Our Polynesian voyages are invariably packed with thrilling experiences—some carefully planned; others, discovered—as the alchemy of wind, weather, and team creativity make for some extraordinary moments. Below are just some of our favorites as described by guests and staff aboard National Geographic Orion. Read on then join us this year as we return to some of the most alluring and least accessible parts of the magnificent Pearl of the Pacific.
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Descend into an Otherworldly Grotto
“We were trekking on Makatea—a flat, exposed plateau covered with pisonia and pandanus, banyan and Polynesian plum trees, endemic Tuamotu palms, as well as beautiful ground orchids, tiger claw lilies, rosy periwinkles, and many other flowering plants. At a place called the Belvedere, we walked off the main road for an amazing view. As everyone recovered, I felt a reluctant resolve growing as the group self-motivated for a sweaty, anti-climactic trek back.
To spark their excitement again, I decided to lead the group down a steep road to a dark, cave-like grotto. Inside, we discovered a pool of incredibly clear, cold freshwater under a ceiling festooned with stalactites. It was a true slice of paradise after our hot, steamy walk, and everybody jubilantly took a dip. The more intrepid of us swam through a narrow opening at the rear of the grotto and found an awesome hidden cave system.”
—Mike Greenfelder, Naturalist and Certified Photo Instructor
Enjoy Exceptional Hospitality
“The hospitality aboard National Geographic Orion is superb. The dining is amazing, and the graciousness follows you right off the ship. One of my favorite moments on the trip was when we anchored to go ashore at a lovely motu, the untouched tropical island of my dreams…and we arrived to find the team had set up a bar tent with cocktails and cold drinks…we had a little social and then strolled off to beachcomb with a drink in hand. Such a nice touch—and typical.”
—Amy H., Guest
Experience the Pure Blue of the Pacific
“We were all settled down for an uneventful day at sea as National Geographic Orion headed to the next itinerary point. Suddenly, the ship’s engine quits—no familiar rumble, just silence. Our Expedition Leader announces over the PA system: "Ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve probably realized, the Captain has turned off the ship’s engine. There’s nothing wrong. In fact, conditions are ideal, so we’d like to invite you to enjoy an open ocean swim."
It was incredible. The expedition team had positioned the swim platform between two Zodiacs off the marina deck for those who wanted easy water access, and they were allowing the bolder swimmers to dive from the deck. We were in the middle of the South Pacific—in 6,000 feet of water, with 300 feet of clear visibility into the purest blue…it was truly awesome to experience that immensity. Nearly every guest told me it was the most thrilling ocean experience they’d ever had.”
—Nicole T., Lindblad Expedition Developer
Drifting Over Sharks and Incredible Undersea Life
“I’d never experienced a drift snorkel before. It was an amazing experience! The expedition team took us out in Zodiacs, aligning us in the passage with the current moving swiftly over the reef and into shore (carefully plotted so we wouldn’t get swept out to sea!) I didn’t have to do a thing but flow along, seeing the kind of coral reef species that we consistently saw on our snorkeling outings—BUT with a bonus: friendly sharks! Literally hundreds of sharks of various sizes (our divemaster told us we’d seen at least three different species) were swimming against the current so gracefully—as we, above them, gripped by the current, passed by really fast. It was so exciting!”
—Jeff N., Guest
Come Face-to-Face with History
“Seeing the imposing row of Ahu Tongariki against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean was a dream come true. But, as we learned, they weren’t always standing in serried rank. In late May of 1960 an earthquake—9.5 on the Richter scale—produced a tsunami that hit Tongariki directly, pushing some of the statues miles inland. While we explored the site in small groups accompanied by expert local guides, at the end, archeologist Claudio Cristino, featured in many articles about this cultural disaster, gathered the Lindblad Expeditions guests together for a fascinating account. From the donation of the crane, to analyzing pre-1960s photographs to understand the placement of the original moai, and then mapping out the toppled moai in order to lift them and restore the altar…we felt so intimately involved with the story. As one guest joked: any closer and we would have been hearing it directly from the Easter Islanders who built them. Doesn’t get much better than that!” —Robert C., Guest
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