Tools for Exploration

Discover and learn more with our suite of modern tools for exploration

We believe that travelers don’t want to be passive tourists, so our expeditions foster active engagement. As of March 2014, National Geographic Orion will be equipped with all these tools for exploration—to get you out there for up-close forays, or to let you see deeper into the marine or terrestrial environments surrounding you.

carries Zodiac landing craft—a full fleet—allowing us to get the entire expedition community out, engaged in activities quickly, comfortably, and safely. Widely regarded as the most robust watercraft available, they can run up on sandy shores and push through pack ice. While Zodiacs can carry 15 people, we usually limit capacity to 12 or less to ensure everyone has plenty of room, and an opportunity to get that perfect shot. The addition of a glass-bottom craft to our fleet of Zodiacs allows for undersea exploration without diving or snorkeling.

is equipped with a fleet of kayaks. Prior kayaking experience isn’t necessary—many of our guests have their first kayaking experience in extraordinary locations. Kayakers are usually free to explore where they want within boundaries set by the undersea specialist and officer of the watch.

Underwater camera
Our undersea specialist will dive many days of your expedition, even in Antarctica, with almost 200 pounds of gear, to shoot high-definition, Cousteau-like footage of the deep. Colorful nudibranchs, swimming, plant-like crinoids, and mysterious fish with antifreeze blood that thrive in the frigid sea will give you an entirely new appreciation of the marine environment.

Remotely Operated Vehicle
Capable of reaching 1,000 feet, far beyond the range of any Scuba diver, the ROV allows you to literally view parts of the undersea that are as unexplored as the moon. In polar waters, for example, we may be the first ever to explore and record in vast areas. By sharing videos of potentially new species with scientists, such as a large worm our specialist captured in the Weddell Sea, we actively contribute to science. Chances are you, like many of our guests, will be struck by how surprisingly colorful undersea life is in these unlikely places. And this glimpse may fundamentally change how you view the ocean.

Video microscope
Naturalists will use the video microscope to help explain all elements of the environment, including tiny organisms that are the building blocks of the marine ecosystem. Spellbinding images of a krill’s body, at 80x magnification, fills the plasma screens in the lounge with vivid detail, and fills every onlooker with a sense of wonder at the importance of an otherwise unobservable creature.

Crow’s nest camera
Perched high atop the vessel on the ship’s mast, this camera provides a continual view on the outside world that can be seen on your cabin TV. You’ll get a unique perspective on your surroundings.

These underwater microphones are deployed to listen to the vocalizations of marine mammals. Real time transmissions of their eerie, haunting sounds can be broadcast through the ship or recorded for later playback.

Electronic charts
An electronic chart showing the ship’s location, course, and speed is always on display on a dedicated channel on your cabin TV.

Snorkeling gear & wetsuits
On warm weather itineraries where there will be snorkeling, you’ll select a mask, snorkel, fins that remain yours for the duration of the expedition. There’s no need to pack and tote your own gear, although guests who prefer to are welcome to bring their own.

Scuba diving*
We offer scuba diving for up to 24 guests on warm weather itineraries where scuba diving is available. There’s no need to pack and tote your own gear, although guests who prefer to are welcome to bring their own. There is a surcharge for scuba diving which includes equipment and the services of a certified divemaster.

*Scuba diving requirements: Scuba divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks must be shown on board. Divers must have logged 25 dives in total and made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage. 

Note: A fleet of Zodiac landing craft, a hydrophone, underwater video cameras, a video microscope, and a crow’s nest camera are available on voyages in the Kimberley. In addition, kayaks, snorkeling gear for all guests, scuba gear for 24 guests, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and a glass-bottom Zodiac are available on all South Pacific, Indonesia and the Kimberley with Spice voyages. All expedition equipment except for scuba diving is offered in Borneo.

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