A little girl with ringlets in her hair stood on tiptoes, as tall as she could and peered over the edge of the black shiny tube. Nose-to-nose she was with another mammal, much younger than herself. Youthful curiosity was there and yet they were so different. Inside the Zodiac, safe and dry, bundled in her life vest and with parents by her side, the toddler could only communicate with gestures and eyes open, oh, so wide. Outside, an eye peered back, big as a grapefruit, reflecting the distorted images of an object that may have resembled an anemone, soft with tentacles writhing. The only hairs on this leviathan’s head were placed in dimpled follicles scattered about its rostrum. Grey whale calf meets human toddler. What message does each take away from this encounter? Traveling with family on such expeditions set wheels in motion that shape a youngster’s life.
Another child, another cruise and another ride in a Zodiac. This time the family expedition carries them to the far and frozen north, maybe Arctic Norway or maybe southeast Alaska. Glaciers tumble down valleys, frozen rivers carrying their progeny to the sea. With a crash and a roar they cast massive bergs and drifting brash from their faces to the calm and silvery waters below. Flat floes still drift about, a sign that winter has only recently released its hold upon the narrow fjord. Today this Zodiac has a purpose other than simply sightseeing. Squirming youth can barely contain their exuberance. They are about to learn to drive! Kindergartener or high school student, they all will get their chance to stand proud at the tiller of the Zodiac, to go forward, go back, weave figure eights amongst the floes and earn their “Junior Zodiac Driver” license. Some may return, in fact many have, years into the future to work with these magic rubber vessels. Parents and grandparents alike can plant a seed starting with a family expedition.
Developed by Jacques Cousteau, the Zodiac, those fabulous inflatable vessels are virtually unsinkable. They bear us from ship to shore to land on isolated beaches. They carry us beneath steep cliffs rising hundreds of feet over our heads where we discover a sense of scale. We become miniscule in the face of the world. Zodiacs are platforms for seeking out birdlife roosting on tiny islets and for drifting amongst the whales. They can be party boats, packed with marauding “Vikings” who wish to do no more than serve us mulled wine or schnapps (hot cocoa for the minors) after a chilly evening adventure. And they are the perfect platform for families to safely introduce their youth to the wonders of the sea and shore.
The heart and soul of any Lindblad cruise is the fleet of Zodiacs carried on each vessel. Join us on a family expedition, whether it be in the Galapagos on the National Geographic Endeavour or Islander, in Alaska on the National Geographic Sea Bird or Sea Lion or in a far remote island archipelago in Arctic Norway on the flagship, the National Geographic Explorer.
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