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Larantuka, Indonesia

The warmth and humidity of Indonesia could definitely be felt as we ventured outside to have breakfast on deck of the National Geographic Orion this morning.  As we navigated between lush mountains and extinct volcanoes to find our anchorage, local fishermen passed close by in their colorful wood-planked boats in order to get a closer look at their visitors for the day.  After a brief clearance from the local authorities, the Zodiacs were dropped and we were on our way for yet another adventure in this capital city on the island of Flores.  Upon reaching the dock it was obvious that Larantuka is a central hub for this area that was once a colony of Portugal for 300 years.  The hustle and bustle was impossible to ignore and almost overwhelming with motorbikes, buses, cars and people everywhere.  Making our way through the crowds, we managed to find our local guides and be on our way to a local market. 

The market was full of almost anything and everything one could possibly need, and plenty of things that one probably wouldn’t as well.

Aug 21, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Dili: Timor Leste

We were full of excited anticipation as National Geographic Orion approached the capital city of East Timor, Dili. Many of us were on the outer decks to witness the berthing procedure, as we came alongside the Port of Dili. Dili lies on the northern coast of Timor Island, the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is the seat of the administration of the district of Dili, which is the administrative entity of the area and includes the island of Atauro and some cities close to Dili city. Dili is a melting pot of the different ethnic groups of East Timor, due partly to the internal migration of young men from around the country in search of work.

Dili was settled about 1520 by the Portuguese, who made it the capital of Portuguese Timor in 1769.

Aug 20, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Jaco Island

After missing our snorkel stop at Rowley Shoals we couldn’t wait for our scheduled snorkel stop at Jaco Island, and we weren’t disappointed, with what could be best described as the perfect day. After a leisurely breakfast we packed our snorkel gear and headed for the beach. It was a sunny day with light winds and as we approached the white sandy beach we could see the coral reef beneath the crystal clear water. The island was shaded by huge cassarina trees, a great place to put on the snorkel gear and get in clear cool water.

There was an abundance of fish in all sorts of colors, we even saw Nemo hiding amongst a sea anemone, there was also plenty of hard and soft corals to keep us amused as we snaked our way in between them, but careful not to touch them as some are poisonous and others are very sharp.

Aug 19, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Day at Sea

The open ocean has a unique effect. In a way it is a no man’s land, just space between where you have been and where you are going, but it is so much more than that. For the countless species, big and small, deep and shallow, that call it home, our destinations we travel between represent the boundaries of their world that we are merely passing through. As we leave the sunburned rocks and marsupials of Western Australia for the welcoming (and swimmable!) waters and coral reefs of the Spice Islands, flying fish streak out like silver darts in front of our bow. Very briefly a solitary cloud contemplates peaking over the horizon but is dissuaded by the severe lack of company that it would find. In a way we are travelling back in time, retracing the reverse voyage of the people that first crossed this significant gap of water to populate the isolated island continent. Albeit in considerably more lavish style than was available those tens of thousands of years ago.

After the sun has set on a full day of presentations, rejuvenating naps, and delicious meals, the evening program billions of years in the making is out on the darkened top deck.

Aug 18, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Wyndham, Kimberley

This year marks the 130th anniversary of the port town of Wyndham that was first established in 1884.  The town was named after Lady Broome’s son, George Wyndham.  The town blossomed when gold was discovered in Halls Creek.

In 1885 the first track opened and approximately 5,000 gold miners passed through Wyndham during the gold rush.

Aug 17, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Kimberley: King George River

This morning we awoke to a spectacular Kimberley sunrise where Mother Nature created a few new colors. She also produced a quite breezy day, just enough to keep the temperature down. Our intrepid adventurers boarded the Zodiacs at 7:00 a.m. and made our way across a choppy Koolama Bay to the mouth of the King George River.

As our flotilla of Zodiacs snaked its way along the river, we saw the stunning beauty of the gorge and the natural colours of the sandstone, exposed by the erosion taking place relentlessly.

Aug 16, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Bigge Island

What an uplifting and stunning day at The Kimberley coast. Today we had the opportunity to visit Bigge Island, a place of significance for the Aboriginal culture and rock art. This rugged island holds many mysteries and secrets and also many unanswered questions. This is where we can contemplate the intriguing Wandjina style of rock art. We were able to see a representation of the Kaiara, or Sea Wandjina, a very powerful mystical entity for the aboriginal culture of this region. Wandjinas are considered to be the creators of human descendants, the seas, the land and laws, and are still able to exert their powers. The Wandjinas are intrinsically linked to the mythological life, social organization and seasonal movements of Indigenous Kimberley people. This particular Kaiara was exceptionally large in size, painted with red ocher and grooved eyes that seemed to watch every move in this important ceremonial and meeting ground. With its distinctive halo headdress representing the monsoon cumulous clouds, Kaiara is able to wield destructive power, controlling floods, cyclones and lightning. This site is also home to some controversial rock art. What makes these paintings so fascinating is the depiction of sailing ships and a man with European features who appears to be smoking pipes and sitting on small row boats. There is an ongoing debate about these notorious paintings, as no one knows for sure, who are the visitors and where did they come from. It has been suggested they could be Dutch sailors and others have suggested the images depict the arrival of Chinese ships. Or maybe they could be related to Macassans? This is a mystery still to be solved. After a delicious lunch savored on deck, it was time to head to another mysterious tour! This time we boarded our Zodiacs without knowing our destination… and what a delightful surprise!

The expedition and hotel management team were waiting for us in a spectacular hidden tidal cave! Surrounded by turquoise waters, hidden in a little bay and protected from the wind, the cave performs as an amazing amphitheater with perfect acoustic conditions.

Aug 15, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Camden Sound, Kimberley

Early this morning the National Geographic Orion sailed into Camden Sound. There is no road access and the nearest town is Kalumburu, 268 kilometers to the east. Camden Sound is bounded by the Bonaparte Archipelago to the east, the Buccaneer Archipelago to the west, and Montgomery Reef to the south. This area has received worldwide recognition as a crucial breeding and calving area for humpback whales. With almost 30,000 individuals, it is considered to be the single largest humpback population in the world.

Humpback whales dotted the area.

Aug 14, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Freshwater Cove

It would be easy to think of this landscape as a desert, to forget about the months of constant rain that deluge these now dry shores. Pandanus screw palms and eucalyptus trees punctuate the deceptively welcomingly appearing spinifex tufts that thrive atop the red sandstone. The building morning heat is delightfully diminished by gusts of cool wind and the always welcome breeze that riding in a Zodiac to a tropical sandy beach brings. The tidal range all over the Kimberely is significant, boasting some of the largest tides on the planet, augmented even more with recent occurrence of a super moon, and Freshwater Cove is no exception. At low tide our arrival on the beach provides a slightly longer hike than the one planned to visit the nearby cave paintings. 

We are greeted by the indigenous landowners that guide us to these images which can be conservatively dated to be over 40,000 years old.

Aug 13, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

At Sea, Western Australia

At sunrise the National Geographic Orion was sailing toward the remote Kimberley region on the western coast of Australia. Today we savored a relaxing day at sea. 

One of the unique qualities of an expedition is that it illuminates the treasures of the places our itinerary includes.

Aug 12, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

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Please note: All Daily Expedition Reports (DER's) are posted Monday-Friday, during normal business hours.