Those of us who started our day early had quite the morning show. All night the stars were out in full display, their brilliance dampened only by a shining moon. National Geographic Sea Lion sat at anchor on the Exuma Banks, gently swaying through the night. As the day broke, the clouds lit up with the morning light, painting their tops silver and red. Sailing yachts slipped their moorings and set off towards the horizon in the gentle breeze, silently passing our bow as the sun began to give the clear Bahamian waters their characteristic blue tint. It was a beautiful start to our first day exploring the Bahamas.

After breakfast and a few briefings, we set out to explore the land before us. An inviting beach gave us a protected site for our first snorkeling operation, where we set out to see the coral and reef fish we have heard so much about. Others went to the park headquarters where trails led us through mangrove creeks and up to haunted destinations with names like “Boo Boo Hill” and “Banshee Creek.” We encountered a lot of wildlife on our hike, including northern curly-tailed lizards, Bahama mockingbirds, white-tailed tropicbirds, and yellow warblers. Signs of the hutia, the Bahama’s only native terrestrial mammal, were abundant in droppings and tracks. These nocturnal rodents, similar to guinea pigs, are abundant at Warderick Wells, though it is unlikely to see them in the daytime.

A squall passed by right before lunchtime, giving us a taste of the tropics. We waited it out before heading out for a round of afternoon activities. We enjoyed a presentation by National Geographic certified photography instructor Kim Nesbit. Though the wind had stiffened, our protected bay gave us the chance to kayak and paddleboard, getting a taste of the activities National Geographic Sea Lion can offer. The water in the Bahamas, with its color and life, are some of the clearest in the world. The beauty is impossible to ignore, as we are happily engulfed in it.

The day slowly came to an end, and we returned to the ship for a relaxing and pleasant evening. It is incredible to be in such a gorgeous location. Today was a wonderful introduction to the islands around us, and we look forward to tomorrow with anticipation.