The crew began the day at first light by setting out on Zodiacs in a labyrinth of thousands of islands that are geologically known as flooded tower karst. Located almost directly on the equator, Misool is one of the few places on the planet where the karst phenomenon occurs. We were scouting for snorkel and dive sites in the Raja Ampat Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It didn’t take long to find a suitable snorkel site, as the snorkeling in Raja Ampat is quite likely the best in the world.

The team returned to National Geographic Orion to join guests for an amazing breakfast that highlighted crab and cheese omelets. As breakfast wrapped up, the Zodiacs were launched and loaded. We headed back into the maze of rock walls and islands for a magical tour through one of the most dreamlike landscapes I have ever seen. We said to each other, “This looks like something from Avatar,” and, “This feels like a Disney ride!”

The scenery had a repeating pattern of clear blue water, grey limestone, bright green vegetation, and blue skies. Touring through the landscape, we spotted soaring turtles and schools of fish leaping out of the water. The experience stimulated our appetites for the snorkel experience to come. One of our guests was so impressed by the experience that she called it dry snorkeling!

We motored back to the ship for a quick switchover to snorkel mode before returning to the myriad of fish, sponges, and corals in the seemingly invisible water. Everyone sported ear-to-ear grins. We wrapped up our morning daydream just in time for lunch. We pulled the anchors and set sail for our next adventure. As the sun was setting, we watched a blue whale swim into the sunset.