The Lindblad fleet is 15 expedition ships sailing to the planet’s wildest and most interesting places, with the luxury of comfort and outfitted with tools to explore.
Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic values the ability to reach the planet’s wildest and most remote places safely with top experts and the luxury of comfort while making community and insight the center of expedition life.
To achieve this, ships in the Lindblad fleet are designed by the people who will use them. The captains who will take them deep into the ice. The veteran expedition leader who designed Zodiac loading platforms to get guests off the ship and exploring twice as quickly. The undersea specialists and divemasters who dive and launch ROVs on your behalf to capture video in polar sites and outfit guests for exploring tropical coral reefs. The chefs who create incredible meals as the ship sails to remote regions far from replenishment. By the photographers and naturalists who lead Recap in the ships’ lounges. To Sven Lindblad himself, whose ‘Circle of Truth’ podium is at the center of the lounge and the heart of the expedition community.
Each ship in the Lindblad fleet is either purpose built to explore a region of the planet or leased on a basis of what they can add to the expedition experience. Just as a restaurant will design its kitchen based on a menu, the ship is tailored to exploring the planet’s most foreboding places in extreme comfort. Some are designed to navigate shallow rivers and deploy narrow skiffs to explore flooded forests. Others tailored to sailing along wild coasts and venturing into fast-moving, shallow channels where whales gather seasonally to feed. And yet others are made to go far into the planet’s polar regions in safety and comfort without resupplying fuel or provisions for weeks on end.
Meet the fleet
The Lindblad fleet now stands at 14 ships, soon to be 15 when the National Geographic Resolution sails. When National Geographic Resolution joins the fleet she and her sister ship, National Geographic Endurance, will have the highest ice-class rating of any expedition ship, yet again opening new opportunities for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic to explore wild places few if any humans before them have seen.
After leaving South America behind and traveling for a day to the Falklands, we awoke off the islands feeling some uncertainty, much like the rest of the world. What would our future hold? We were all healthy onboard and in good spirits, so when the news came that we couldn’t disembark immediately, it was met with mixed reactions. It was determined that we would need to wait a few days (about five) until we reached a safe quarantine since our last contact with new people. At first, this seemed harsh. But in reality, it was probably better for everyone involved. We wanted to know we were all healthy, and we didn’t want to spread anything as we dispersed. And, being on board a healthy ship is a great thing. We not only had endless food, drink (wine!), and TOILET PAPER! We were onboard
National Geographic Orion
! The crew were ready to spoil us like always, and the staff were ready to step up with a series of presentations and activities.
For the first few days, we were cruising back and forth on the calm, leeward side of the islands. Albatross and other seabirds surrounded the ship continuously and Peale’s dolphins repeatedly came in to bow ride.
We even encountered a pod of killer whales and spent quality time with these top predators. Our sister ship,
National Geographic Explorer
, also provided a fun interlude. After disembarking their guests, they were able to make a supply run to us for essentials. They passed off some fruits and vegetables, some technical engine equipment, and an entire Zodiac of TOILET PAPER! I’m not sure if it was necessary or a great joke, but something we all still talk about!
Yes, we were isolating ourselves from the rest of the world, but not from each other. We could still do whatever we wanted, just onboard. Many became “Nolanites,” circling the upper deck getting exercise while enjoying some fine weather. Full gourmet dinners continued, cocktail hour was even more popular, and many guests formed their own groups doing various things they love. We then anchored for a few days in a sheltered bay and had many presentations to entertain ourselves and learn even more about the region.
As our time passed, Lindblad Expeditions was constantly updating us and planning. We were ready, our time had come, and then the weather threw us a curveball. Heavy winds were coming, and the Falklands closed the airport for a day. The office scrambled again, rebooking not only charter flights, but flights for every guest and staff to their homes. And then, finally, it came together. A charter flight to Santiago, Chile, where we said goodbye to some of our fellow shipmates from South America. Then onto a Boeing 767 Dreamliner, chartered back to Miami. It was a shock to all of us, who were used to socializing in fun, close groups onboard, to reach the ghostly airport of Miami where no one was approaching anyone. From there, we dispersed and headed home.
We left behind
National Geographic Orion
. The crew are still there. They will be there for awhile, navigating in this new uncertainty. My thoughts are with them. They showed us all much love and great hospitality. I know that myself and quite a few others certainly considered staying onboard. Destination…unknown? But, being
National Geographic Orion
, I am sure they are having fun right now and enjoying themselves very much.
Today we left South America behind and enjoyed following seas and wind on our way to the Falkland Islands. After spending the entirety of our voyage with land in sight, it was refreshing to wake with ocean surrounding our ship all directions with nothing but sky on the horizon.
However, this is not to say there wasn’t anything to see! Wildlife was abundant today. Seabirds were our constant companions as well as bow-riding dolphins. This open ocean is the realm of seabirds. From the tiny storm-petrels to the massive albatross, these birds were taking advantage of the winds to effortlessly glide in search of food. Birds surface from all over the globe to enjoy the richness of this area, much the same as we have. Royal albatross from New Zealand, wandering albatross from South Georgia, and black-browed albatross from the Falklands. All concentrating on this stunning part of the globe.
Late in the afternoon on March 15, the news from the rest of the world collided with our bubble of safety and happiness onboard
National Geographic Explorer
. We were notified that the window of opportunity for getting our guests, staff and crew home in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic was closing, and it was deemed prudent to abort our voyage and return early to Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Captain Oliver and the Bridge Team turned the ship around and we started the two-and-a-half day sea voyage across the Scotia Sea.
We made excellent use of those days – enjoying fantastic and varied presentations that included subjects ranging from an epic kayak expedition in Antarctica (from National Geographic photographer, Pete McBride), to cold water diving (by undersea specialist, Brett Garner), and an in-depth look at the role of the Southern Ocean in the world’s climate and more (by naturalist and photo instructor, David Cothran). Global Perspectives speaker, Andrew Evans, gave us another thought-provoking and fascinating talk entitled “Three Stowaways: Unexpected Visitors to Antarctica.”
Talks and videos were interspersed with fun surprises like Laundry Room Tea Time and evening entertainment featuring “The Spice Boys” and our very own naturalist and vocalist extraordinaire, Ella Potts.
Of course, our voyages don’t cease to focus on wildlife just because we are ending a bit earlier than planned! Those who were on the bow and the outer decks in the mornings were treated to excellent shows of bow-riding Peale’s and hourglass dolphins, as well as a host of soaring seabirds.
We even had time to feature talks by some of our esteemed guests. Ant Tuson gave an excellent talk about his time as a pilot working for the British Antarctic Survey. Raffle-winner, Teresa Bowers, joined us from South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) and shared information about the organization’s work based out of the Falkland Islands.
While all of this was going on, behind the scenes, our assistant expedition leader, Stella Bohnert, worked non-stop assisting the office in rebooking all onward flights, even those that were booked independently. The office prepared a special charter flight from Stanley to Sao Paulo, one of the few South American locations still accepting transit passengers from ships. Though we had to wait a day offshore, we were luckier than many ships in being welcomed back into the Falkland Islands.
Four buses and a very dedicated team of ground logistics personnel arranged for all of the guests and staff to get to the military airport at Mount Pleasant – even providing entertaining commentary along the way. Though it was a slow process through the airport, we were soon comfortably aboard our LATAM charter flight and within 6 hours, we had collected our luggage in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and were all either on the way to an airport hotel also arranged by Lindblad, or straight onto a connecting flight.
Most of us caught our connecting flights the following day, and at this time all guests and staff are safely at their final destinations, thanks to the hard work of the teams onboard led by Russ Evans and Captain Oliver as well as the wonderful office team back in Seattle and New York. We are all eagerly awaiting the time when we can safely reboard our lovely expedition vessels and welcome you back as our guests, as we explore the world. Until then, stay well.
Another day in paradise! We awoke to a gloriously sunny and warm day with beautiful light anchored off of Isla Santa Margarita. Following breakfast, we boarded local pangas (small boats) with local drivers and proceeded out to the mouth, or “boca,” where Bahia Almegas meets the Pacific. There we visited a large colony of birds resting on the sandy beach – cormorants, great blue herons, pelicans, and gulls all clustered together. Periodically a pelican would stretch its bill skyward or a raven would circle overhead, surveying the grounds for prey. The smell of all this wildlife became increasingly more experiential as we got downwind.
There were gray whales in moderate numbers around the boats, lumbering back and forth in the wide pass. Blue skies and even bluer water were optimal for the photographers among us as the whales came up to breath or wave their flukes in the air. A few boats saw a whale or two spyhopping, which involves the whale lifting itself vertically out the water. Yet another stellar chance for our photographers. A passing sea turtle made an appearance, as did a sea lion or two. All in all, an excellent morning!
After lunch, we headed to shore. Many guests went out on kayaks to paddle around a sheltered cove with a large mountain at one end. The beach was lengthy and covered in shells of all shapes and sizes. Ecology tours and even more choice photo ops came as we strolled the beach, making our way up an arroyo and onto a small road. The island presented entirely new environment to us, complete with a wide variety of cacti and a handful of wildflowers in bloom. The highlight was when Adrian, one of our naturalists, caught a rattlesnake, weighed and measured it, and let guests pet it. He was extremely excited because this is the first time a rattlesnake has been discovered on this island!
Dinner consisted of a casual barbecue on the beach with tiki torches, a community fire, and camp chairs lining the shoreline. After sunset, we returned to the ship for the slide show documenting our journey and an evening to chat with friends both new and old. So ends our expedition among the gray whales of Baja California!
The day started and ended with gorgeous skies, and throughout the day we experienced one of those rare and magical confluences in South Georgia of sunny weather and calm seas. We had spent the night at anchor in the Bay of Isles and awoke early for a very short reposition to Prion Island for an opportunity to view nesting wandering albatrosses.
These birds did not disappoint, and each guest had a great opportunity to see the magnificent creatures on their nests or soaring overhead with the stunning backdrop of Lucas and Grace Glaciers on the other side of the bay. Some even had the privilege of watching one of the wandering albatrosses lumber down the grass ”runway” with their huge feet paddling away, while nearly 11 feet of wingspan flapped majestically.
After leaving the Bay of Isles, we continued southeast along the coast to Fortuna Bay to drop off our intrepid hikers for the Shackleton Walk. Under warm sunshine and unbeatable conditions, they had a tremendous experience following in the footsteps of the last portion of Ernest Shackleton’s epic winter crossing of South Georgia. In the meantime,
National Geographic Explorer
continued sailing to the abandoned whaling station at Stromness.
We had an extraordinary encounter with a southern right whale, which lazily crossed our path and swam directly under the bow for close-up views of its callosities, the rough, calcified skin patches located on top of its head. The whale was almost close enough for us to examine the lice living on those callosities!
Upon arriving at Stromness, we quickly disembarked and came ashore on the beach where piles of fur seal pups frolicked in the shallows and on the gravel shoreline. From there we hiked up to Shackleton’s waterfall and took a few photos before turning back to contemplate this fabulous day and the heroic efforts of Tom Crean, Frank Worsley and Ernest Shackleton over 100 years ago. We’ve had a perfect two days in South Georgia, but unfortunately, our voyage ends here as we will now turn back towards Stanley in the Falkland Islands.