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Owa Raha (Santa Ana) Island, Solomon Islands

The early morning rain cleared as we ate our breakfast. A beautiful sunny day was beginning by the time we went ashore at Owa Raja, the island in the southern Solomons that had been named Santa Ana by Spanish explorers. The Zodiacs carried us in through a wide channel in the fringing reef where small breakers were curling over the coral and the water beneath our boats changed from the glorious royal blue of the deeps to the glowing turquoise of the shallow lagoon.  Upon landing we were treated to a typical Melanesian “threat welcome. Read More>

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

Santa Cruz Island

In the morning we landed at Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos located on Santa Cruz Island.   Here we explored the Charles Darwin Research Station, the breeding center and visited the giant tortoises.  Some of these majestic reptiles were just hatchlings, born here as part of the restoration programs carried out by the Galapagos National Park Service. Eventually all of these little creatures will be repatriated to their home islands where they will spend the rest of their lives. We also learned about all the projects that are currently happening within the National Park. After our visit, we took buses and headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz. Read More>

Nov 12, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

New Island & Carcass Island in the Falklands

It is springtime in the Falkland Islands, a time of renewal and regeneration. Those of us from temperate climes think of tiny, tender green leaves and the delightful songs of birds. But it is just a little different here on the edge of the “furious fifties.” Even on a calm day, the winds blow and trees are sorely lacking except where planted to shelter tidy houses. Tough and low is the rule for shrubs and shorter yet are the wildflowers that hug the ground or hide in protected places. Waves of golden yellow splash across the hillsides of settled islets and tickle our noses with the fragrance of coconut oil. Beauty hides the prickly beast known as gorse, a hardy windbreak and natural fence, lovely but an invader none-the-less, imported long ago by early farmers.  It was maybe the birds that dominated our day, both in numbers and diversity. Read More>

Nov 12, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Floreana Island

The island we visited today was Floreana, one of the four inhabited Islands and the first one to be officially colonized by Ecuadorians when Ecuador took possession of the Islands in 1832. This Island is extraordinary, with a rich human history, a variety of ecosystems and unique species. Read More>

Nov 11, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

The contested waters

We have left Argentina for one of the last bits of the once far-reaching British Empire—the Falklands. The winds were strong as we left South America, but then dissipated by the afternoon to breezes. The winds helped to push us away from the continent and on east towards the low flung hills of the Falklands. These islands have been the source of much bickering among the French, English, and Argentines over the centuries. This culminated in the Falkland conflict of 1982. We have heard the Argentine version of events and soon we will hear the Falklanders take on what happened. Our day at sea began with introductions to the ships natural history staff. Read More>

Nov 11, 2014 National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica

Santa Cruz Island

The Galapagos Islands attractions surprise us as days pass by, and today we had another taste of it by visiting the center of the archipelago.  Santa Cruz Island is one of the most symbolic of all islands we find in the Galapagos, and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station was the best way to begin our day’s journey.  The first stop of the visit was to enjoy and learn about the baby tortoises.  We got a chance to witness how the breeding program starts with very little baby tortoises that in the future will become tremendously big. Further into the visit, we had the opportunity to seeing the adults; particularly those of Española Island.  The Española breeding program is consider one of the most successful restoration projects of the research station, as most of the population has been reinstated; but the program would not have been so effective without a very important inhabitant: Diego from the San Diego zoo. Read More>

Nov 11, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

 As we were at sea this morning among the Solomon Islands Archipelago, it proved an ideal time and place to observe America’s Veteran’s Day.  At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, while sailing in Iron Bottom Sound, we paid tribute to all Allied war veterans.  Onboard were several veterans, including ex-servicemen from U.S., Australian, and New Zealand armed forces.  One of these veterans actually served in the U.S. military here on Guadalcanal in 1943.  After some words and a moment of silence, a wreath was tossed into the waters of Iron Bottom Sound, so named for the many war ships, including those belonging to Japanese, American, and Australian combatants that now rest on the bottom.   By lunchtime, we were berthed in Honiara, the main city of Guadalcanal and capital of the Solomon Islands. Read More>

Nov 11, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Española Island

We begin our journey early on Española Island with a pre-breakfast kayak along the coast. During this time of year the days usually start with some grey cloud cover and this morning is no exception, however the turquoise waters that surround us exude an awakening energy. Pacific green sea turtles drift by as they surface for a breath of fresh air and we hear an occasional bark from a distant sea lion. Along the coast we encounter a beach that is packed with Galapagos sea lions apparently resting after an extensive foraging run. The coast appears with modest vegetation due to the fact that we are at the peak of our “dry” season. Kayakers return to a hearty breakfast as the rest of the guests aboard the National Geographic Islander begin to stir. After breakfast, all obtain snorkeling gear and we proceed to explore the undersea world of our oldest island here in the Galapagos. Deep water snorkelers are treated to a kaleidoscope of colors on a wall of Gardner Island with schools of razor surgeon fish feeding on the shallow rocky reef. An occasional sea lion cruises by considering whether or not we are agile enough to play. Our eventual destination this morning brings us to Gardner Bay beach. Being one of our oldest islands in the archipelago, there has been sufficient time for buildup of a coralline sand beach and a shallow intertidal zone. The Española mockingbirds fly and run up to us as we land on this beach.  Between their squawks and bleats they are looking for sustenance in the form of insects, which we happen not to have. The equatorial sun finally makes a strong appearance giving us a blue sky and crystalline azure waters.   After a short navigation we arrive to Suarez Point on the western area of this relatively small island. Read More>

Nov 10, 2014 National Geographic Islander in Galápagos

At sea to the Solomon Islands

Our journey through Melanesia will now take us 600 miles across the Solomon Sea from Papua New Guinea to our next landfall at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands tomorrow. A day at sea is an excellent chance to relax and reflect on the past few days in Papua New Guinea. While recognizing that in the time available we can only have scratched at the surface of this large and remarkably diverse country, we have enjoyed some remarkable opportunities to witness a culture that is entering the 21st century while still strongly linked to their traditions.  It is also humbling to realize that today we can make the 600 mile journey in comfort with all the modern amenities of the National Geographic Orion. Read More>

Nov 10, 2014 National Geographic Orion in Pacific Islands & Australia

Floreana Island

Floreana is also known as the island of mysteries due to some extraordinary events that happened here in the 1930s, when the lives of inhabitants ended in death and tragedy under unclear circumstances.  An early wakeup gave us the opportunity to enjoy sunrise, followed by a moderately paced walk on an easy trail that goes right through a brackish water lagoon, which is home to several different kinds of birds. Read More>

Nov 10, 2014 National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

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