After two days of sailing from Easter Island, we reached Ducie Atoll this afternoon. The atoll is part of the Pitcairn Island group, and it is a haven for seabirds, including boobies, terns, and petrels. As National Geographic Orion neared the atoll, the number of birds kept increasing. We gathered on the bow and the decks to scan the shore with our binoculars and cameras. There were swarms of birds above the island, and we had incredible views of red-tailed tropicbirds, herald petrels, phoenix petrels, and many other seabirds. Two Zodiacs went out to scout a potential landing. Unfortunately, the seas were a bit too rough. Instead of landing, our naturalist team told us all about the atoll from the bow while we observed the scenery. We learned about the ecology, shape, and history of the atoll. We also learned about the natural history of the birds we were seeing. At one point, around a dozen frigatebirds soared above the ship, banking in the wind. This gave everyone excellent opportunities for photography. We even had a red-footed booby land briefly on the bow! We spent the afternoon learning more about photo editing and enjoying some wonderful company and cocktails in the lounge. Onwards to Henderson Island!
National Geographic Orion
Raiatea and Tahaa, French Polynesia
Ia Orana, or welcome to the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa in French Polynesia. Today, National Geographic Orion made its way through the passage of Raiatea at 6:30 a.m. Expedition staff and early risers readied themselves for a day of activity. Our first excursion was to the sacred marae of Taputapuatea. This very spiritual place is hailed as the most sacred cultural and traditional place of worship in all of Polynesia. As expedition staff led guests through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, they were in awe of its spiritual significance to the people of Polynesia. Lunch was enjoyed on board the ship as she sailed inside the lagoon of Raiatea, which connects to the lagoon of Taha’a. Close views of shoreside homes were spectacular in the afternoon sunshine. In the afternoon, some guests visited a vanilla farm on Taha’a Island, known as the Vanilla Island of French Polynesia. The rest of the guests were set free on a private island where they bathed in the glory of the turquoise blue lagoon. Rains showers didn’t dampen the spirits of anyone. In fact, the rain was welcomed by guests. They enjoyed a rinsing in fresh water as they took Zodiacs back to the ship. A great Captain’s farewell dinner was held on the back deck as the sun set over Taha’a. It was a beautiful way to end a very special day for all. Cheers!