Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Sven Lindblad in Galápagos: Day 1 Diving & The Tonic of Wildness

By Sven-Olof Lindblad

Sven Lindblad at North Seymour Island. Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Leaving New York on June 9, there was plenty to be distressed about. It was a monumental week in regards to global environmental policy.

We were headed to the Galápagos, I was going for the the 50th time. But for the first time, a third generation of our family was contributing energy to this unique place in the world; my daughter Isabella had started for a summer internship at the school Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic has supported for many years on the island of Santa Cruz.

A special place will never get old, no matter how many times you visit it. And there is a certain inevitable value in periodic escape from the chaos and the noise of today’s constant drumbeat of woe. We had just read an article in June’s issue of National Geographic magazine entitled “Life in the Balance.” A changing climate’s tentacles have reached here as well and the article made it sound quite dire. We shall see.

It’s June 11 and our first full day here in Galápagos. The National Geographic Endeavour II is abuzz with families33 kids of all ages. It’s fun to watch them begin to find each other and prepare for what might be their greatest adventure yet.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Kristin and I had made plans to go diving. We’re at North Seymour Island (hard decision as this is one of the most spectacular on land) and off we go at 7:30. The water is unusually cold (72 degrees) and we wore two thick wetsuits. Next step up would be dry suit diving.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Someone had seen big aggregations of hammerhead sharks here recently. I hadn’t seen that for over 30 years. The dive yielded only one hammerhead, but plenty of other sharks, big Galápagos sharks and smaller black tips. Every time I see sharks I’m happythey are really essential for healthy marine systems, yet we kill about 30 million a year globally.

It was a great dive. The second one though was one of the best ever, huge schools of fish, resting black tips, and tremendous visibility. I think I was particularly enchanted with the parrotfish smashing their beaks into encrusted rock time and time again.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Yes there are stresses here and everywhere to be sure, but today all felt good in the waters around North Seymour. As we surfaced boobies were diving in the water around us and frigates flying overhead. I can’t wait to find out how those kids reacted to this island so full of life.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann.

Live From Galápagos: Sven Lindblad

Our CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad is enroute to Galápagos right now as part of this year’s celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Lars-Eric Lindblad’s pioneering expedition to Galápagos, opening the Enchanted Isles for expedition travelers—and Sven will be sharing some of his long personal connection to these islands. Beginning Monday, June 12th stay tuned for blog updates, photos on Sven’s personal Instagram, and live broadcasts on the Lindblad Expeditions Facebook page. Check back for updates!

Here’s Sven in the Galápagos Islands last year when he shot a video of the dance of the waved albatross.

T-17 Days: Painting National Geographic Quest

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Friday a compelling time-lapse video catches you up on the last seven days of progress. This week Quest was painted with its iconic yellow stripe that appears on all ships in the Lindblad-National Geographic Fleet.


T-18 Days: What Makes National Geographic Quest the Perfect Vessel for Costa Rica & Panama?

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Thursday see how the Quest features will enhance your expedition experience wherever you journey. Watch below then check back tomorrow to catch a time-lapse video of the past seven days.

“First, I think you should put on a pair of headphones and listen to this video. Listen to the sounds of the tropics. Enveloping, dynamic—it’s the ultimate surround sound and, once you’ve been a part of it, the feeling won’t leave you.

Now, when you add in a little heat and humidity, you will want a bit of a respite to replenish your energy. That’s one of the reasons why the National Geographic Quest’s guest cabins and public spaces were designed to be accessed from the interior of the vessel. It helps regulate the temperature and keep comfort high. Still, you will not feel cut off from nature. Floor to ceiling windows will offer the feeling of still being one with the tropics. Companionways and stairs to outside decks are very accessible. You can step out on bow directly from the lounge and Category 4 Cabins have step out balconies.

The highlight for many guests is transiting the Panama Canal. We do so, uniquely, over the course of two days. With the Quest’s expansive sun deck and outdoor bar, transiting the three lock systems of the Panama Canal will be even more enjoyable. Don’t forget your camera to capture it, maybe a cocktail to help celebrate.”

—Marc Cappelletti, VP of Expedition Development

Iceland Recon: Heli-Hiking Glaciers

Alizé Carrère and Dagny Ivarsdottir are currently in Iceland on reconnaissance for a new 3-day extension into the country’s interior that will begin operating in 2018. This is a behind-the-scenes look at expedition planning.

A 20-minute flight takes us from a geothermally heated mountainside to a glacier. Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

By Alizé Carrère

While seeing glaciers is one thing, having the chance to walk across one is something else altogether. As a part of our day heli-hiking, the afternoon hike will be spent at an undisclosed location on Myrdalsjokull glacier. It is a very special spot that we will have entirely to ourselves, as not many people know about it.

Photo by Alizé Carrère.

After we finished our picnic lunches, we got back in the helicopter and flew over Fjallabak mountain range, which is one of the most scenic areas for multi day hiking in Iceland. The flight was around 20 minutes and we flew over more waterfalls, beautiful mountain ranges, and approached yet another spectacular Icelandic glacier.

Photo by Alizé Carrère

Our pilot landed us right on one of the rugged glacier tongues, turned off the blades and gave us some time to get our crampons and harnesses in place. I was struck by the surface of the glacier, as much of the snow cover had melted revealing the striated ice and various moulins and crevasses. The helicopter dropped us off in an area so that we could hike up to an ice fall. As we started, we heard an incredible crash ahead (although it was too foggy at that moment to have any good visibility), which was a large piece of ice coming down the fall. The sound was so imposing that we nearly felt it vibrate through our bodies! Of course this is nothing to be worried about, as the pieces of ice coming down don’t travel long distances beyond the fall itself. We continued walking toward the ice fall and finally the fog lifted to give us an extraordinary look at this feature. After taking many photos we slowly started making our way back down, with our guide stopping along the way to point out different geologic formations.

Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

Photo by Alizé Carrère.

What’s wonderful about this hike as compared to the morning hike is the sheer contrast of environments. In just a short 20 minute flight, you can go from hot, geothermally active clay-like soils to centuries-old ice masses. The glacier hike in the afternoon will be shorter than the morning hike (and less rigorous), in part due to the fact that you can’t move as quickly with the crampons, but also because you end up frequently stopping to appreciate the amazing feature underfoot. The surface is constantly changing, and as you crunch along it you can’t help but put your ice axe in the water pockets, touch piles of wet, volcanic ash, and take in your surroundings. Just over one of the lateral moraines was a beautiful waterfall, and once the fog lifted we could see all the way down the glacier tongue to where it gave way to fresh soil.

Photo by Alizé Carrère.

We made our way back to the landing spot, but our pilot had moved the helicopter down some ways so that he could be out of the fog. Our guide called him on the radio and we kneeled down on the ice as we watched him fly in and gracefully maneuver the helicopter to land just a few feet from where we waiting. We quickly piled in and took off as quickly as he landed, making our way back towards Reykjavík.

T-19 Days: National Geographic Quest’s New Zodiacs

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Wednesday discover the special features that make the Quest so unique—from an unobstructed bow for superior views to a better bridge and more.

National Geographic Quest is outfitted with Mark V Zodiacs—inflatable expedition landing craft that will enable our naturalists to take guests to places otherwise inaccessible. To outfit the Quest, we have worked hand in hand with the team at Zodiac Milpro to deliver the first and only Mark V Zodiacs built entirely in the USA. These boats are superior, military grade construction but customized with features like extra holds for passenger stability and topside treads to improve footing for stepping on and off. The Quest will be outfitted with eight Mark V Zodiacs and guests will embark and disembark via custom-designed ladders to improve safety and ease of movement.

Iceland Recon: Heli-Hiking The Land of Fire & Ice

Alizé Carrère and Dagny Ivarsdottir are currently in Iceland on reconnaissance for a new 3-day extension into the country’s interior that will begin operating in 2018. Follow along to see behind-the-scenes of expedition planning over the next couple days.

Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

By Alizé Carrère

Every now and again, you come across adventure travel experiences that are so spectacular that not even bad weather, cranky company, or a glitch in planning could ruin. The landscape itself simply delivers—every single time. As a company, Lindblad Expeditions has always sought out these types of geographies and experiences for our guests, and today on day three of our Iceland recon, Dagny and I discovered one of the latest and greatest.

Photo by Alizé Carrère.

In case you haven’t read the previous posts, we’re here planning a new 3-day/2-night Iceland heli-hiking extension for summer 2018. This will be a truly adventurous and active way of exploring the island, including one full day of heli-hiking around southwestern Iceland. To do this, we’ve teamed up with Nordurflug Tours, Iceland’s premier helicopter company. Today, Dagny and I set out via helicopter to check out the places where we will be dropping in for hiking, and to get a sense of how this exciting day will play out. The two hikes we did covered landscapes and terrain that I can only describe as otherworldly. Because they were each so different and so spectacular, I will dedicate this post to the morning hike in the Kerlingarfjöll mountains, and tomorrow’s post to the afternoon hike on a glacier.

Photo by Alizé Carrère.

After departing Reykjavik by helicopter, we made our way toward Kerlingarfjöll, a mountainous geothermal area in the (almost) center of Iceland. The flight took around 40 minutes, which afforded us extraordinary aerial views en route. We flew over waterfalls, braided riverbeds and deltas, hardened lava flows, and the stunning Langjökull glacier (which guests will have visited the day prior during the Into the Glacier excursion). We landed on a remote hill in the heart of the Kerlingarfjöll mountains, amidst steaming geothermal vents, melting ice packs, and twisting rivers. The area is characterized by extensive geothermal activity, which has eroded much of the rhyolite rock and given way to hot spring clay. We felt this immediately as we got out of the helicopter and began our hike—a light, spongy feeling under foot.

Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

With our guide leading the way, we started to hike down the hill towards the river, which we would follow for the next 45 minutes. It is important to have waterproof hiking boots, as you will get your feet wet walking along the shallow waterbed! This was an incredible part of the hike. We then cut upwards toward one of the nearby hills to get higher above the stream. Once up there, our views turned into what started to look like another planet. Beautiful colors surrounded each geothermal vent as steam blew across the mountain tops, and we looked down at the river bed we just walked along. We kept making our way up until we reached one of the flattened peaks where our helicopter and pilot was waiting for us. After about 2.5 hours of hiking in this area, it was time to fly to a lunch spot where we would unpack a delicious picnic and enjoy a meal in nature.


T-20 Days: Quest Shipyard Update on Cabins & Lounge

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Tuesday exciting video direct from the shipyard in Whidbey Island, Washington delivers highlights from the past week.

Iceland Recon: Waterfalls & Trolls

Alizé Carrère and Dagny Ivarsdottir are currently in Iceland on reconnaissance for a new 3-day extension into the country’s interior that will begin operating in 2018. Follow along to see behind-the-scenes of expedition planning over the next few days.

Gulfoss Waterfall. Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

By Alizé Carrère

In addition to creating brand new itineraries and traveler experiences, a recon trip can mean taking a fresh look at what you currently offer. Lindblad has had a long presence in Iceland, and has therefore been witness to the rapid changes the country has experienced in the tourism sector over the last decade. Dagny and I spent the day visiting the most frequented sites in western Iceland to better understand what those experiences are like for today’s travelers, while also checking out some new places that haven’t yet made their way onto the pages of Iceland’s popular guidebooks.

Troll Waterfall Trail. Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

We departed Hotel Husafell after spending two wonderful nights in the valley. We started by visiting the Golden Circle, stopping first at Thingvellir National Park, then Geysir Geothermal area, and ending at the impressive Gulfoss waterfall. This route is one of Iceland’s most popular, which was clearly felt as we made our way through lines and large crowds at each destination. After completing the circuit, we decided to see what other types of experiences we could find in the area. One of the places we happened upon was a lovely restaurant perched on “troll waterfall”, which offered a delightful family-run dining experience overlooking a lush river and small waterfall. Surrounded by hiking trails, we found this to be a true gem that offered a blend of Icelandic folklore, verdant trails, charming camping pods, and local cuisine. We then made a stop at a small geothermal spring where we found a stand of fresh vegetables grown in nearby geothermal-powered greenhouses. We ended our day by checking out another possible geothermal spring and lunch destination, although it quickly became clear that the first two places were better suited to the Lindblad style and tempo.

A troll face in rock waterfall. Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

Tomorrow we have an early departure for what is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the extension we’re planning: heli-hiking! Dagny and I are very excited to see what kinds of trails we can drop into, including hiking on a glacier. So far we are extremely pleased with what we’ve been able to find for this new extension in Iceland, and look forward to sharing more with you as we continue our recon over the next couple of days.

Along the troll waterfall trail. Photo by Dagny Ivarsdottir.

T-21 Days: Q & A with Captain Mark Graves, Director of Marine Operations

We’re counting down to the launch of our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest! Follow along from now until June 26 and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings as the big day draws near. Every Monday Q&As with Lindblad-National Geographic staffers involved in the build give you a behind-the-scenes look and exciting new details. Captain Mark Graves is the Director of Marine Operations and one of the many people responsible for bringing National Geographic Quest to life.

What elements of the National Geographic Quest enable her to operate in a more environmentally friendly manner? 

The wastewater treatment plant on board the Quest is designed to gather all wastewater (showers, toilet and sink drains), which is above and beyond what is required in the U.S. This plant utilizes a biologic system that is designed to treat wastewater in an environmentally friendly manner in order to minimize our impact on the waterways that we operate in.

The power plant, or engines and generators, are designed to operate off of well-refined diesel fuel so as to minimize our emissions. They are also properly sized to use the least amount of fuel for the size of the vessel and range of the itineraries. The main engines and generators were chosen to maximize the fuel efficiency for National Geographic Quest.

What elements of the National Geographic Quest’s design enable her to operate best in places like the Pacific Northwest or Central America?

All of the guest cabins and public spaces were designed to be accessed from the interior of the vessel, with companionways and stairs providing quick and easy access to the exterior for wildlife viewing. This will allow us to keep the interior of the vessel comfortable, with easy access to all spaces and few doors that you have to go through to get there. There are also embarkation landings, port and starboard, on the Main, Upper and Lounge decks if you want to get outside when in the midships area to see what’s out there. I predict these will be good places to “hide” when you just need to step out. The full-length windows that are installed on the port and starboard sides in the lounge and on the port, starboard and aft faces of the dining room are particularly striking. I like the views that these are going to provide in all areas that the Quest will travel, particularly when we are visiting such places as the Panama Canal, Glacier Bay National Park, and Alaska’s Inside Passage.

I also love the bow area. This is my favorite space on the Quest. There are multiple viewing points from the bridge and lounge decks as well as direct access from the lounge and the two exterior stairways from the bridge deck. The bow viewing platform has come out nicely and this will be a great gathering spot for wildlife observation, scenic cruising, or just to have a cup of coffee to watch the world go by. If I’m not on the bridge you’ll find me on the bow when on board the Quest.

As a Captain who spent years aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion, which features of the National Geographic Quest’s bridge are unique?

I really like how welcoming the bridge will be for the guests. We have left a good amount of space for visitors, which includes some seating, and I made sure to leave some of the area near the forward windows open so that guests could stand or sit there and watch the world go by. Binoculars will be provided for searching for wildlife and the guests will always be encouraged to visit us and assist in our eternal search for wildlife. It also was a pleasure to help put together a package of the most current navigation equipment and gear, but keep the space that it occupies manageable so that it did not “overtake” the bridge. It’s a space that I hope to spend a lot of my time when I am aboard the Quest.