As dawn broke this morning, National Geographic Orion approached the island of Ra'iatea via a pass through the barrier reef. First up was a visit to Marae Taputapuatea, designated as a World Heritage Site. This cultural site on the coast was fascinating, with the added bonus of a thirty-minute hike to a viewpoint above the site. In the afternoon, we visited a privately owned motu (small coral island) near the island of Taha’a. We had the opportunity to snorkel and enjoyed plenty of time for relaxation amongst the coconut trees–but NOT beneath them! Coconut trees are far more dangerous than anything one might encounter in the ocean in French Polynesia!
National Geographic Resolution
Entering the pass of an atoll in French Polynesia is always a beautiful way to start the day. This morning we arrived at Tahanea, a small island with no permanent population. The water here is some of the clearest our staff have ever seen in this region. With winds and currents to contend with, our divers found a beautiful site to spend some time underwater. They enjoyed a healthy coral reef, some sharks, and large fish. On their way back to the ship they even found some manta rays and jumped in the water to snorkel with them. The rest of us split into two groups: the hikers and the swimmers. The hike ashore was full of birds and plants to observe and photograph. The swimmers launched from the snorkel platform into crystal water where they poked around the coral heads and grew even more comfortable swimming with reef sharks. We had an afternoon aboard. We began with a presentation by our guest speaker Tom Ritchie about the most useful plants in Polynesia. At tea time, the hotel team put out 13 different sweet treats, not to mention the sandwiches and fruit. Before recap, undersea specialist James Hyde gave us a condensed history of the natural world—starting with the big bang! Tomorrow will be a busy day for us as we transit to some islands we have never visited before. So it’s quiet on board this evening as we all head to bed to rest up for whatever tomorrow has in store.