We had to be very patient today to catch our first glimpse of the Marquesas Islands. Winds and swells delayed our arrival in Nuku Hiva. In the meantime, guests enjoyed time on Deck 6 looking for wildlife. Tropicbirds and petrels soared through the sky, and flying fish jumped out of the water to escape their predators.

Once we approached the island, the impressive landscape of Nuku Hiva overwhelmed every single person onboard: steep cliffs rose out of the ocean, and spectacular rock formations towered over the tiny village of Hatiheu.

From far away, our guests could hear the traditional welcome song, “Mave mai”. All-terrain vehicles waited on the pier to take the first group, the “birders,” high up in the valley. They were looking for the endemic Upe, one of the biggest pigeons in the world. And there they spotted not one, not two, but eight imperial pigeons sitting in one single tree. What a fantastic sight!

The second group of guests, the hikers, enjoyed a walk up to the archaeological site of Kamuihei. En route, they passed through the lovely village. Hibiscus flowers in many different shapes and colors ornament the street.

Hatiheu is like an open-air museum. Numerous paepae, stone platforms for house foundations, and tohua, ceremonial sites, are found throughout the valley. A gigantic banyan tree protects the most sacred area, the me’ae I’ipoka. Hatiheu also has the best known petroglyph boulders in the Marquesas Islands. Archaeologists studied these rock engravings over many years. Besides human figures and faces, many boulders show animals like dogs, fish, and turtles.

After this archaeological exploration, we all walked down to Hikokua, an ancient festival place in the valley. As in the old days, a group of young Marquesan men and women entertained guests with songs and dances. The most famous Marquesan dance is the “pig dance.” The men imitate the grunting of this animal and simulate daily activities such as making copra, taking a shower, or fishing in a canoe. As Marquesan people like to share their culture with all visitors, they invited guests from National Geographic Orion to join them. Fun on all fronts!

After these activities, guests appreciated a fruit tasting at Yvonne’s Restaurant in the village. Delicious mangos, papayas, pineapples, bananas, watermelons, and freshly squeezed lemonade contributed to our excellent first experience on one of the planet’s most remote islands.