This morning found National Geographic Orion in the Torres Islands, the northernmost island group of Vanuatu.  We anchored off the coast of Lo, and the expedition team sprang into action to prepare for snorkel operations.  This was our first opportunity to deploy the snorkel platform, a large and secure metal shelf suspended between Zodiacs anchored at the snorkel site.  This ingenious structure makes it easy for snorkelers to enter and exit the water, without a need for ladders. 

Our snorkelers were soon in the water, enjoying perfect conditions – warm and calm, with extraordinary visibility. Meanwhile, the guests who preferred to stay dry were able to observe the coral reef from the comfort of National Geographic Orion’s glass-bottomed Zodiac.  The reef had an abundance of massive stony corals, indicating that the area is subject to periodic strong swells. A variety of butterflyfish, damsels, surgeonfish, and parrotfish provided a wonderful introduction to the diversity of reef fish.  The natural attractions weren’t only in the sea: from time to time, huge flying fox fruit bats winged slowly along the coastline.

Once all were back aboard, it was time for lunch as National Geographic Orion set sail for the Solomon Islands.  In the afternoon, naturalist Mike Greenfelder gave a great presentation on the biology of coral reefs, and the guests then went out on deck to enjoy the glassy seas, watch for flying fish, and admire the rainbow-tinted clouds.  The appearance of a pod of beaked whales in front of the golden sunset completed our unforgettable day in the South Pacific.