Today was an excellent way to start our expedition. After an overnight sail from our embarkation in Bali, National Geographic Orion arrived at Sumbawa, an island in the middle of the Lesser Sunda chain. Here we had a small sampling of all that is in store for us on our expedition, both culture and natural beauty.

In the morning, we visited the town of Kananga. Locals seemed overjoyed by our arrival. A large crowd welcomed us warmly on the beach. They shared many songs and a dance performance, as well as many greetings: “Hello!” “Good morning!” and “Selamat pagi!” We also shared many selfies. We toured the village and tried some of the local dishes before returning to the ship.

In the afternoon, we focused our attention on the natural world. Located a short distance offshore of Kananga, Satonda is a pristine, jungle-covered volcanic cone with an interior crater filled with a saltwater lake. We snorkeled along a beautiful coral reef that was lined with bright white, coralline sand and bustling with fish, soft corals, and sponges. Afterwards, we visited the island to view the crater. We were treated to views of monkeys, orange-footed megapodes, and other interesting birdlife.

As we sailed away at the end of the day, the sky turned a fiery red behind Satonda. Thousands of flying foxes took to the air. It was one of the nicest sunsets I have yet witnessed, and it was a great start to the trip.