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Orangutans, Sun Bears and Stingless Jellies: The Incomparable Wildlife of Indonesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea
Our expeditions highlight incredible encounters with the special wildlife of Indonesia and its neighboring nations, like a surreal swim with stingless jellies in Palau or the chance to observe orangutans in Sepilok’s famed sanctuary.
Daily Expedition Reports
National Geographic Endeavour II
Early in the morning, expedition leader Carlos Romero was waiting at the disembarkation deck for early risers who wanted to hike up to the top of Bartolome Island. This was an extraordinary walk that transported us back in time right to the beginning of it all in the Galapagos. In the afternoon, we explored the waters of Sombrero Chino Island. Our guests saw many tropical fish and the elusive Galapagos penguin up close. It was a wonderful experience in yet another beautiful location. Later in the afternoon, we went exploring with our Zodiacs and spotted several penguins fishing along with blue-footed boobies and pelicans.
National Geographic Endeavour II
Guests onboard National Geographic Endeavour II spent the day exploring Santa Cruz Island. We began with a hike at Cerro Dragon on the northern facing side of Santa Cruz. This region is extremely dry due to the influence of the southeast trade winds. These winds make their way up the western side of the South American continent, deflecting to the west at the equator and finally meeting the southern facing side of the Galapagos Islands. These trade winds bring moisture, which allows vegetation to grow. Cerro Dragon is an interesting site to observe. Galapagos iguanas have evolved to thrive in disparate ecosystems; in ecology, we refer to this as niche partitioning. Marine iguanas are seen in the intertidal zone, where they find their main food source: green algae. Conversely, land iguanas predominantly feed upon cactus pads and fruits. As such, they are found throughout the inner, drier regions of the central islands. Marine iguanas lay their eggs on the sandy coastlines of the archipelago, whereas land iguanas lay their eggs farther inland. This partitioning of niches within the ecosystem reduces the rate of competition amongst iguana species, and therefore, reduces the probability of one iguana species outcompeting and displacing another. This promotes diversity in a group of genetically similar species. Guests were pleased to observe both marine and land iguanas at this special site. We also walked through a dry forest, where we observed several endemic and native plant species. The coastal lowlands of the islands are home to a disproportionate amount of endemic plant species. These zones are probably the harshest environment in the Galapagos, so species that thrive there must be highly adapted to dry, salty conditions. This promotes endemism. We visited a brackish lagoon at Cerro Dragon, where we were delighted to spot flamingos. These birds are some of the rarest in the archipelago, with only around 200 across the islands. The pink coloration of their plumage is a result of the carotenoids found in their food source. We observed a juvenile flamingo as well. Baby flamingos are born with a straight beak so they can be fed by their parents. It takes some time for them to build up the carotenoids in their body to create pink plumage. After our hike, guests had the option of visiting a beautiful beach for bay snorkeling or Guy Fawkes Islet for deep water snorkeling. After lunch, we disembarked for several excursions, including: kayaking, paddleboarding, or a Zodiac cruise along the coast of Borrero in northern Santa Cruz Island. Photo caption and photographer: A flamingo feeds in a brackish lagoon at Cerro Dragon. Flamingos feed primarily on small crustaceans, but they also eat a variety of algae species as well. They have a filter system in their beaks that allows them to siphon out their desired prey species. Photo by Cristian Villarroel
National Geographic Endurance
Wow! What an amazing day, and so unexpected after our exciting but chilly days in Svalbard. Suddenly we found ourselves in almost tropical northern Norway, with brilliant sunshine and temperatures soaring into the mid-20s °C. In the early morning, we sailed into the lovely little fiord in the northeastern part of Sørøya Island. We were treated to wonderful, clear views of a surprisingly green island. There were trees (albeit small ones)! There were grasses, lush ground cover vegetation, and even sheep! Sørøya is Norway's fourth largest island, and this northern gem is considered one of Norway’s most beautiful. We made our morning landing in beautiful Mefjord to allow walking groups to disembark and go ashore. Zodiac cruisers explored the coastline and searched for eagles, seabirds, and coastal rock formations. The walkers toiled up a steep slope along a rough farm track on this rocky and mountainous island. They were then able to enjoy the expansive, lush tundra landscape with tiny pools and even patches of low birch and willow “forest” here and there in sheltered ground. The path passed through delightful swaths of wildflowers: sun-tracking mountain avens, bright cranesbills, insectivorous butterworts, low-growing crowberries, and even junipers, among others. The trail wound through and over low hills, passed a large tarn with a cabin beside it, and eventually led down to a sandy cove. We’d flushed an arctic hare and even willow ptarmigans on the way to the cove, and we heard the singing of several territorial bird species, including bluethroats, bramblings, and redwings. The biggest surprise of all was at the water’s edge. There, we observed a small herd of reindeer and their calves drinking saltwater! This unusual behaviour of the arctic species allows individuals to obtain the salts they need which are not available from their diet — especially on a surprisingly hot summer day. Meanwhile, our Zodiac cruisers enjoyed spectacular, rugged coastal scenery and sightings of many seabirds along with the enormous white-tailed sea eagle — the most dramatic bird of the region, equivalent in size to the bald eagle of North America. As we sailed away from our morning’s landing site in Mefjord, bound for Tromsø, we glimpsed harbour porpoises and minke whales, adding further excitement to a wonderful day. Our day ultimately ended with our trip slideshow and video and Captain Aaron Wood's Farewell Cocktail Party. Our final day was a fitting finale for a marvellous voyage in Arctic Norway.
National Geographic Endeavour II
Today we visited the central area of Galapagos. We started early in the morning on the south side of Santa Cruz Island, with a surface area of almost 1000 sq km. One of four inhabited islands, Santa Cruz has the largest human population at an estimated 25,000 people. After an energizing breakfast, we were ready to leave the ship to spend the whole day exploring the island. We landed on the dock of Puerto Ayora and boarded buses to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn all about the breeding center for giant tortoises. Later on, we had the opportunity to see some of the everyday lives of the Galapagos people as we walked along the town’s streets to the fish market. Afterwards, we visited a farm known as “Trapiche” in the highlands. We learned about the sugarcane process, tasted the local moonshine, and heard about coffee production in the archipelago. Driving through farming areas and the cattle ranches of Santa Cruz before lunch, we spotted some Galapagos giant tortoises along the way. Soon, we reached a private property owned by a local Galapagueños family: “El Manzanillo Reserve.” In this place, visitors can watch the giants resting peacefully as they are completely fearless. After a very special lunch, we got to explore and learned about one of the most successful and iconic populations, the dome-shaped tortoises. They are one of the largest species of the magnificent reptiles. Today’s visit was outstanding!
National Geographic Venture
The bridge team of National Geographic Venture anchored the vessel in a bay protected from the winds and waves of the open ocean. The waters near the Inian Islands are known for heavy currents and extreme waves. The Inian Islands are located in the heart of Cross Sound, one of two entryways for the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Two tides coming in and out each day cause an enormous volume of water to pass through this area, which in turn brings cold, nutrient-rich water up towards the surface. These nutrients stimulate growth and lay the foundation for a robust food web. All sorts of animals come to this location to enjoy the spoils – including killer whales. Our guests were invited aboard Zodiacs this morning to explore the diverse, wild habitats. Fox Creek proved incredibly enjoyable as an afternoon activity. We spent time hiking through a beach meadow with grasses as tall as an adult human. This area was full of bear trails that led each group to a different spot: beach meadow, intertidal, forest floor, streambed, and even to a waterfall. We bushwhacked through the bear trails and found many interesting sights, including perennial bear tracks. These tracks persist year after year as bears make their way to the intertidal zones from their wintering dens. A truly magnificent journey led each of us to a special place just for us. Somewhere we could enjoy true wild Alaska. We are thankful for this day.