The Coral Sea, 3/15/2023, National Geographic Orion
National Geographic Orion
French Polynesia & Pacific Islands
We spent today cruising through the Coral Sea between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. We had lovely weather, and it was a welcome restful day as we continue to adjust from travel.
Ian Toll, our special guest speaker, gave a wonderful presentation on the World War II History that happened where we were yesterday, where we are today, and where we will be heading for the rest of the voyage. It was a great way to set the stage for the amazing history we will see with our own eyes tomorrow when National Geographic Orion arrives in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.
Rachel is a Marine Ecologist, Master Scuba Instructor, and USCG 100-ton licensed Captain. She grew up homeschooled on an alpaca farm in Upstate NY, where her passion for the outdoors was initially cultivated. After attending a marine science summer c...
Early this morning, we came inside the reef that surrounds the island of Ono. There are many other small islands inside the reef as well, so we had a great opportunity to get out in the Zodiacs. After breakfast, our scouting parties went off in different directions to find the best places to take guests. We settled on one of the islets that is a wildlife sanctuary, and we found many masked and red-footed boobies perched in the trees. Though they are not yet nesting, and many were out at sea for the day, we still saw dozens of birds. Higher up, we saw both greater and lesser frigatebirds, and on the way back to the ship, we spotted some black-naped terns and a fruit dove. This afternoon was our last chance to get in the water on this voyage, so we set up the snorkel platform and the glass-bottomed Zodiac. We had a sunny and hot afternoon to cruise around the coral heads. We observed new fish and appreciated the ones we have come to recognize and love. Our captain bid us a fond farewell this evening while we enjoyed the guest slideshow dressed in our finest clothes. From the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu and now into Fiji, we have experienced much of the beauty and diversity of this region of the world.
Today was our first day in Fiji! We spent the entire day on the island of Beqa. In the morning, some of us visited the beach and went swimming around the coral heads and seagrass beds next to a small, family-run resort. Others decided to hike across the island from the north village of Naceva to the southern village of Naiseuseu. These villages are closely connected and have the same chief. We used a narrow path that children use to walk to school each day. It takes them about half an hour, but it took us much longer. The trail was narrow, muddy, and steep in places, so we were lucky to have the helping hands of an entire family to make sure we stayed upright. At the end of the trail, the chief came to say hello as we walked through the larger village, visited the school, and waited for our Zodiacs. In the afternoon, we returned to the same small resort for a fabulous welcome concert hosted by the community. Guitars and bamboo used for percussion joined with clapping hands and many harmonizing voices. After the welcome, we enjoyed a longer concert and a series of dances performed by women. They sat on the ground for most of the dances and used elaborate hand gestures. After a short break, we moved to a different part of the shaded lawn to wait for the firewalkers. This area is well known for firewalking. We watched as a group of men came out and removed huge logs from a fire that had been burning all day. With long branches, they smoothed out the rocks underneath – rocks heated beneath the flames for many hours. Without much fanfare, they walked across the rocks one by one. They walked slowly and made it look easy. We watched in silence and then erupted in applause.
Overnight, the seas calmed. We were treated to deep blue, glassy seas with a small swell for most of the day. We thoroughly enjoyed time on the deck with beautiful clouds and a few rainbows. Some flying fish were spotted, but the seabirds were the highlight for me. We observed sooty terns, jaegers, and red-footed boobies, but the tubenoses were the best. We also spotted a few rare Vanuatu petrels, along with other petrels and many wedge-tailed shearwaters. After a delicious dinner, it was time for the one and only National Geographic Orion crew show!