May 02, 2019 - National Geographic Orion
Too often the unplanned adventure makes for the most exhilarating of experiences. Our expedition leader tore up our plans for the day before breakfast even began. Unable to make landing at Ua Huka, where we had planned to go ashore, we quickly embraced the expedition mentality and headed to the flat, rocky, and otherwise compact land mass known as Bird Island, or “Teuaua” in Polynesian tongue. As if the island required further insight into what its name might allude, the smell, sounds, and site of 40,000 sooty terns occupying the sky, along with the odd brown and red-footed boobies, was quick to resolve any outlying confusion.
Those out on the Zodiacs were fortuned further to encounter manta rays along the rocky coast and shoreline edge, and we watched them feed at the surface before our return to National Geographic Orion.
Not long after boarding, Divemaster Maya Santangelo spotted cetaceans in the distance. Anyone taking the time to enjoy the mid-morning doze that was afforded was woken abruptly by announcements from our naturalist team that we had in fact encountered a small pod of pilot whales.
The bridge team carefully manoeuvred our vessel among the gentle swells to approach the pod ahead. However, it was soon obvious that the whales were not only aware of our presence, but clearly as curious as we were. They approached the bow of the ship, surfacing over and over again, showing flukes, with many of them even spy hopping to try and get a better look at us. It is the unexpected, spontaneous nature of encounters with wildlife such as those moments witnessed today that make them so memorable. It reminds, and poignantly so, how fortunate we are to find ourselves in such wild territory.
Continuing on the theme of expedition, we landed at the community of Ua Pou, at Hakahatau, in the afternoon, somewhere we had not expected to visit, and set about exploring the town and the surrounding hills. The backdrop to this small harbour, was a series stunning, other-worldly rocky peaks, slightly obscured by dramatic clouds. As the sun began to set on the harbour, local kids played and slid on the boat ramp, our guests sampled fresh fruit, bought artisanal gifts for their families, and reflected on a truly remarkable day at the Marquesas.
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