The weather and the sea conditions were very favorable as we continued north on National Geographic Orion. This morning, we arrived at Abel Tasman National Park at the northwest tip of South Island. This is the smallest of New Zealand’s thirteen national parks, founded in 1942.

We anchored in an idyllic bay and had opportunities for kayaking and hiking with local guides, exploring on our own, or swimming and relaxing on the gorgeous beach. The forest trail behind the beach was lovely. We learned about some of the plants and saw and heard some beautiful birds – bellbirds, tuis, wood pigeons, wekas, and Eurasian blackbirds, among others.

Back on board, we had another pleasant lunch on the back deck with dolphins as an additional dessert. The surprise treat for the afternoon was the appearance of a blue whale! This is the largest creature to have ever lived on the planet. It was such a privilege to have the opportunity to view one.