Today we woke up to a slow, steady cruise as we approached a very special island in The Bahamas. After great anticipation by staff and guests, Conception Island was finally within close sight off the bow of National Geographic Sea Lion. Conception Island is situated within the Conception Island National Park, one of the 32 national parks in The Bahamas managed by The Bahamas National Trust.

I’ve been to most of the major islands in The Bahamas, and hundreds of little cays throughout the archipelago, and all these islands have their own unique features. However, I regard Conception Island as the most spectacular island in The Bahamas and the jewel in our national park system. This island represents what The Bahamas looked like before industrialization and human habitation. Sitting on its own underwater platform isolated in thousands of feet of water, this island was never connected to any other island in the Lucayan Sea.

As we dropped our anchor in the sandy bottom that surrounds the island, we were greeted by two curious bottlenose dolphins in the water below and a flock of tropic birds singing and gracing the skies above. This was the first time we’ve seen both of these species for the week. This was a feel good moment, and this was a sign that today was going to be a great one.

We wanted to get going as soon as we could, so we prepared for the first round of activities. One of the main natural features on Conception Island is a large mangrove creek on the southwestern side of the island. This shallow water creek is lined with red mangroves and shallow sand bars, making it great for exploration. We started our Conception Island adventure with kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and Zodiac tours in this creek.

We encountered an amazing amount of wildlife, especially young green turtles. We also saw southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, lemon sharks, and various species of birds including the endangered Piping plover, which spends its winters in The Bahamas.

We were all thrilled by the incredible amount of biodiversity in the creek. Afterwards we headed back to National Geographic Sea Lion for lunch with smiles on our face.

In the afternoon, we headed further north along the island to have our first real coral reef snorkeling experience. Conception Island is surrounded by healthy patch reefs that touch the surface of the clear, turquoise shallow water. During our snorkel we saw many different reef fish species, hard and soft corals, southern stingrays, and even nurse sharks. Snorkeling was perhaps the biggest thing that most of the guests and staff were looking forward to on this expedition.

Conception Island National Park surely lived up to all of the excitement and expectations that I created for it days before we even got here. It was all so good that we decided to stay put for the rest of the evening and night and spend the next full day here.