Kia Ora from Dusky Sound in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, meaning “the land of the long white cloud.” As they sailed voyaging canoes across the vast ocean of the Pacific, Polynesian voyagers were the first to discover Aotearoa, New Zealand around 1340 AD. On one of these canoes, a young navigator called Kupe was alerted by a cry from his wife when she sighted a long white cloud over land that appeared later. She cried, “E Ao, E Aotearoa,” hence the name, which is still used today by New Zealanders.

This morning, National Geographic Orion slipped into Tamatea, also known as Dusky Sound. We were greeted by a very somber, wet, and overcast sound, but in the same breath, this place is beautiful, serene, and mystical.

Today’s activities were all about getting up close to the environment by dropping Zodiacs into the sound and going out for tours to take in the flora and fauna of this very special place.

There were birds galore, including yellowheads, black-backed gulls, New Zealand falcons, tui, saddlebacks, robins, bellbirds singing their songs, and the screeching kākā. Not to be outdone by the birdlife, we were greeted by many a young New Zealand Fur seal pup, either hauled out on a rock or in a hidden forest bush.

Aotearoa was at its best, with majestical shorelines of geological beauty and ancient forests right along the shore. Ahhhhh! Just priceless!