One of the finest ways to immerse yourself in local cultures while traveling is through dining—sampling regional fare and wine: mixing, drinking, and eating with the locals. In Galápagos, where wilderness reigns, we still find ways to mix the local flavors into our dining experience. One night we host an Ecuadorian buffet, complete with a whole roast pig, that our guests often cite on comment cards as their favorite meal of the expedition. And beginning soon, our Galápagos cocktail list will include tastes of the islands. The San Cristobal cocktail is finished with fresh Galápagos guanabana juice; and the Fernandina cocktail is blended with tamarind, a pod-like fruit found in abundance on the cocktail’s namesake island.
“At the Orangutan Care Center in Pangkalan Bun Borneo. Spent a day and a half amongst juvenile and infants with Dr. Galdikas, who has spent the last 43 years studying and developing strategies to save orangutans from going extinct. I will post many pictures of this remarkable place and these enchanting animals during the next days.” —Sven Lindblad
Sven’s recon mission to scout new expeditions for National Geographic Orion has moved from Indonesia to Borneo. He spent the last couple days with Dr Biruté Galdikas, one of Louis Leakey’s three proteges, the others being Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. While Fossey studied mountain gorillas and Goodall chimpanzes, Dr. Galdikas came to Borneo to study orangutans. She is widely recognized as a world authority on orangutans and is responsible for conducting some of the longest running research on the primates. Since 1971 she’s run Camp Leakey, an orangutan reserve and rescue center for primates displaced by the growing palm oil trade in Borneo. Sven visited with her for the last day and a half.
“Dr. Galdikas, the worlds foremost researcher and protector of Orangutan’s in the world at her Care Center. These lovely animals really relate to her in a profound way.” —Sven Lindblad
“Camp Leakey orangutans feeding on the porch of Dr. Galdikas’ house. Evidently a bunch had gotten inside while she was gone and ransacked the place. All in good fun as they can be quite rambunctious.” —Sven Lindblad
Sven’s recon mission to Borneo and Indonesia continues. He’s been able to email us a few images to share from this scouting expedition despite some Internet connectivity issues (one more thing our guests aboard National Geographic Orion won’t have to endure when we sail here).
“Walking amongst rice paddies in Bali is somehow one of the most peaceful of activities.”
“This is the culmination of a remarkable day leading up to several cremations in Bali.”
“Mutiara Laut. Forty-five meters of pure bliss. Our home for the next week to explore Komodo National Park and beyond.”
“Isabella’s first real dive off of Komodo Island. She’s a natural. Can’t wait to share some of the underwater photography. It’s been spectacular in so many ways.”
“One of the many manta rays at Manta Alley off of #Komodo Island. Incredible experience where we saw up to 6 at a time.”
“Children from the village of Kodi on the Island of Sumba. Scattered throughout the island are traditional villages mixed up with concrete modern structures. The beaches on Sumba are clearly some of the most beautiful in the world.”
“Looking out from Flores to surrounding islands.”
“Evening off of Flores Island. Lots of small boat traffic, many of which look like they could too over with a whisper of wind.”
“Last night on our boat. Now heading to great adventure in Borneo, so the cushy life is definitely behind us.”
Sven Lindblad is on a recon mission in Indonesia & Borneo scouting potential locations for new expeditions. He’s dragging his camera, video, and scuba gear on 11 flights over three weeks (something our future guests aboard National Geographic Orion won’t have to endure).
Right now he’s in Bali, where we currently offer our guests completing their Borneo expeditions a 2-day extension to explore the island’s picturesque beaches, verdant countryside, and rain forest trails.
And check back here, we’ll be sharing his photos, too!
“Gear, gear, gear — sometimes I’m just photographing stills or video or scuba diving — this time all of the above. Have no idea yet where all of this stuff will fit but fortunately few clothes are necessary. Thanks B&H Photo Video for getting me kitted out.”
“Day 2. About to leave Stockholm for leg 2 of 11. Picked up Isabella and Eric this morning. Next stop Bangkok. Here Isabella has last shot at two favorites. Spaghetti pomodoro and Facebook. Both will be gone soon.”
Super Diego, 91 years old, has been a resident at the Charles Darwin Research Station since 1977. He was taken from his homeland on Española Island during the scientific voyage of Allan Hancock aboard his yacht Velero III in 1933. Brought to the San Diego Zoo (hence his name), he became #21 in their collection of 100 Galápagos tortoises.
In the 1960’s the director of the nascent Charles Darwin Research Station found that the Española tortoises, slaughtered by the thousands by 18th-century whalers, were on the verge of extinction. To save this unique species two males and 12 females, the total number found, were brought to Research Station as a hopeful breeding colony, and a search for extant members of the species was launched.
The one male left of the tortoises from the Velero III expedition was identified as the only remaining source of fresh genes, and was sent to the Darwin Station by the Zoo. He arrived in Galápagos on August 8, 1977, 43 years after he was taken, and has proved to be a potent contributor to the successful breeding program returning his subspecies from the brink of extinction. It is estimated he has sired about 1,700 Española tortoises. Super Diego remains active and healthy.
Want to see Super Diego in person? Join us in Galápagos.
Whenever I open up an issue of National Geographic magazine, I immediately flip though the pages to preview the photographs. Though I later return to each article to read the text, the images are most powerful in telling the stories. One of the most exciting aspects of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is the opportunity to learn from the expert photographers associated with National Geographic.
I am a totally inexperienced photographer myself and, armed with a hand-me-down Canon Power Shot, was determined to gain some skills. At our pre-voyage workshop in April, naturalists and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic-certified photo instructors Michael S. Nolan and CT Ticknor presented a session on expedition photography that was very inspiring. I was fortunate enough to have both Michael and CT on my Lindblad-National Geographic expedition through Svalbard, where I continued my learning. They both have the technical skill to help the most sophisticated photographers but also the heart to help novices like me.
These following expedition photography tips are not my own and must be credited to Michael and CT. However, I will provide my interpretation and examples of my own photos taken on the expedition. Still daunted by settings and white balance, I shot in Auto mode but I did try and pay attention to composition and create images that would help me tell a story.
1. Take an establishing shot.
Each landing we made, I tried to take a photo that broadly captured a sense of place—usually with the ship in the background. The establishing shot provided useful context for the other photos. This is a shot of the beautiful isthmus at our last landing. The white sky and muted colors were otherworldly.
2. Leave space in the frame.
With the polar bears, it was temping just to zoom in and bulls-eye the animal in every frame. However, when I pulled back and left some space, I got powerful images of the bear in its vast landscape of pack ice.
3. Rule of thirds.
When shooting landscapes, think of the frame as divided in horizontal thirds and group elements by thirds instead of halves. So, in this shot of water and sky, instead of half water and half ice, I aimed for two-thirds water and one-third sky.
4. Light sets the mood.
Both the midnight sun and the silvery light in the high latitudes were like nothing I have ever seen. I looked for reflections and shadows. I tried to get up at different times, like this shot at 2 a.m., to capture the mood.
5. Get in close.
Though I did not have a powerful zoom lens, I did try and get in close where I could. One of the ways I could reasonably do this was by taking macro shots of the vegetation. I often lay down on the spongy tundra to get at ground level. Another way was to zoom in on a glacier face to capture the ice texture.
6. Use continuous shot to capture action.
Get to know your continuous shot setting! When capturing action, it is a great way to ensure you don’t miss the look of the arctic fox, the take-off of the guillemot, or in this case, the yawn of the polar bear!
7. Consider the angle of your shot.
I tried to get the ship itself and other guests in some of my shots not only for scale and to establish the scene but to find new angles. During a visit by a curious polar bear, I went up a deck to get this shot.
8. Layer your images.
I would often hear CT remind us of this when we were on hikes ashore. One easy way to accomplish this is to place something dominant in the foreground with an interesting background like this whale vertebra with hikers and the ship behind it.
9. Get a sense of scale.
It can be much more powerful to know how big or how small a subject. After photographing tiny vegetation for several days, it finally occurred to me to occasionally put my finger in the shot for scale! Another example: I took a lot of shots of the bird cliff but this one with the Zodiac in it offers scale.
10. “Don’t Point and Shoot — Aim and Create”
This is a motto that Michael and CT shared at our April meeting that resonated for me while on my expedition. I did not want to come back having snapped thousands of pictures but not really capturing the landscape, the wildlife, and my shipmates in a creative way. I am definitely more mindful of how to aim and create interesting images that tell a story. I am inspired to continue my own journey with photography. And one of these days, with a successful Arctic expedition behind me, I might even venture out of Auto mode.
Last week our naturalists aboard National Geographic Endeavour spotted an odd bird while preparing to load Zodiacs to cruise along the cliffs of Punta Pitt, San Cristobal Island. With its very pale head and neck coloration, unusual barring pattern on the wings and body, our naturalists knew it was not a normal Galápagos resident. As several of our expedition team are trained photographers with powerful camera lenses, two of our photo instructors were able to get good photographs of the bird. It has since been confirmed by the Charles Darwin Foundation as the first ever sighting of a Peruvian Booby in the Galápagos Islands. Common on the West Coast of South America and endemic to the Peruvian current, it is a mystery how or why precisely this solo bird ended up in the Galápagos Islands.
For World Oceans Day, Sven-Olof Lindblad, President & Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, wrote about his recent trip to Cuba’s national marine sanctuary.
On March 30 I plunged into the depths of the Gardens of the Queen National Marine Park in Cuba. I had some trepidation, as it had been a long time since I had donned a tank to spend time 60 or 70 feet below the surface. Maybe it’s like riding a bicycle or skiing after a hiatus; anyway, it felt like that.
What we saw within minutes was astounding, particularly in a Caribbean context. First came Caribbean reef sharks — plenty of them circling us with great curiosity, sleek and beautiful with piercing eyes. Then as we approached the sea bed, groupers — big black groupers and a few Goliath groupers, the biggest one weighing approximately 300 pounds.
They followed us around like puppies, seeming to enjoy the encounter as much as we did. I don’t recall ever seeing so many large fish at once. It was remarkable and beautiful and comforting that they were here under protection
I heard that Fidel Castro was an avid diver and that he was responsible for setting up this National Marine Park and went there often. Dictators with an environmental bent — now that’s probably as rare as sharks are becoming in much of the world.
During most of the 70s I lived in Kenya, much of the time in Tsavo East National Park, a 5,000 square mile terrain of mostly thick bush. Here resided the largest populations of both elephants and black rhino in all of Africa.
One day I went out to see how many rhino I could find. I found 59 that day; 8 years later I was in the same region for a week and found not one. They had been largely killed off for their horns which were prized in Yemen for dagger handles and in the Far East for potions.
It was that day when I realized that we, as humans, had far too much power in a world that needed balance of all living things.
Now fast forward three decades and the assault on natural systems and our atmosphere is beyond dangerous, immoral, and stupid.
The Ocean is, in much of the world, a dump. Our voracious appetite for fish, combined with our growing populations and governmental shortsightedness, points in the direction of global collapse. And perhaps the most disgusting of all practices is shark finning — cutting the fins off and throwing them back to die a slow, painful death.
Will we come to our senses before they are all gone? Will we develop the sense of urgency that clearly is needed to overt disaster?
Somehow I believe we will. Somehow I do not believe we will want to look into our children’s eyes before we depart this world, having destroyed their future.
So to the sharks and groupers of the Gardens of the Queen — you are fortunate that the human leader of your waters was a diver.
On Tuesday the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer once again made history when it became the first passenger vessel to call at Harlingen in the Netherlands. A large crowd of onlookers and the mayor, Roel Sluiter, turned out to watch the ship arrive and greet Captain Ben Lyons. He was presented with a port of call placard to commemorate the first visit by an expedition ship in the medieval port. About two-thirds of our guests chose to enter the town by Zodiac and explore its historic canals, while those who stayed aboard were met by a local news crew. See the footage here (the action starts at about 2:00 with the local pilot coming aboard Explorer).