Ka Ohanui, or greetings and welcome to the smallest island of the Marquesas Archipelago. Today, National Geographic Orion arrived at the village of Vaitahu on the island of Tahuata. We were greeted with pouring rain, but this did not dampen the spirits of our guests as they rode ashore in faithful Zodiacs to attend a Sunday mass with the singing village folk.

Avid birders braved the conditions in true expedition mode and ventured into the valley with ornithologist extraordinaire Santiago Imberti in search of the endemic Marquesan kingfisher, known to the Marquesas as the “Pahi.” They nailed it and spotted the majestic bird.

Tahuata is known for its coconut oil fragrances, ranging from blends of tiare, ylang ylang, vanilla, and frangipani. The afternoon experience for our fortunate guests included a cultural connection with the beautiful people of the village of Hapatoni. This small village of around 129 adults and children is full of people with big, generous hearts. I have visited this village many times and am always moved by their sincere and welcoming songs and dance. Their joy and the spirit of their cheers and drums make for an amazing experience as guests are welcomed along the shore. It was equally priceless to observe our guests’ smiles and heartfelt joy. They were quick to express appreciation, as they could feel that the spirit and culture of this special place are priceless. This is a place where guests experience the magic of true culture and a unique spirit.