Ifira Island and Lelepa Island: Day Seven – Have you ever wanted to go diving with ocean legend Valerie Taylor?

I did.

Today was a special day for guests and staff on board the ship.

For months we’d been planning and preparing to send guests diving for the first time aboard National Geographic Orion.

Without local knowledge, our Dive Masters Ian and Justin used charts, their experience and gut feelings to take guests, including myself on a dive on the north side of Ifira Island.

The first dive was shallow, but we managed to spot formidable fish in less than an hour. I spotted a humphead banner fish, flamboyantly colored angelfish and pugnacious anemone fish.

The humphead banner fish was probably one of the more remarkable species. It’s one of those creatures were you stop and think, “does that fish actually have a hole in its head?”

However, these brown and white animals are often seen in a mated pair, so how could both have such a distinctive wound in the exact same spot. It’s only after watching them for some time that you realize their exaggerated, concave forehead is just one of the myriad of interesting body parts being flaunted on these electric reef systems.

“Ocean legend Valerie Taylor made a few dreams come true, as she joined us for the final ‘first dive’.”

We reboarded the National Geographic Orion for the afternoon and staff repositioned it at the nearby Lelepa Island for a visit to the Fels Cave UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of course, with water temps in the 80s and a nice shore out of the trade winds, some of us went submarine rather than subterranean.

This time around, ocean legend Valerie Taylor made a few dreams come true, as she joined us for the final ‘first dive’.

Through her decades of underwater filmmaking and photography, Valerie has impacted thousands, if not millions of people and helped shape how we view the ocean today.

If it weren’t for her work, many of us may have never fallen in love with the deep blue.

This was a dive we won’t forget if for no other reason that we all got smoked by Valerie’s fluid fin kicks.

She was even kind enough to lend me the pictures she took during the dive of National Geographic Orion’s guests underwater.

Click back onto Cruise Passenger tomorrow as we arrive in Port Vila.

Or catch up on my blog by clicking the links below.

Day Six – Tanna Island
Day Five – Experiencing National Geographic Orion’s delicacies

Day Four – Norfolk Island
Day Three – Captain Mike Taylor shares love of cruising
Day Two – Bay of Islands
Day One – The Christening

WORDS: Jeremy Lindblad