Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

T-39 Days: Heritage of Nichols Bros. Shipbuilders

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 get to know the Nichols Brothers, the builders responsible for bringing Quest to life. Watch below then check back tomorrow to catch a time-lapse video of the past seven days. Matt Nichols is the Executive VP of Nichols Brothers and has over 55 years’ experience in the boat-building industry.

T-40 Days: Quest’s Unique Bow

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. Watch below then check back tomorrow to meet the Nichols Brothers, the builders responsible for bringing our new ship to life. 

T-41 Days: Engine & Generator Installation

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. Watch below then check back tomorrow to learn more about Quest’s unique features.

T-42 Days: Q & A with Marc Cappelletti, VP Expedition Development

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. Read on then check back in tomorrow to watch shipyard highlights from the past week. Marc Cappelletti is the VP Expedition Development and one of the many people responsible for bringing National Geographic Quest to life. 

What does it mean to say over 50+ years of expedition heritage has been put into the National Geographic Quest’s design?
It means everything. The experience we deliver is the product of cumulative knowledge, so having the time since Lars Eric Lindblad first took travelers to the Galapagos in 1966 to gather guest feedback and operational insight is unprecedented. It’s not only the time too. With eight ships traveling all over the globe, it’s a world of experience, really. For the design of the National Geographic Quest, we received input from captains, engineers, hotel and expedition staff and especially guests, which we accumulated over the years. I think people who have traveled with us and others new to our expeditions will be thrilled.

How will the National Geographic Quest’s design enhance the wildlife viewing experience?
We always say that our ships are the perfect platforms for exploration. This time we had the ability to ensure that from the keel up. The sun deck is going to be gorgeous, with seating for everyone. Even when guests are inside—the lounge or dining room for example—the spaces were designed with wraparound windows. With the lounge, over the years we’ve seen many naturalist presentations interrupted by whales outside the windows. So, to help guests get outside quickly, we’ve placed two doors at the front of the lounge leading to the bow. It will be a seamless transition that we know guests will love.

Maybe most importantly, the bow of the Quest has been designed with the anchoring gear separate from the guest space. This means that more guests will be able to utilize the bow at one time. And with the aid of a raised platform, multiple rows of guests can line the bow with an unobstructed view.

What is it like to be aboard the National Geographic Quest as she’s being worked on in shipyard?
The work is simply incredible. Upwards of 200 people at any given time are welding, grinding, installing. It’s in a state of constant motion, it’s loud, and it’s incredibly exciting. Now that it’s really taking shape, there are times when you can stand on deck and imagine her in the quiet of the Inside Passage as the captain navigates around icebergs in Endicott Arm. You can peek into cabins and imagine people stepping out onto the balconies as the sun sets in Baja. You can feel the excitement in the lounge as guests share photos and recount what they saw that day. Then lunch break is over and the build team is back at it.

Welcome to Day 1: Countdown to the Quest!

Our brand-new expedition ship National Geographic Quest is in the home stretch! Follow along from now until launch day June 26 as we bring you behind-the-scenes footage from the shipyard, exciting time-lapse videos of the build, interviews with the team responsible for bringing her to life, and much more. We’re proud Quest will be the most advanced ship of its kind to be made entirely in the U.S.A. and we look forward to welcoming you aboard soon.

 

Expedition Recon: Looking Back & Moving Forward

Sven-Olof Lindblad is wrapping up his team’s South Pacific reconnaissance trip that has found never-before-offered experiences and ultimate snorkel and dive sites for guests on our five new 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions. Here’s a look at just a few expedition highlights.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

We spent an afternoon at lovely Toau’s North Pass where corals of vibrant colors can be seen in shallow water.

Photo Vincent Truchet

Our team discovered a site in the shallows where we can snorkel with these rays off Moorea. We’ll return here on our Isles, Atolls, and Pristine Corals: Southern Line Islands expedition.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Shallow channels move water quickly through an area we found just off Hauhine, where the nutrients feed a variety of life. The best way to explore it is by drifting along in our snorkeling gear, our cameras ever-ready for shots like this. We’ll return here on our French Polynesia: Beyond the Postcard expedition.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Shark dives off Fakarava proved to be a highlight. Our CEO Sven Lindblad said, “It’s wonderful to see the change in people who at some point were afraid of sharks and now feel totally comfortable amongst them. That’s evolution.”

A warm welcome on Raiatea, were greeted at sea by ceremony and invited onto the island by hundreds of community members, welcomed with hula, prayer, and some with kava.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Going ashore at Fakarava. We look forward to returning to this gem of the Pacific on our Easter Island to Tahiti: Tales of the Pacific expedition.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Another dive site at Fakarava’s North Pass proved to offer splendid diving and snorkeling.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Our CEO Sven Lindblad sneaks intp a shot of a curious local at Toau North Pass. After diving among enormous coral heads we had lunch on the beach.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

At Toau’s West Pass this nine-foot manta circled coming within feet of our heads for over 20 minutes. Journalist Chris Jones wrote about his experience.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Strolling along the beach of idyllic Rangiroa, which we’ll return to on our French Polynesia: Beyond the Postcard expedition in 2018.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Time at sea was spent sorting photos, enjoying some fine meals and companyand of course spectacular sunsets like this one. And so our recon expedition winds to an end. We hope to share some of these incredible places and experiences with you on our 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions.

Expedition Recon: Rangiroa’s Incredible Lagoon

Sven-Olof Lindblad is in the South Pacific right now leading a reconnaissance trip to seek out never-before-offered experiences and ultimate snorkel and dive sites for guests on our five new 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions.

Sven in the blue lagoon of Rangiroa with baby sharks. Photo Kristin Hettermann.

The isle of Rangiroa’s lagoon is so massive that the island of Tahiti could fit inside of it. This protected space serves as a vast nursery for sharks and large schools of fish.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

A mullet swims past Sven’s camera.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Black-tip sharks in Rangiroa’s lagoon.

Photo Vincent Truchet.

A nine-foot dolphin came to get a look at our recon team and, apparently deciding we were a fun bunch, decided to hangout and swim with us for 20 minutes.

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Expedition Recon: Makatea History & Wildlife

Sven-Olof Lindblad is in the South Pacific right now leading a reconnaissance trip to seek out never-before-offered experiences and ultimate snorkel and dive sites for guests on our five new 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

The view from Makatea, French Polynesia.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Our team met with the Mayor of Makatea who led us to some sites on the island in planning for our upcoming South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions. We’re eager to take our guests off the beaten path and we can do so by forming meaningful relationships in the places we explore. The mayor shared some of the island’s history, which includes a phosphate mine started in the early 1900s and was abandoned nearly overnight in 1964. At its peak the island was a hub of activity with hundreds of miners digging cylindrical holes about eight feet wide and 75 feet deep to extract phosphate.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Meet the coconut crab, weighing up to nine pounds and measuring up to three feet leg-to-leg it is the world’s largest land-living arthropod. Our team spotted some in French Polynesia. What do coconut crabs eat? Why coconuts, of course. “Coconut Crabs are big and highly prized selling for 30 plus dollars each. Nocturnal, locals bait them with cracked coconuts and then catch them while feeding with great care as those claws can easily take off a finger.” —Sven-Olof Lindblad.

 

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Meeting some of the next generation on Raiatea.

Expedition Recon: Magic with a Manta Ray

Sven-Olof Lindblad is in the South Pacific right now leading a reconnaissance trip to seek out never-before-offered experiences and ultimate snorkel and dive sites for guests on our five new 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions. Joining him is journalist Chris Jones.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

By Chris Jones

Sven and Vincent, one of our dive masters, came back to the boat raving: They had just spent twenty minutes in the water with a manta ray. “That was maybe my most magical experience in the ocean,” Sven said. I wanted to puke.

I’d been snorkelling above them off Toau’s western shore during our mission to French Polynesia. There hadn’t been much to see, and I’d gone back to the boat. Then I’d missed the manta. I’ve wanted to swim with a manta since I started diving more than 25 years ago. To come that close… I tried to be happy for my friends, but if I’m being honest, it was pretty hard to take.

Vincent knew I was upset, and he saw a teaching moment in front of him. A few years ago, he had gone diving with a friend day after day, and one day the friend had reached his limit. He decided not to go out. Vincent did, and he spent the afternoon diving with three humpback whales. “After that, I decide never to miss a dive in French Polynesia,” he said. “Lesson learned.”

We prepared to dive in the same spot that afternoon. Mélo, our other dive master, told me not to get my hopes up. Just because there was a manta there in the morning didn’t mean there would be one there in the afternoon. The wild doesn’t work like a zoo.

We dropped down to the bottom and began swimming along the dropoff. Mélo was to my left. She stopped and turned her head and then began flapping her arms like wings. She was making the sign for a manta. My first thought was, That is one sick joke. Then I saw our own manta coming into view, flying over the edge of the deep blue and, later, just a few inches over my head. She was seven feet across. She covered me in shadow. Sven was right: It was maybe my most magical experience in the ocean.

Vincent was also right: Lesson learned.

Photo by Kristin Hettermann

Expedition Recon: Vincent Truchet, Undersea Photographer

Sven-Olof Lindblad is in the South Pacific right now leading a reconnaissance trip to seek out never-before-offered experiences and ultimate snorkel and dive sites for guests on our five new 2018 South Pacific & French Polynesia expeditions. Joining him is acclaimed underwater photographer Vincent Truchet.

Meet Vincent Truchet

These are some of Vincent’s shots from night dives, drift snorkeling, and reef exploration. See more photos on Vincent’s website and follow him in Instagram. One of his favorite subjects is sharks, which can be found in abundance in these healthy reef ecosystems.

Photo by Vincent Truchet

Photo by Vincent Truchet

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