What makes an island beautiful? Is it the biodiversity on land, the biodiversity in the water, or the landscapes?

For Conception Island, it is all three, and for the guests on board National Geographic Sea Lion, this incredible island was on the horizon after a calm crossing from Exuma to start another Bahamas expedition. Many of us quickly gathered on the bow of the ship to watch as Captain Leader skillfully inched us closer and closer to our anchorage.

We quickly learned that we weren’t the only ones taking advantage of this spectacular weather, as we met several other boats anchored off the northwestern side of Conception Island. Established in 1978, Conception Island National Park was created to protect pristine Conception Island and its surrounding waters. The park protects important habitats for nesting seabirds, like the white-tailed tropicbirds that greeted the ship upon our arrival. The park also protects vital coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove habitats; all play a critical role in the environment and for the people of the Bahamas.

We started our day with briefings, snorkel gear distribution, and a photo talk by the on board photo instructor. Shortly after, we headed ashore for a hike across the island and up some gorgeous sandstone cliffs for our first dip in the clear azure waters of this archipelago. During this time, I shared about the history and geography of the island.

After lunch, we returned to the island for our first snorkel, and the experience surely made a good first impression. Amongst the reefs, we saw several large spiny lobsters, great barracudas, and tons of colorful fish, including angelfish and parrotfish. We also observed an impressive small stand of elkhorn coral and a ‘garden of sea fans!’

After this snorkel, we returned to the ship for cocktail hour and dinner under the stars!