Morning found National Geographic Orion sailing under clear skies and mild winds. Thanks to Captain Alex and Expedition Leader Leah, we had successfully kept ahead of the strong gales and were now in the shelter of the Queen Charlotte Sound. After breakfast, we enjoyed a talk by Pepper Trail entitled, "The Once (and Future?) Continent of Birds: Endemic Birds of New Zealand." Afterward, everyone headed to the outer decks to observe our passage up the scenic Picton Channel.
The expedition team prepared for our unexpected day in Picton with characteristic resourcefulness, and no less than five tour options were available for our guests. All of these played out under beautiful weather conditions: warm temperatures and blue skies.
This being the Marlborough region, the home of New Zealand's most celebrated wines, three of the five tours included a wine-tasting component. There was a guided bike tour through lovely country scenery with stops at three wineries to sample some outstanding Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. Another featured a visit to the Omaka Heritage Aviation Centre, home of one of the world's largest collections of vintage World War I aircraft. This included a viewing of Dangerous Skies, a breathtaking documentary by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) on the battle of Stalingrad in World War II. But let's not forget the wine! The aviation tour concluded with wine tasting and delicious chocolate truffles and other treats at Makana Confections.
The third tour kept its focus firmly on wine, with visits and tastings at three wineries. The tour was led by an expert guide who provided a wealth of information on the history and unique characteristics of the Marlborough wine region.
For those who were able to resist the call of the grape, we offered two water-based options. The first was a visit to the Paua (abalone) Pearl Farm on Arapawa Island. The Arapawa Seafarms are dedicated to producing cultured blue paua pearls, and owners Mike and Antonia Radon explained the fascinating process to our guests. Many guests took advantage of the opportunity to buy custom blue pearl jewelry - truly a unique memento.
Our final group enjoyed a guided kayaking adventure on the calm waters of Ngakuta Bay. The bay is surrounded by beautiful verdant hills and shelters many hidden coves with pristine beaches. It was truly a perfect way to experience the tranquility of New Zealand's wild Queen Charlotte Sound.
With everyone back on board after an unforgettable day, National Geographic Orion set sail for Abel Tasman Park and our next adventures.