In the early morning, National Geographic Orion pulled alongside a dock just outside of Vanuatu’s second largest city, Luganville. After being hit hard by back-to-back tropical cyclones Judy and Kevin, we were the first ship able to clear into the country. The island of Espiritu Santo wasn’t hit as hard as some of the more southern islands, but our arrival was a welcomed distraction, nonetheless.

Upon arrival at the dock, we sent out our passionate birders into the highland jungles in search of island endemics. These brave individuals endured heat, humidity, and a downpour, but luckily, our local guide brought along “natural umbrellas.” The rest of the group took a tour of a World War II museum that showcases the impacts of the war in the Pacific, specifically Vanuatu. The tour was followed by our first snorkel outing of the trip at Million Dollar Beach. The area gained the name because at the end of the war, it was too expensive to transport all the gear and vehicles back to the states, so the U.S. military essentially drove all the remaining vehicles into the water. The submerged relics are now home to corals and reef fish, and they offer an interesting and historical snorkel. Post snorkel, we were treated to kava, a local drink.

In the afternoon, we took vans slightly north to a remote and secluded blue hole. We sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the beauty of Espiritu Santo in this freshwater oasis. Guests enjoyed swimming, swinging from a rope into the water, and just decompressing as they took in the view. We were also treated to a water performance. Women of the village create beautiful performances by singing and making beats using the percussive properties of water manipulation. The performance was enjoyed by all.