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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2018
Chosen as a frequent traveler when offered a discount. Went with a travel buddy and shared a forward cabin. Lovely even if a bit small. It took a fair amount of rolling making the first 3 days a bit unsettling. As we went south we were in ... Read More
Chosen as a frequent traveler when offered a discount. Went with a travel buddy and shared a forward cabin. Lovely even if a bit small. It took a fair amount of rolling making the first 3 days a bit unsettling. As we went south we were in calmer seas and enjoyed the ship not only as an adventure but as a guest of the "hotel". The crew on the Orion is proud of its staff and well it should be. Always smiling, they freshened our cabin daily, served us with glorious food. Even opened a new bottle of wine that was not offered that night, just for me. The sailors took great care to assist us into the Zodiacs for forays to the beach to snorkel. I was assisted by one of the expedition onto a paddleboard, instructed how to stand and off I went into the blue water, master of my own rig. Exciting. I learned to snorkel with their help. The photography staff helped me to take better pictures and showed me how to get underwater videos with my GoPro. We visited villages on 3 islands, greeted with enthusiasm with welcoming ceremonies, native dances and food. The ethnomusiciologist heard the choir of a Christian church on a previous cruise and asked them to come on the day we were to arrive (Wednesday) and sing for u s. They agreed, rushed home from work to dress in their Sunday finery and be at church when we arrived at 4PM. Their singing was so heartful that we were all inspired. We were happy that the pastor asked them to stand in a line to greet us all as we left. We hugged and kissed in the proper French way, one of the cruisers received a hat from one of the congregants. Merci's and bon voyage to us all as we thanked them for giving us the opportunity to hear hymns in their Polynesian language. On the last night, we had the opportunity to thank the captain, meet and thank the chef. thank our servers, and to clap for those crew members who were in the engine room, who kept the ship moving. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
We chose this trip because of our wonderful experience with Lindblad in the Galapagos and our understanding from Lindblad that this would be an expedition with varied land experiences in small groups with a top notch team of knowledgeable ... Read More
We chose this trip because of our wonderful experience with Lindblad in the Galapagos and our understanding from Lindblad that this would be an expedition with varied land experiences in small groups with a top notch team of knowledgeable guides with an A+ Expedition Cruise organization. The further bonus was the opportunity for great diving while on the trip. Sadly, it did not live up to our expectations or the standards we would expect from Lindblad. On the Plus Side: The boat is great and one of their nicer ships. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, the food is excellent and the staff couldn't be better. The diving was exactly what we expected based on our discussions with Michelle Graves. The dive masters were excellent and the rental equipment was new and of high quality. We actually ended up diving more than we had planned and this ended up being the highlight of the trip (as well as an additional expense beyond the cost of the expedition). The scenery is beautiful and the waters are warm. All the expedition staff are friendly and accessible, and it was wonderful to have a world renowned photographer on board with us! What could have been better: This was the first time Lindblad has done this itinerary in some years and it showed. Most of the expedition staff made it clear they were unfamiliar with the area; Shore excursions were generally in large groups ... between 25 and in one case close to 60 people together -- and with just a single person leading the group in each case. This happened three days in a row! This was precisely what we had been assured would NOT be the case. There were only two opportunities for hiking during the week and one was available on a first-come-first serve basis to less than 30 people on a boat of 94. We were shut out of this opportunity. Something else that should not happen with Lindblad. Historical French Polynesian culture is largely gone and so most land excursions involved seeing archeological sites which are interesting but not all that varied from island to island. As a diver, we expected to have to choose between diving and water activities. However, it was almost always a choice between diving and the very few land excursions. On one day the entire diving group (11 people) chose to skip the diving in order to participate in the land excursion. The only excursion on the last day was a one hour visit to a pearl farm, but this was made available during the only time diving could take place (in the morning) given that diving is prohibited 24 hours prior to flying. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
JELLYFISH LAKE, Palau – When several million stingless golden jellyfish invite you to swim and snorkel with them – an invitation you will receive nowhere else in the world – it would be rather rude to refuse. So a group of us don ... Read More
JELLYFISH LAKE, Palau – When several million stingless golden jellyfish invite you to swim and snorkel with them – an invitation you will receive nowhere else in the world – it would be rather rude to refuse. So a group of us don snorkels, masks and fins, and slip into the 28-degree water of Jellyfish Lake. What an amazing and unique experience to see and brush by clouds of these delicate, graceful creatures which have evolved in their landlocked lake over 20,000 years to have no need of poisonous stingers. They range in size from as big as a large fist to as small as the tip of your little finger. And their population in the relatively small lake does indeed run between five and seven million. What a start to this cruise on Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Orion. We are off to explore mostly uninhabited islands in and around Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands – although one of the inhabited ones gained a spot in history because of its nutmeg tree…and by being traded for Manhattan. And what a cruise: Hiking, birding and cultural encounters ashore, snorkelling and diving in the surrounding seas with some of the world’s richest underwater flora and fauna, and all supported by knowledgeable lecturers, guides - and on this trip only, one of National Geographic’s most famous photographers. With only 102 passengers, the ship offers the cruise equivalent of glamping: top-level accommodation and dining on board plus, as expedition leader Tim Soper puts it, “shifting into true expedition mode once we leave the ship in our Zodiacs.” But don’t take my word for it. Come along with me as we cruise from Palau to Australia and decide for yourself. Major airlines serve Koror, the capital of Palau, which is a three-hour, 1,700km flight southeast of Manila. To avoid arriving at some midnight hour, I flew via Taiwan. (Check Circle Pacific fares which are often cheaper than return flights and allow you a more varied itinerary.) DAY ONE: There’s nothing like visiting a country to bring its history to life. For example, dot-on-the-map Palau was first colonized by Spanish explorers. Spain then sold these Micronesian islands to Germany, which lost them to Japan after losing the First World War – which in turn lost them to the U.S. after losing the Second World War. Yet all four countries contributed – and especially in the case of the U.S. continue to contribute – to Palau’s development and even culture. Although Palau has been an independent republic since 1994, it continues to use the U.S. dollar as its currency. Most tourists come from both the U.S. and Japan. It’s your typical tropical, relaxed, dreamlike paradise – palm tree beaches, air and ocean temperatures around 28 degrees day and night almost all year, turquoise lagoons, snorkelling and diving. DAY TWO: After our jellyfish encounter on Mecherar Island, local boat operators take us around mushroom-shaped karst limestone islands, large and small, where tidal and microorganism erosion have worn away the rocky undersides. In the afternoon we launch the kayaks to paddle peacefully among the islands to get a closer look at the “mushroom” undersides and vegetation, finishing the day with a snorkel over the corals. DAY THREE: During our day at sea, we meet some of our guide-lecturers, including David Doubilet who has specialized in underwater photography for the National Geographic for 43 years. Throughout the cruise naturalists, cultural/historical specialists and photographers provide fascinating insights to enrich what we are seeing, doing and learning. In one of the lectures we learn improved ecological management has increased the number of fish species here over the past decade to 374 from 285. DAY FOUR: Raja Ampat, Indonesia, comprises 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals. We anchor near Wayag Island – so far off the beaten track that immigration officials have to travel five hours by boat to reach us to clear the ship. At 10km north of the equator, the air and ocean temperature stays between 27 and 30 day and night. Divers do day and night dives, others snorkel off a deserted white sand beach into a variety of colourful corals, multi-coloured tropical fish and giant clams. Those who prefer to stay dry peer into the undersea wonderland from a glass-bottom boat. “There are more species of beautiful reef fish and gorgeous corals here in the Coral Triangle than in any other part of the world,” says David Cothran, photo instructor. In the afternoon, the Zodiacs finish exploring, round a corner of the island and find sunset cocktails and nibblies being served on the beach, ahead of a seafood barbecue dinner back on deck featuring 80 different delicacies prepared by executive chef Lothar Reiner and his kitchen crew. DAYS FIVE and SIX: We snorkel from a platform anchored between two Zodiacs and many snorkellers declare, “this is the best snorkel site yet.” We see schools of Thread Fin Anthias and other fish, large and tiny, some swimming in an orderly flow, others all over the place – normal or bright neon colours, stripes, spots; groups of tiny fish nibbling coral, feeding within the waving polyps, all varieties and shapes. The fish are matched only by the varieties, designs and colours of underwater flora: the corals, sponges, sea whips and many more. Tiny jellyfish are so translucent a camera’s autofocus doesn’t respond to them. A sharp-eyed diver spots a pygmy seahorse the size of a grain of rice. Over there, peeping out of a coral, is Nemo (a clownfish, aka sub anemone fish, aka sub damsel fish). Giant schools of barracuda swim by. It’s fun to just float, head down, in one spot, to watch fish emerge from under rocks and rock crevices, to see fish being “cleaned” – having parasites removed – by smaller, “cleaner” fish. Dappled sunlight and shadows mark the coral wall which falls away into deep water changing from light to dark blue. During an afternoon Zodiac exploration, schools of hundreds of tiny silver or blue fish speed jump out of the water for a fraction of a second, almost like a cloud of large insects. A variety of colourful tropical fish, and even a small grey reef shark, swim around the coral just centimetres below the surface. High above us an osprey swoops at a young sea eagle, which does a mid-air flip at the last minute to try to escape. Just above the waterline, our guide naturalist Richard White spots a carnivorous green pitcher plant, about 10cm long and indeed shaped like an elongated pitcher. In a neighbouring Zodiac, Palau-based guide and biologist/cultural specialist Ron Leidich finds an even larger specimen: close to 15cm. “Because nutrients are scarce, this plant has adapted by attracting and then digesting insects,” White says. “A sweet liquid in the bottom of the pitcher attracts the insects and the slippery sides prevent them from getting back out. The pitcher even has a lid, which closes when it rains to prevent the liquid from getting diluted.” A larger relative of the pitcher plant, able to “eat” mice and even small rats, once won “plant of the year” at the famous Chelsea Flower Show in London. We are delighted to see so many natural wonders up close, to have the good fortune to be in such a remote area and have the place to ourselves to explore. DAYS SIX to NINE: “For more than three centuries, Banda Neira (which usually doesn’t even show up on a map) was the centre of major contention between the native people and the Portuguese, Dutch and English,” naturalist Tom Ritchie briefs us. “Thousands of people were murdered, killed in military actions and enslaved over the possession and harvest of a small endemic species of tree found only here in Banda – the nutmeg. Along with the mace wrapping around the nut, it was perhaps once the most valuable spice in the world, prized for its ability to preserve and cure food, especially meat, in the days when there was no refrigeration or canning.” We go ashore on several islands to meet the locals in Yenwaupnor, Kokas, Banda Neira and Banda Run villages (Run was traded by the Dutch to the British for Manhattan in 1667). They put on welcoming and farewell cultural dances. Children get time off school to show us around. We walk along the streets with cats, dogs, chickens and goats, see colourful colonial architecture, sample the local spices, visit Dutch and Japanese fortification ruins, hike into the hills where our guide kicks off his flip-flops to climb a tree to cut down some coconuts to refresh us. We feel privileged to briefly share even a tiny bit of the lives of local inhabitants. DAY 10: Once again we are swimming off uninhabited beaches. We have another “best snorkelling day yet” between two of the five tiny atolls of the Lucipara Islands, in the middle of the Banda Sea – the tops of undersea mountains rising almost 2km from the seabed. I go snorkelling and just hang off the shelf in the slight current where the coral drops off to the very deep ocean floor, watching the fish – and three turtles (or the same turtle three different times) – swim by. I am often surrounded by clouds – thousands – of orange (Anthia) and also blue fish (Fusilier) smaller than my baby finger. DAYS 11 to 13: One more day of deserted island beachcombing, snorkelling and diving, one more day at sea and we end our trip in Darwin – reflecting on how lucky we have been to get up close and personal with such remote and magical islands and their inhabitants both above and below the water. Read Less
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