National Geographic Sea Lion again ventured to Conception Island National Park in the Bahamas. Conception Island, a three-square-mile island of white-sand beaches and red mangrove swamps, is one of the most beautiful—and least-visited—islands in the entire archipelago. This made our visit even more special.

Shortly after breakfast, one group departed for an adventurous hike up and over the spine of the island, a rough limestone ridge. The trail, which is accessed by climbing up a steep bank (with assistance from a rope) cuts through a maze of sea grape bushes and silver thatch palms. The rest of the group, meanwhile, embarked on a beachside snorkel.

Snorkelers who ventured out to the edge of the deeper reef were treated to a flight of several spotted eagle rays winging their way through the water. Parrotfish, triggerfish, yellow snapper, and barracuda were all patrolling the reef walls which were decorated with purple sea fans, yellow sponges, and orange fire coral. Several of the snorkeling groups had an opportunity to venture even farther from the beach and were treated to views of a lovely elkhorn coral garden.

Back on board for a delicious soup-and-salad lunch by hotel manager Val and his team, we pulled anchor and shifted to the northwest side of the island. Enroute guests had an after-lunch fish identification talk by undersea specialist Katie who stressed that while color Is what most people notice about fish, it’s really their shape that is the best tool for identification.

After dropping anchor, an advance beach party set up the tent and Ice chest with cold drinks. Soon there were Zodiacs departing from the ship for a tour of the red mangroves while other guests chose to snorkel, kayak, and paddleboard. Guests on the Zodiac tour spotted dozens of green sea turtles, a friendly nurse shark, and several large southern stingrays.

As the sun sank lower in the sky it was everyone back onboard for a well-earned happy hour and delicious dinner.