Splashing through the whitecaps on the National Geographic Orion, we’ve left Camp Leakey, Dr. Galdikas, and our beloved orangutans behind. White bellied sea eagles lead us along through the Java Sea with the much anticipated destination of Kuching lying ahead.

With a morning lecture from filmmaker and adventurer, Lawrence Blair we’re reminded that we’ve been travelling in the footsteps of the revered 19th century naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace. Braving headhunters, malaria, and 20-foot pythons, Wallace dedicated eight years of his youth to solving a mystery that today is often overlooked. Wallace’s insatiable curiosity drove him from island to island and port to port with a singular thought in mind:  How were these plants and animals distributed around the vastness that is the Malay Archipelago? Wallace’s thirst for knowledge culminated in an epic volume titled Island Life in which the science of Biogeography was introduced to the world.

Lawrence’s inspirational overview of the Malay Archipelago was followed by a presentation from National Geographic photographer and conservationist, Brian Skerry. A lifetime of dedication to the oceans has not only produced a magical portfolio of images but additionally taught Brian a sense of wonderment and humility delivered from the heart of the planet. Brian’s images reflect his reverence for his subjects while he shared his intimate understanding of life beneath the waves.

Not to be outdone, our Global Perspectives guest speaker, Lawrence Blair delivered a final lecture on “Strange Beasts of Indonesia.” Carnivorous pitcher plants, singing gibbons, extinct miniature Hominids, and outrageous birds of paradise were all on display. A lifetime of death-defying adventures has taken Lawrence to the most remote corners of this unexplored wonderland. Through photography, film, and storytelling, Lawrence has insured that the treasures of Malay will be preserved for generations to come.

Our 12-day voyage will take us to remote corners of this island paradise. We’ve touched the hands of kindred species and marveled at the unspoiled beauty. Curious minds have journeyed from afar to answer questions revealed only through travel. I can’t help but think that Wallace himself would smile at the thought of so many eager minds following in his footsteps.