Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

May 04, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

On a Friday morning in early May, National Geographic Orion steamed into her anchorage in the bay of Hana Vave, Fatu Hiva. The Marquesas are an incredible, remote island group, situated north of Tahiti and the Society Islands. With tall, jagged cliffs and steep drop-offs into the Pacific Ocean, this island group is much more reminiscent of the Hawaiian Islands than it is the Tuamotu’s or Society’s. There are no fringing reefs to protect Fatu Hiva – only a young reef which is still developing.

Fatu Hiva is one of the most picturesque islands across this wild archipelago, with the beautiful Baie des Vierges (Bay of Virgins). With a small population of less than 1,000, most of the island is left uninhabited. The Marquesas are full of culture, with very strong ties to tradition and family. This includes many traditions, carvings, and dances. A visit ashore offered a waterfall hike, led by naturalists and including cultural specialist Heidy Baumgartner. Those who opted out of the waterfall hike either took time to explore the village, or took to land to look for the endemic kingfisher.

This part of the ocean is also teeming with life. Reef and oceanic manta rays both make their home here, more often in the Marquesas than the Tuamotu’s. Manta rays are huge oceanic creatures, capable of reaching wingspans great as 21 feet. Though very large, they are planktivores, meaning they rely entirely on small, often microscopic creatures for sustenance. Their size is their main defense, and since they start life at roughly 6 ft in wingspan and grow quite quickly, they don’t have many natural predators throughout their lifespan.

After a morning ashore, guests were ready for some quality water time. Snorkel opportunities and Zodiac cruises left from the ship, admiring the sheer walls and steep cliffs of Fatu Hiva. The scuba diving team set out for a new adventure, about a half-mile from the ship. A full day of water sports, outings on land, and road trips across the islands, the guests of National Geographic Orion settled in for a cocktail hour full of information from the ship’s expedition team. Cocktails were had, joys from the experience were shared, and dinner was enjoyed by all as the sun set over Fatu Hiva’s beautiful horizon.

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About the Author

Alyssa Adler

Undersea Specialist

As a young marine biologist, Alyssa Adler has had the opportunity to work as a diver in many capacities. For several years, she was a dedicated AAUS scientific diver for University of North Carolina on an offshore reef ecology project, and has participated in several of NOAA’s reef survey missions. She has been diving with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions as an underwater videographer and ocean educator since 2014 and has fostered a love for the poles and extreme cold-water diving, spending most of her time underwater in sub-freezing temperatures.

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