke to idyllic conditions to snorkel at the Aquarium, a vibrant reef in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Snorkelers were privy to the intimate happenings of the underwater world. Sea fans swayed in the current with nudibranchs hanging on for safety, invasive lionfish corralled hordes of unsuspecting silverside, and French grunts lurked in the shadows – the drama of the natural world was on full display. After lunch, we snorkeled the caves of Rocky Dundas, an area where ancient limestone clashes with the sea. The contrast of the bright ceruleans and dull stone was a reminder of all the colors we have seen on this trip…on islands, beneath the sea, and in the sky. When we left the water, we did so with heavy but satisfied hearts. We have seen as much of this place as we could, and it will be sorely missed. Late afternoon was a time for recollection, hugs, and optimism. The beauty of the Lindblad-National Geographic family lies in the fact that our expeditions are never quite over, and we all hope to see one another once again. It is our sincere hope that the friendships kindled this week are only just beginning to flourish.