Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Field Dispatches

Soaring Over Peru’s Nazca Lines

As I stepped out onto the tarmac, my stomach twisted violently. Ahead of me the little airplane glinted in the sunlight, and the pilot stood beckoning me towards the cockpit – I’d be riding up front, with him. As I climbed in, my knees knocked into the electronic dashboard, and a paper bag hung ominously within grabbing distance. It was time to fly.

I was in Nazca, Peru, in a four passenger plane about to lift off to view the mysterious Nazca Lines. Created by the Nazca people, who thrived in southern Peru and northern Chile from 200 B.C. through 600 A.D., the Nazca Lines are a series of geoglyphs etched into the sand in one of the driest deserts on earth.

As we flew over the arid landscape, the plane banked sharply from side to side to give us the best views of the shapes scratched into the earth below. Covering an area of more than 200 square miles, the geoglyphs range in size from 80 feet to over 200 feet and represent an array of designs – a trapezoid, spider, monkey, hummingbird, tree, human hands and what looks uncannily like a modern-day astronaut. Due to their vast size, the shapes are only fully recognizable from the sky.

From a vantage point that the Nazca people were never able to use, it’s amazing to see the enormity of the project they undertook. Seeing their designs, still so vivid 2,000 years after they were created, brought the people of Nazca to life for me. I could see them, struggling in the blinding desert sun to create beautiful visions of birds and humanity that will last as long as the earth will let them.

The survival of these designs over time is a testament to the harshness of the atmosphere – no other culture has managed to thrive here and destroy what was once created so artfully – but it’s also a testament to the creativity and values of the lost Nazca people. It is easy to feel their sense of worship for their landscape, even from the sky.

Theories about the origins of the Nazca Lines run the gamut -astrological calendars, irrigation ditches, ceremonial prayer pathways and the infamous landing strips for alien spacecraft are some of the most popular.  Their true nature has always remained a mystery, but scientists are coming closer to understanding their purpose. As National Geographic reports, the answers can be found on the ground, rather than from the sky.

By April Darcy

Flamingos, Up Close and Personal

Check out this New York Times article about flamingos. According to flamingo expert Felicity Arency, “They are the coolest-looking bird in the world.” We see them often on our Galápagos expeditions. They are less regal than you might think. These elegant birds are noisy and sometimes combative. We love them anyway.

Author Richard Louv in the Arctic

Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, is in Arctic Svalbard with us aboard National Geographic Explorer. Today he sent us this dispatch that was posted as a Daily Expedition Report about his time in the Hinlopen Strait.

Midnight snow in driving wind and intimate fog. The ship moves through a portion of Hinlopen Strait, which runs about 110 miles northwest to southeast.

On the morning deck, the hardier souls look upward at one of Svalbard’s largest concentrations of nesting seabirds. Here, at Kapp Fanshawe on the high cliffs of Alkefjellet, the sheer walls of dolerite are alive. The climate is high Arctic, snow turning to sleet, ice forming on the beard of the Zodiac driver…

Read the rest of the Daily Expedition Report here.


Is It Still a Trip of a Lifetime If You’re Only 9 Years Old?

This week syndicated columnist Eileen Oginitz, a family travel expert and creator of the site, is aboard National Geographic Explorer cruising the Arctic. She teamed up with Evie, a 9-year-old guest also aboard the ship to file an expedition report on a day that included several polar bear sightings, a walrus and some fantastic photos.

Thinking about sharing the expedition of a lifetime with your kids or grandkids? Read their report to see was Evie had to say.


Paper to Pearls in Galapagos


Paper to Pearls is a grassroots organization that teaches people how to turn old magazine and brochures into beads used for necklaces and bracelets. This eco-chic jewelry achieved extraordinary success in Africa. It provides work for many people and turns what would normally be considered waste into a commodity sold to travelers.

Sarah Acot of Paper to Pearls joined Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic in Galápagos to train locals on how to make these paper pearls. In this video we received the other day, Sarah celebrates with her students following their training sessions by dancing with them to a little Acholi music.

Learn more about Paper to Pearls, see photos from Sarah’s Galápagos expedition, or plan a Galápagos trip of your own.

First Expedition of the Alaska Season

Alaska season is underway, and we’ve received our first Video Expedition Report back from the crew of National Geographic Sea Lion. Our guests visited Sitka a couple days ago taking in the sites at the Sitka National Historical Park. A couple guests from Alaska talk about exploring their home state with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

High Water Season in the Amazon

Amazon River

Every day we read expedition reports coming back from our Galápagos cruises and Alaska cruises, but this dispatch from our Amazon River cruise was too good not to be shared to a wider audience. It’s high-water season in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve right now, so these small waterways appear and allow our naturalists to go even deeper into the jungle. In this photo, one naturalist clears the path with a machete so they can venture even further upriver. See more photos and read the day’s full expedition report here.

National Geographic’s John Bredar in Galapagos

John Bredar, the filmmaker behind National Geographic’s first scripted feature film, Darwin’s Darkest Hour joined us in the Galápagos Islands to discuss film, nature, the Society and Lindblad Expeditions. Our on board Video Chronicler Rodrigo Moterani spent some time with him on Santa Cruz Island, where he shot this short video.

A Day on Isla Espanola in The Galapagos Islands

This video came back to us from
National Geographic Islander
in the Galápagos Islands last month. Our expedition leader talks about some of the activities we do on a Galápagos cruise and some of the wildlife we see. It offers a glimpse of the volcanic landscapes our guests hike through on some islands, and appropriately, a look at the underwater realm we spend much of our time exploring.

Botswana by Private Air, Ralph Lee Hopkins

Our Director of Expedition Photography, Ralph Lee Hopkins, filed this story and slideshow from Africa where he’s on a Desert & Deltas Safari. In association with Bushtracks Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions has been helping adventurous travelers discover the thrill of Africa by private plane for many years. If you’re interested, visit us online.
Our Land Rover slows to a crawl as we look for animal tracks in the deep sand. Jack pot, leopard tracks! "They’re fresh, and heading off road into the tall grass along the wash," exclaims our guide.
Navigating off-road it’s not long before we spot this magnificent predator. The leopard is a young female following the wash coming in and out of view through the trees and long grass. We catch up with her just as she climbs a tree. Relaxed and seemingly ignoring our presence, it’s a great photo opportunity as she starts to groom herself. Each safari vehicle take turns getting in position for a clean shot.
A leopard sighting on our first morning is a great way to start our Desert & Deltas Safari by private air. During the next 10 days we’ll visit three different camps including Mashatu Game Reserve, the legendary Okavango Delta, and the mythical plains of the Kalahari. As a bonus, we’ll also visit Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side, yet another new country for all of us.
Flying between camps in charter planes is the best way to travel in Africa, essentially eliminating any down time between camps. On travel days we do a game drive in the morning, return to camp for brunch, then fly to our next camp and head again out on a late afternoon game drive. The schedule couldn’t be more perfect.
Life in the bush has a rhythm all its own. We get up at first light, when the animals are waking up and are more active. And we stay out for the late light, maybe with a sundowner cocktail in hand, or following a leopard calling for his companions. And of course, during the middle of the day when it’s hot and the animals are hiding in the shade, we nap in our luxurious tents.
But life on safari is also about learning patience, and spending time with the animals simply watching their behavior and experiencing that primordial feeling of being among predators in the wild. And with some of the close encounters during our adventures, it really doesn’t matter what camera you have to capture images of a lifetime.