We spent the day exploring the amazing limestone atoll of Makatea. As soon as we arrived, we headed out in Zodiacs for excellent snorkeling or cruising on the edge of the limestone cliffs. The reef here is quite deep and of a high quality. Afterwards, everyone settled back onboard National Geographic Orion for lunch.
Next, we disembarked on Zodiacs through the entrance to the old port, which closed in 1966 after mining phosphate since the start of the 20th century. It was a tricky ride but expertly handled by cultural navigator Tua Pittman. On the island, many set off in local pickup trucks with Mike G. to search for endemic but often elusive birds, including the Makatea fruit dove and the Polynesia imperial pigeon. Makatea is the only place in Polynesia where we can find these birds, so levels of excitement and anticipation were high.
Many guests set off to walk the two plus miles across the island. They stopped at the Belvedere for stunning views of the steep slopes. Some guests took the easier route and traveled to the end of the track in pickup trucks.
We found the highlight of Makatea at the end of the track. Guests descended into the grotto, an underwater cave with amazing formations and cool, clear freshwater. The dive team set up lights earlier, so the entire magnificent complex was bathed in soft light, providing a wonderful ambience. Swimming in this unique grotto was a true highlight for staff and guests.