Today we visited the quiet and scenic island of Huanine. We focused on water activities in Bourayne Bay during the morning. Guests snorkeled amongst stunning Pacific Ocean fish and coral, and they cruised around gently on stand-up paddleboards near the beautiful tropical beach.
After lunch, we disembarked on Zodiacs to a small dock near the quaint town of Fare. Our adventure continued around the island on a ‘Le Truck.’ This fascinating tour, complete with an expert local guide, included a visit to the Maeva, an archaeological site and museum. Afterwards, we hiked to maraes, sacred areas, before getting back on the ‘Le Truck.’ We stopped at various places with spectacular views. We learned about traditional stonefish traps, and we had the chance to view Huahine’s sacred blue-eyed eels.
Our final evening on National Geographic Orion ended with a stunning sunset and our captain’s farewell as we anchored near this secluded and beautiful island.
Martin grew up in Melbourne Australia playing cricket and Australian Rules football. While growing up, to his parents’ dismay, Martin brought home and kept a menagerie of wildlife including frogs, lizards, turtles and even poisonous snakes!
Entering the pass of an atoll in French Polynesia is always a beautiful way to start the day. This morning we arrived at Tahanea, a small island with no permanent population. The water here is some of the clearest our staff have ever seen in this region. With winds and currents to contend with, our divers found a beautiful site to spend some time underwater. They enjoyed a healthy coral reef, some sharks, and large fish. On their way back to the ship they even found some manta rays and jumped in the water to snorkel with them. The rest of us split into two groups: the hikers and the swimmers. The hike ashore was full of birds and plants to observe and photograph. The swimmers launched from the snorkel platform into crystal water where they poked around the coral heads and grew even more comfortable swimming with reef sharks. We had an afternoon aboard. We began with a presentation by our guest speaker Tom Ritchie about the most useful plants in Polynesia. At tea time, the hotel team put out 13 different sweet treats, not to mention the sandwiches and fruit. Before recap, undersea specialist James Hyde gave us a condensed history of the natural world—starting with the big bang! Tomorrow will be a busy day for us as we transit to some islands we have never visited before. So it’s quiet on board this evening as we all head to bed to rest up for whatever tomorrow has in store.
This morning found National Geographic Orion anchored off the southern tip of Ua Huka, one of the many Marquesas Islands. This spot is known for thousands of sooty terns. Even though there was a bit of swell and lots of wind, everyone geared up to explore these small islands by Zodiac. Once in the water, we noticed manta rays feeding at the surface, at first one or two and then at least a dozen! In the afternoon, the ship repositioned, and everyone went ashore in Ua Pou to explore the local village. At sunset, National Geographic Orion sailed off to investigate more of the beautiful Marquesas.
We had to be very patient today to catch our first glimpse of the Marquesas Islands. Winds and swells delayed our arrival in Nuku Hiva. In the meantime, guests enjoyed time on Deck 6 looking for wildlife. Tropicbirds and petrels soared through the sky, and flying fish jumped out of the water to escape their predators. Once we approached the island, the impressive landscape of Nuku Hiva overwhelmed every single person onboard: steep cliffs rose out of the ocean, and spectacular rock formations towered over the tiny village of Hatiheu. From far away, our guests could hear the traditional welcome song, “Mave mai”. All-terrain vehicles waited on the pier to take the first group, the “birders,” high up in the valley. They were looking for the endemic Upe, one of the biggest pigeons in the world. And there they spotted not one, not two, but eight imperial pigeons sitting in one single tree. What a fantastic sight! The second group of guests, the hikers, enjoyed a walk up to the archaeological site of Kamuihei. En route, they passed through the lovely village. Hibiscus flowers in many different shapes and colors ornament the street. Hatiheu is like an open-air museum. Numerous paepae, stone platforms for house foundations, and tohua, ceremonial sites, are found throughout the valley. A gigantic banyan tree protects the most sacred area, the me’ae I’ipoka. Hatiheu also has the best known petroglyph boulders in the Marquesas Islands. Archaeologists studied these rock engravings over many years. Besides human figures and faces, many boulders show animals like dogs, fish, and turtles. After this archaeological exploration, we all walked down to Hikokua, an ancient festival place in the valley. As in the old days, a group of young Marquesan men and women entertained guests with songs and dances. The most famous Marquesan dance is the “pig dance.” The men imitate the grunting of this animal and simulate daily activities such as making copra, taking a shower, or fishing in a canoe. As Marquesan people like to share their culture with all visitors, they invited guests from National Geographic Orion to join them. Fun on all fronts! After these activities, guests appreciated a fruit tasting at Yvonne’s Restaurant in the village. Delicious mangos, papayas, pineapples, bananas, watermelons, and freshly squeezed lemonade contributed to our excellent first experience on one of the planet’s most remote islands.