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Scouting the South Pacific: Highlights from Our Polynesian Reconnaissance

Founder and co-chair of the board Sven Lindblad has traveled a lot in his life and he views that as a blessing. "There are certain places I go back to over and over because I love being there and in order to learn more. French Polynesia is one of those places," he explains. Get Inspired By Photos, Videos, Webinars, Stories, And Exclusive Offers. Sign Up

Although he first visited these islands in the 1980s, he has been back each year for the past six years, most recently in May and June 2022 when he and his wife Kristin assembled a variety of scientists, anthropologists, and naturalists to explore different parts of this vast territory. "We covered a lot—2,800 nautical miles and over two dozen islands in about six weeks, but it was still only a fraction of the territory."

Here, discover a selection of gorgeous images taken by Sven and Kristin that offer a sneak peek of adventures to come.

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"To refer to these islands as paradise is not hyberbole but an understatement," says Sven. "And that’s true not only above the sea but below." In and around most of the islands the undersea is healthy with vibrant coral reefs and abundant and diverse marine life from schools of fish to rays, reef sharks, eels, giant clams, and much more.

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Graceful manta rays can be spotted throughout the islands of Polynesia, but they are especially synonymous with the remote and rugged Marquesas, one of the island chains Sven focused his explorations on. It is one of the few places in the world where you can see both species, the reef manta ray and the giant oceanic manta ray.

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French Polynesia stretches east to west further than all of Europe. There are 118 islands from high granite to atoll, many still uninhabited. "But where there are people, the culture is remarkably intact," says Sven. "Approximately 37 percent speak Tahitian as their main language and their welcoming nature is palpable."

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A local church stands among palm trees, an idyllic setting for parishioners to worship. Depending on timing, guests of Lindblad-National Geographic are sometimes invited to experience a Sunday service with the entire community.

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If you value sheer beauty, snorkeling on spectacular reefs, engaging with lovely, friendly people and avoiding crowds and traffic, French Polynesia is definitely for you.

Sven Lindblad

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Although French Polynesia offers magical moments like this violet sky at sunset, relatively few people visit here. Most Americans who do come are primarily drawn to Bora Bora, which gained notoriety in 1970 after creating one of the first hotels with overwater bungalows. "I ask random people if they have heard of French Polynesia and most say 'no'," says Sven. "Then I ask if they have heard of Bora Bora and they say 'of course.' It's strange, this country whose EEZ is over 4.5 million square kilometers is mostly known for just one or two islands."

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From riveting ceremonial sites nestled within lush rainforests to secluded atolls, hidden grottos, and astonishing undersea creatures, our Polynesian expeditions immerse guests in a rarely-seen side of these otherworldly islands. This recon will help expand our offerings in the region with new islands, new opportunities and new discoveries.

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So as Sven says, "there’s really no reason whatsoever that you shouldn’t seriously consider exploring French Polynesia. And if you do, doing so by ship is definitely a wonderful way to do so."

Marquesas Island Landscape.JPG