Our expedition in French Polynesia began with a 3-night stay at the world-renowned resort, The Brando. If you were to close your eyes and imagine a luxurious thatched roof hut on a private island, you’d be dreaming of The Brando. Accessible by small plane, the grounds were immaculate, lush with tropical vegetation, clear sky blue water, and felt very exclusive.
Each morning, we would enjoy breakfast on our back porch as we played in our private plunge pool and explored the beach, only steps from our villa. Over the course of three days, we participated in two naturalist guided tours, and spent the better part of our days exploring the tropical surroundings. The girls especially enjoyed learning about some of the resort’s conservation efforts, and received their first lessons on the history of the Polynesians. Angela was happy to find a little time to relax in the the Spa.
We found the Brando to be a very impressive resort, with good food and beverage, nice staff, and in great condition. We enjoyed a pleasant stay and found it a wonderful place to recharge after the long flight.
After three days of enjoying our almost private island, we returned to Papeette, for two nights at the InterContinental Hotel awaiting our Lindblad group.
While not as extravagant as the Brando, the InterContinental hotel was a comfortable place to spend a night or two. Rooms were clean, staff was friendly, and the girls especially enjoyed the zero entry pool, sand bottom pool, and saltwater lagoon.
The lagoon, gated on each side, allows ocean water and smaller sea life to enter and exit freely, providing a safe and fun environment to become comfortable with snorkel gear.
The resort faces west to the island of Mo’orea. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting out on our balcony watching the sunset each night after a full day in the water.
After a couple of nights at the InterContinental, we were all ready to board the ship and get started with our expedition. The following seven days we spent exploring on the National Geographic Orion. Each day brought new adventures as the Orion crew led us through the atolls of French Polynesia.
Some mornings we took guided tours of the islands we visited, others we hiked or went for a bike ride. Everyday provided an opportunity to get into the amazingly clear water so we could explore the world beneath.
A highlight of the trip for all of us was a snorkel in “the grotto”, a freshwater filled cave. To access, we first had to hike down into darkness. Then snorkel single file through a thin passageway, lit only by tea lights set out by the expedition staff. The tight passage opened up into a large cavern, filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and was explored exclusively by our group.
Another day we found ourselves petting nurse sharks as we strolled along the shore, then waded through knee deep from small island to small island across a great lagoon. Throughout the week, we learned about the history and geology of the islands, the wildlife, and the culture of the people. Every stop along the way, we were guided by the knowledgeable excellent expedition staff of the Lindblad National Geographic Orion.
Accompanied by a National Geographic Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, as well as a National Geographic certified photography expert and video chronologist, we thoroughly enjoyed the professional insight and honed our photography skills. The professionals were present and available to assist passengers with how best to use their equipment which included everything from iphones to fancy component digital cameras.
The fourteen days in French Polynesia flew by, and sadly it was time to begin our journey home.
In an effort to break up the flight (and extend the trip before returning to reality), we spent an extra two nights at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Ray on the way home.
Located only 15-20 minutes from LAX, The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Ray is a much more family friendly option than a red-eye flight when time permits. When traveling with the kids, a couple hours in the pool or walking up and down the marina while looking at the boats can burn off some energy between long flights.
The club access is another amenity we love to take advantage of when traveling as a family, and the Club at RC, Marina Del Ray is a great one.
French Polynesia is an amazing destination to explore. The weather, water, and people we encountered will be memories we hold onto for a long time. What really made the trip exceptional though was the time on the
National Geographic Orion.
There are many places with beautiful water and interesting people to encounter. When we get a chance to explore an area guided by a crew who are dedicated to making sure we have the best possible experience we can, teaching us every step of the way, the trip becomes exceptional.
From the high quality food and service in the dining room, to the room attendants keeping us organized, to the engaging bar and lounge staff, to the captain who navigates the ship through coves and islets that ships half the size don’t attempt, to the knowledgeable expedition team of naturalists on board, everyone did their jobs with a smile and wanted nothing more than for us to have an amazing time.
Three years ago we traveled with Angela (Ella) & Emily, then age 3 & 5 to the Galapagos on Lindblad Expeditions. At the time, many thought we were foolish to bring children so young – “They will never remember” many we encountered said.
Funny thing is, still today, if you were to ask Emily which bird can puff out it’s red neck, she’ll quickly answer with a Frigate. Ask her about the only iguanas that can swim and she’ll gladly tell you about the Marine Iguanas in the Galapagos. She’ll even go on to tell you about the Naturalists who took us on the walks while there. We are lucky to observe first hand that when the kids have fun learning during their travels, they absorb and they remember.
This trip was no different – Lindblad was once again successful in combining the dedicated team of naturalists and ship staff with a group of like-minded traveler’s that all get along so well, resulting in a trip that will be remembered long after we step off the boat.