Fiordland is the largest national park in New Zealand, and it is included on the World Heritage List. Rain is prominent in this remote wilderness, and the temperate forest is pristine and lush. A morning Zodiac cruise through a fiord led us between granite rocks and steep hills entirely covered with endemic vegetation. The tree daisies stood out. It was not difficult to spot wildlife, including New Zealand fur seals, spotted shags, black-backed gulls, and as a bonus, Fiordland crested penguins. The penguins frolicked in the water or stood around on rocks, wondering about us as we visited their homeland. After this very productive show of species, it was time for an expertly prepared lunch, with an exciting variety like usual. Today’s menu was Mexican. In the meantime, the ship repositioned to nearby Observation Point. Captain Cook spent time here on his second voyage to New Zealand. Our afternoon Zodiac excursion led us to explore the spot, which is commemorated with a plaque. Baby forest trees are prolific, and we saw the rimu trees that Captain Cook used to brew beer. In the afternoon, National Geographic photographer Andrew and our own certified instructor Lauren led a photo session. Everyone had a chance to ask the experts how to improve their photos. As the ship moved north through the fiords in between sheltering islands, the sun came out. What a bonus in an area with plenty of rain! Today was another successful day, and we were able to see a lot of “firsts.”
National Geographic Orion
Kia Ora and greetings to all our readers. The Bay of Islands in the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, could not have been more beautiful as National Geographic Orion slipped in through her turquoise waters. A light chilly wind with classical sunshine made for a great day to experience this special place. The goal of today’s expedition was to immerse our guests in the tradition and culture of the New Zealand native peoples. Waitangi is one of the cultural centres for the Maori people, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maori chiefs of Aotearoa and the British sovereignty back in the 1800’s. Guests were introduced to the ancient war canoes, at least one hundred years old, as they were being prepared to sail on Waitangi Celebration Day on February 6th. Guests marvelled at the carved artistry and designs and were thrilled to be led onto the flagstaff grounds of Waitangi with National Geographic Orion in the background. An invitation was extended to all guests to enter the Wharenui (ceremonial house) to experience a performance presented by the Maori dancers. This was a great way to begin our voyage through the Pacific Ocean as we said farewell to New Zealand with fond memories of her people. Cheers!