Our 2018 Polynesia season was packed with thrilling experiences—some carefully planned; others, discovered—as the alchemy of wind, weather, and team creativity made for some extraordinary moments. Below are just some of our favorites as described by guests and staff. Read on then join us in 2019 as we return to where awesome lives—to some of the most alluring and least accessible parts of the magnificent Pearl of the Pacific.

“We were trekking on Makatea—a flat, exposed plateau covered with pisonia and pandanus, banyan and Polynesian plum trees, endemic Tuamotu palms, as well as beautiful ground orchids, tiger claw lilies, rosy periwinkles, and many other flowering plants. At a place called the Belvedere, we walked off the main road for an amazing view. As everyone recovered, I felt a reluctant resolve growing as the group self-motivated for a sweaty, anti-climactic trek back.

To spark their excitement again, I decided to lead the group down a steep road to a dark, cave-like grotto. Inside, we discovered a pool of incredibly clear, cold freshwater under a ceiling festooned with stalactites. It was a true slice of paradise after our hot, steamy walk, and everybody jubilantly took a dip. The more intrepid of us swam through a narrow opening at the rear of the grotto and found an awesome hidden cave system.”  —Mike Greenfelder, naturalist and certified photo instructor

“The hospitality aboard National Geographic Orion is superb. The dining is amazing, and the graciousness follows you right off the ship. One of my favorite moments on the trip was when we anchored to go ashore at a lovely motu, the untouched tropical island of my dreams…and we arrived to find the team had set up a bar tent with cocktails and cold drinks…we had a little social and then strolled off to beachcomb with a drink in hand. Such a nice touch—and typical.”   —Amy H., guest

“We were all settled down for an uneventful day at sea as Orion headed to the next itinerary point. Suddenly, the ship’s engine quits—no familiar rumble, just silence. Expedition Leader Jen Martin announces over the PA: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, as you’ve probably realized, the captain has turned off the ship’s engine. There’s nothing wrong. In fact, conditions are ideal, so we’d like to invite you to enjoy an open ocean swim.

It was incredible. The expedition team had positioned the swim platform between two Zodiacs off the marina deck for those who wanted easy water access, and they were allowing the bolder swimmers dive from the deck. We were in the middle of the South Pacific—in 6,000 feet of water, with 300 feet of clear visibility into the purest blue…It was truly awesome to experience that immensity. Nearly every guest told me it was the most thrilling ocean experience they’d ever had.”  —Nicole T., Lindblad expedition developer