Our EXC In-Depth Voyage is back in the South Pacific island-hopping among some stunning locales! EXC In-Depth Onboard Exploration Leader Mark Read sent some Field Notes and excellent photos from New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Enjoy this installment, and stay tuned as the ship continues its exploration in the Pacific Ocean.
Nouméa, New Caledonia
Glorious weather greeted Maasdam as we sailed into Nouméa on the first stop on this voyage. We were welcomed into port by numerous storm petrels skimming the ocean in front of the ship. Guests disembarked to undertake a number of EXC shore excursions, as well as others investigating local options on the day. A small number of more adventurous people headed out to the Blue River National Park on a quest to see a Kagu, a bird endemic to New Caledonia. The intrepid travellers managed to see a Kagu within five minutes of searching. How’s that for good luck!? Back in Nouméa, the local markets were in full swing, first with an assault on the senses as you wandered with locals and tourists alike amongst the seafood and produce stalls, and then the riotous colours of the local gift stalls, accompanied by the frenetic activity of the traders marketing their wares. As it was Sunday, many of the local stores were closed, but there were plenty of opportunities to walk the streets and appreciate this old city with its colonial architecture and blend of French and native Kanak heritage.
Tadine, Maré, New Caledonia
With Maasdam at anchor just off the town of Tadine, adventurous guests embarked on the Zodiacs for an EXC In-Depth exploration of Tadine and Pede Bay. Almost immediately we started to see green turtles bobbing on the surface, taking some breaths between munching on their breakfast of seagrasses and algae. Some animals dived hurriedly when they saw us, not expecting to see a small flotilla of Zodiacs. The numerous fringing and patch reefs supported a huge diversity of corals and fish – a kaleidoscope of colour revealed in detail using the viewing cones.
The land drops off very abruptly around the island of Maré, meaning that species you would ordinarily expect to see in deeper waters are present right beside the coast. This was evident by the schools of flying fish that would take flight and flee the Zodiacs, soaring away from the boats using their modified pectoral fins – much to the delight of everyone on board. All of this was played out beneath the amazing backdrop of the ancient limestone cliffs and ridges of this beautiful island, created by fossilised limestone of ages past. Exposed cliffs pockmarked with caves and crevices created homes for other animals, with swallows seen darting in and out of these inaccessible hidey holes.
Mystery Island, Vanuatu
The guests and crew alike got to enjoy the delights of Mystery Island, tiny sister island to Aneityum Island, the most southerly in Vanuatu. With the Maasdam riding at anchor nearby, guests disembarked to undertake a number of EXC tours above or below the water.
The Massdam’s Zodiacs were lowered over the side for an EXC In-Depth exploration around the island, including using the viewing cones to observe the local coral and fish life. Guests who traded towels for mask and snorkel were rewarded with sightings of different species of colourful triggerfish, and one of the resident green turtles also put in an appearance, swimming by smiling guests and naturalists alike. Onshore, guests accompanied one of the naturalist-drivers for a guided walk of the island, talking about the vegetation and admiring the intricate and often messy webs of the resident orb weaver spiders.
If you’d like to join one of these amazing adventures, check out our EXC In-Depth itineraries. Stay tuned to the EXC In-Depth Field Notes as Maasdam makes way to Alaska!
All photos in this post were taken by Mark Read.