Overnight, the bridge team of National Geographic Orion navigated from Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. We spent our morning either hiking the green hills or kayaking the blue waters. The forested trails, most of which have been eradicated of invasive flora and fauna, allow the native species to shine. Our kayakers observed a variety of birdlife, including spotted shags, pied shags, terns, fluttering shearwaters, and even a harrier hawk! We also spotted an eagle ray cruising the shoreline, which was a highlight for everyone. After a delicious lunch on board National Geographic Orion, we sailed towards Picton and learned from field staff lectures in the afternoon. What a fantastic and unforgettable day!
National Geographic Orion
The morning commenced with a quick Zodiac journey across the bay to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Each group had a local guide, and guests learned about New Zealand’s founding document, which was first signed on February 6, 1840. After getting up close to the traditional wakas (large Māori war canoes) and learning about their construction, we continued up the hill to the treaty grounds and looked inside the Treaty House. The guided part of the tour ended there, and we gathered near the entrance of the fully carved Māori meeting house. We were invited in and welcomed in the traditional Māori way. We responded by singing a Māori song that we have practiced throughout our expedition with Hotu, our lead cultural expert. Inside the meeting house, we enjoyed the traditional welcome and listened to stories about the carvings. It was a moving experience. Responding with our song gave us all immense pride, and it was greeted warmly by our Māori friends. After lunch, we crossed the bay again to the small historic village of Russell. This was a destination for sailors, whalers, and traders during the 18th and 19th centuries. Now it is a vibrant spot for locals, tourists, and boat enthusiasts, and it boasts an assortment of quirky art and gift shops.