As the captain of trusty National Geographic Orion continued onward in the itinerary, we said a bittersweet goodbye to the Australian territorial waters surrounding Macquarie Island. As the amazing, remote island landscape drifted away in our rearview, a new day dawned for our adventure. Guests and staff took the leisurely morning at sea to enjoy the open ocean. We were gently rocked into a state of relaxation as the swell pushed our beloved ship side to side. As our morning progressed, guests were treated to a rousing presentation on the enthralling life of naturalist Jayden O’Neill. His knowledge of the practices of a Patagonia toothfish vessel was interspersed with anecdotes and tales from his 124 days at sea, because 125 days would have just been too many! After a delicious lunch, each guest and staff member performed another “biosecurity blitz” to ensure that any small seeds or sediment that may have tried to escape Macquarie Island would not be transferred to the next incredibly unique and diverse environment. Undersea specialist Kelly Morgan presented about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) during our afternoon tea, giving us a lesson in governmental protection of the waters surrounding New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. Just when we thought the day was coming to a close as everyone finished dessert, the keen eyes of our Expedition Leader and crew members on the bridge spotted a spout from a whale off in the distance. Slowing down and adeptly maneuvering the ship to offer passengers a great view, the team on the bridge stood side by side with guests in awe of the sight of two fin whales. As the sun started to go down over the horizon, guests wielded binoculars, photography equipment, wide eyes, and giant smiles. We were delighted by the sight of a large baleen whale surfacing and displaying its dorsal fin, a quintessential body part and a helpful identification tool! The sun set on an amazing day at sea with golden hour light beaming across the surface of the open ocean as we continued our journey to our new destination…the Auckland Islands.
National Geographic Orion
Our destination today was Rotorua, Bay of Plenty: A neighboring town with rich cultural heritage - Rotorua nui a Kahumatamomoe. Some of the highlights from our visit to Rotorua included the visit to Te Puia. It was exceptional, featuring a comprehensive 90 minute guided tour encompassing the art school, kiwi conservatory, geysers, and captivating stories of Tūtanekai & Hinemoa told through waiata (song). The tour concluded with a scrumptious buffet filled with traditional Māori cuisine, enhancing the cultural immersion. Following our visit, we ventured into the town center to visit the picturesque lake, absorbing the natural beauty and tranquility. We then headed back to the ship to enjoy an educational session with our Underwater Sea Specialist , Gail, who presented an engaging session on kelp, enlightening us with insights into this marine life. The day concluded with the captain’s farewell cocktail hour, a briefing for the following day's activities, and beautiful dinner as customary. Later, we enjoyed the heartwarming film, The Whale Rider, accompanied by delicious popcorn and hot cocoa.