For me, one of the best ways to start the day involves waking up early and standing on the observation deck to watch the first lights. On this voyage from Fiji, we were blessed to watch many sunrises from National Geographic Orion’s bow, like an invitation to sail east in the wake of our great Polynesian ancestors. This morning felt even more special to me, as the ship made her way to Moorea, my island home.

We anchored in the majestic Paopao, also known as Cook’s Bay. After breakfast, we took the Zodiacs to go on a tour of the bay. We landed on the beach near the cultural center, Te Pu Atiti’a, and the Gump Station. Science and culture go hand in hand here. Te Pu Atiti’a promotes cultural practices through hands-on experiences and learning. A hundred yards from it, the Berkeley Gump Station is one of the longest operating field stations. It promotes research and education to better understand our reef ecosystems. This model of integrating hard science and ancestral wisdom may well be a way to better bridge our collective knowledge about our environment.

Moorea is also well known for its lagoon and reef. Like in any popular destination, our team of divers had to find a nice place without too many people around to enjoy one last snorkeling. For most of the passengers on this leg, it was the final opportunity to enjoy the warm waters of the South Pacific Ocean.