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Australia, Vanuatu & New Caledonia

South Pacific Australia Cruise

Summary : Said to ensure a good yam harvest, gaze in awe as the menfolk of Pentecost Island dive from 30-metre towers in the legendary land diving ceremonies. Enjoy local cuisine, baked in the heat of the earth on the tiny island of Makura, see the uninhabited atolls and incredible reef system in the Coral Sea. Snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef, and swim in the crystal clear waters of World Heritage Listed Fraser Island's stunning Lake McKenzie.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Port Vila, Vanuatu

Once all guests have embarked Silver Discoverer, your Expedition Leader will introduce some of the heads of department and important crew-members and you will also get to know the members of your Expedition Team. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2
Pentecost and Ambrym, Vanuatu

In the early morning Silver Discoverer will be in front of Pentecost Island. Go ashore via Zodiac to witness a special socio-religious events in Vanuatu and the South Pacific. Watch as young men of Pentecost dive head first from a specially constructed 30 meter tower onto the bare earth at the base. This ceremony takes place only during the months of April to June when the vines to which the men have tied themselves have the right moisture content to be flexible enough to take the impact of the fall.

This ceremony welcomes in the yam harvest and is a celebration for the whole village which turns out in traditional costume to dance and chant, whipping the atmosphere into an excited frenzy of dance, activity and noise. Depending on the age and daring of the participants the height from which they jump will increase and it really is a leap of faith which ends with the head of the jumper touching the softened ground.

After the dance tour the local village and meet the children who may sing and show you around their school and village.

During lunch Silver Discoverer sails south to Ambrym, another very special island. Ambrym is a volcanic and active (!) island with dark beaches.

Ambrym is known as the island of magic and of the 113 local language of Vanuatu 5 alone are spoken on Ambrym –apart from Bislama, one of the three official languages of the country.

Go ashore near Ranon to have a look at the local community and see the very unique Rom dance. Normally these dances are only shown during grade-taking ceremonies or men’s secret society meetings and on those occasions the participants actually prepare their masks and costumes in secrecy.

Apart from the mesmerizing Rom dance be entertained by one of the local string bands and hope to see some of Vanuatu’s sand drawings. Although some might simply see them as aesthetically pleasing drawings, UNESCO has recognized them as a local “writing” system and inscribed them on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Day 3
Makura Island, Vanuatu

Makura in the Shepherds is not only a small island with steep slopes on the east and south side and sandy beaches on the north and northwestern shore, but it is actually the peak of a primeval volcano. The other existing ramparts of the volcanic rim are believed to be the neighboring islands of Emae and Mataso. Roughly 3,000 people call the Shepherds Islands home and Makura Island has a rather small population mainly living on the northwestern side, close to the beach. Visit this village with its rugged volcanic backdrop and apart from a viewing a cultural presentation you might also hike towards the top of the island.

Day 4
Aniwa / Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu

During the morning Silver Discoverer will be in front of Aniwa Island, a small uplifted coral platform in the southernmost province of Vanuatu. A vivid coral reef has formed here in recent times and grows now where tongues of lava once overran the volcanic slopes and flowed into the ocean. As the corals, sponges and anemones overgrow the dark lava rock, schools of vivid reef fish cruise above. Apart from snorkeling and swimming over this young reef, you might also get to visit the village ashore, although this is very much tide-dependent.

During lunch Silver Discoverer will continue to sail south to reach Tanna and Port Resolution, named after Captain Cook’s famous ship. Tanna’s local community welcomes visitors but is still very much connected to their tradition and custom.

Going ashore onto the black sandy beach, an indication of the volcanic activity of the island, be welcomed on the beach by the inhabitants of the nearby village. There will be an activity by the John Frum Cargo Cult singers. The men and women will present some traditional dances and will later take you on a tour of their village and demonstrate daily living skills in a subsistence economy.

At 4pm embark by 4WD vehicles to reach an area close to the summit of Mount Yasur, the most accessible explosive volcano in the world. Locals believe their spirit god dwells in there so it is a sacred place to the local tribes. Be amazed by the power beneath your feet and stand in awe of the fireworks display at sunset. Local guides will instruct you on safe viewing areas depending on the wind and levels of activity.

Day 5
Aneghowhat, Aneityum Island / Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Aneityum is a little tropical island paradise and is Vanuatu’s southernmost inhabited island. The interior is mountainous and covered with forest. Along the coast, pine plantations contrast with coconut palms, white sand beaches and coral reefs. Aneghowhat is the main settlement on its southwestern side
Aneityum is a good island for walking with a slightly cooler climate. After a visit to Aneityum transfer to Inyeug Island, better known as Mystery Island. This small island southwest of Aneityum holds the airstrip used only twice a week, but otherwise is all beaches and reefs. Make the most of the afternoon relaxing on the beach or swimming and snorkeling in the tranquil waters looking for the many tropical fishes hiding between the corals.

Day 6
Noumea, New Caledonia

Noumea started as a penal colony but since the country is very rich in resources, especially Nickel and other minerals, and Noumea has a large natural harbor, the city has attracted many settlers and today prides itself to have almost two thirds of the country’s population living in Greater Noumea.

While New Caledonia has a large percentage of the Kanak, the indigenous inhabitants living in tribal areas across the country, Noumea is predominantly European (French) influenced.

The city’s center and Place de Cocotiers, the main park, are located close to the harbor and several churches date back to the late 19th century and the creation of Noumea’s business district through landfills into the lagoon.

Apart from many marinas and several long beaches to the south, with an excellent aquarium at Anse Vata, Noumea has an outstanding collection of Kanak and South Pacific objects at the Museum of New Caledonia. An architectural highlight is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. The structure resembles sails or the roofs of Kanak houses hidden behind mangroves and is one of the most stunning man-made views the Pacific has to offer.

Day 7
Île des Pins, New Caledonia

Île des Pins most prominent features are the New Caledonia pines, after which the island was named when seen by Captain Cook. Silver Discoverer will anchor in front of Kuto Bay and you will take Zodiacs to land at Kuto’s little pier. Vao is the main settlement close to Kuto and Kanumera and has interesting local carvings next to a Catholic monument and the village’s chefferie, the residence of the main chief.

The beaches at Kuto and close-by Kanumera are some of the finest beaches in the South Pacific and while Kuto is for swimming, Kanumera and the giant rock in its bay are for snorkeling. At low tide a sandbar extends to the rock, but since the local Kanak consider it sacred, it is forbidden to climb onto it. For those who still would like to do a bit of climbing, a hike to Pic Nga, at 262 meters the island’s highest elevation, can be arranged.

The island was used in the 19th century as a prison for political exiles from France and remains can still be seen at Kuto, near the landing site and at nearby Ouro.

Day 8 – 9
Crossing the Coral Sea

Silver Discoverer will be crossing the Coral Sea for the following two days. This will give you time to relax, to make use of the Gym and Spa, to enjoy views of the open ocean from the outer decks and meet with fellow travelers for a drink in the Explorer Lounge or next to the Pool Bar.

Your team of lecturers will entertain you with information and stories about the area you are traveling through and the various highlights that Australia’s east coast has in store. Attend a lecture or seminar and sample the culinary specialties prepared by your Executive Chef and his galley team.

Day 10
Bundaberg, Australia

Today Silver Discoverer will enter Australia. Bundaberg is the provincial hub of a vibrant, unique region, and is centered on the picturesque Burnett River at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The area around Bundaberg was used for logging and milling in the mid-19th century, but eventually sugarcane was planted and raw sugar still is one of the main export articles. One of the by-products has made Bundaberg quite famous: the rum made from molasses. Since the rum and distillery are not only famous but important to Bundaberg, you can enjoy a Rum Distillery Experience. Explore the museum housed within one of the retired bond stores, where you’ll move through a series of converted 75,000 liter oak vats which have matured hundreds of thousands of liters of Bundaberg Rum. You will also see the world’s largest collection of Bundaberg Rum bottles since the very first bottle was produced in 1888. This is a fully immersive rum experience, where you will get the same sense of scale and awe that the distillery team gets to experience every day.

Bundaberg has the most significant mainland turtle-nesting beach at Mon repos, and can count many heritage-listed buildings. Other interesting features of Bundaberg are the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, honoring a local aviator, and the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens as well as several national parks in the region.

Day 11
Fraser Island, Australia

Discover the beauty of World Heritage Listed Fraser Island aboard a purpose built, air-conditioned 4WD coach. Learn about the natural and cultural history of Fraser Island, at 1840 square kilometers the largest sand island in the world. You will visit and swim the crystal clear waters of the islands most famous and most spectacular lake, Lake McKenzie. At the historic central station in the heart of the island you can walk along the banks of the Wanggoolba Creek and immerse yourself in the peacefulness of the rainforest.

Another way to discover some of Fraser Island’s native birdlife and marine life is to join an experienced ranger on a guided canoe paddle in the waters of the Great Sandy Strait. Canoes are suitable for either 2 or 3 guests. Paddle for one hour just offshore in the beautiful coastal waters to try and spot the fish, rays and birds. Keep a sharp lookout, as you may even get a chance viewing of a turtle, dolphin or dugong that also call the waters of Fraser Island home.

The Butchulla people are the traditional owners of K’gari (Fraser Island). They lived in harmony with the seasons, the land and sea whilst maintaining a perfect balance between spiritual, social and family connections. Today the Butchulla people continue to walk the cultural pathway of their ancestors. You can discover how the Butchulla people survived and thrived on the island during an interesting and informative walking tour. Learn which bush foods are in season and how to use snake vine for a headache and the tea tree for a cold. You will uncover all sorts of native bush tucker in the natural environment and discover how to heal yourself in the bush on this guided stroll.

Despite the island being a sand island, it has over 100 lakes and the landscape changes constantly as dunes are being moved across the island by the wind. Although the speed of 1 to 2 meters a year seems to be slow, this certainly changes the island’s appearance. With over 350 bird species recorded, Fraser Island is part of an Important Bird Area and on the Australian National Heritage list.

Day 12
Great Keppel Island, Australia

Great Keppel Island is slightly north of the Tropic of Capricorn and enjoys an ideal sub-tropical climate. Seen and named by Captain Cook in 1770, the island with its close to 1500 hectares is a sanctuary to extensive native flora and fauna. Seventeen white sand beaches ring the island, inviting swimming and snorkeling. Dolphins can be seen close to the main beaches, while humpback whales visits to Keppel Bay have increased in the last couple of years.

Island bush walking affords chances to see brushtail possums, blue-tongued lizards and goannas, while bird-watchers will be looking for White-breasted Sea Eagles, Brahminy Kites, and Ospreys, Pied Oystercatchers, Beach Stone Curlews, as well as Rainbow Bee-eaters, Peaceful Doves, Varied Honeyeaters, friarbirds and kookaburras.

Silver Discoverer will be anchored in front of Great Keppel Island until late in the evening, permitting the use of the island’s crystal clear waters and the island itself for a full day.

Day 13
Wistari Reef, Australia

Next to Heron Island, Wistari Reef is a special place: a natural coral reef some 60 kms off the coast of Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the best places to experience the underwater wonder of the world. The reef, with a myriad of colorful coral and reef fish, is at your fingertips. Although the breeding season is from October to March, neighboring Heron Island has a resident population of around 4,000 turtles. Since they live around Wistari Reef and Heron Reef all year, one can expect to see turtles in the water anytime. Throughout most of the year Heron Island is a breeding and nesting sanctuary for a huge variety of birds. The biggest populations are the Black Noddies, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Eastern Reef Egrets. In certain months, up to 100,000 birds flock to the island. Other birds found breeding and living on the island are Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, Buff-banded Rails, Capricorn Silvereyes, Sacred Kingfishers, Silver Gulls and White-bellied Sea Eagles. The University of Queensland has a world class marine research facility on the island, not only researching and monitoring but also teaching.

Make the most of your visit with options to bird-watch, swim, and snorkel.

Day 14
Hardy Reef, Australia

Today Silver Discoverer will visit Hardy Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef off the Whitsundays coast of Australia. Hardy Reef is one of the many thousand small reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. Its coral wall is home to an ecosystem of magnificent corals and marine life. Hundreds of fish species at Hardy will surprise and delight. The reef has been chosen to place pontoons so that visitors have specific protected areas where they can swim and snorkel and marvel at the many underwater wonders, amongst them the giant gropers. There are many other reef options in the area too and spots will be chosen based on sea conditions.

Day 15
Townsville, Australia

This morning Silver Discoverer arrives in Townsville. Enjoy an encounter with locals, hear about the regions history and discover first hand unique insights into what makes Townsville in North Queensland such a special place to live. Transfer to Mrs. Smith’s Parlour, a historic venue that is only open for special occasions. Here you will be introduced to a group of passionate locals and you will enjoy a morning tea created with local produce followed by a unique look at Townsville’s Central Business District area.

A somewhat different option is to meet Prof Kirsten Heimann, director of the North Queensland Algal Identification/Culturing Facility at James Cook University (JCU). She leads a microalgal research team focusing on developing microalgae for carbon dioxide and waste water remediation whilst generating valuable co-products. Prof Heimann also leads the methane remediation from underground coal mines project. Having published extensively in high ranking journals including ‘Nature’, her research has won many awards, including the NQ Corporate Business Women Award. This tour offers a unique opportunity to meet Prof Heimann and learn more about her pioneering microalgal research during an informative and engaging 2hr private presentation.

If you would like to see the Cape Cleveland Lighthouse you will cross Cleveland Bay by local boat, taking in the views of Townsville along the way. On arrival to Cape Cleveland you will be taken ashore by barge. Then you can walk up to the lighthouse and enjoy historical displays with regional lighthouse guides. Cape Cleveland Lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be built in Townsville in 1879 and is one of the region’s most sought after destinations. Spend your time taking in the natural beauty that Cape Cleveland has to offer. The isolation and beauty of this part of North Queensland is striking.

For those bent on independent exploration and keen on the Bounty history, the Museum of Tropical Queensland has an exhibition about HMS Pandora, Captain Edward Edwards’ ship sent to find the Bounty mutineers and eventually wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef.
During the afternoon the onboard Videographer will present the final version of the Voyage-DVD.

Day 16
Cairns, Australia

Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.

Notes

This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Included:
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.

Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Ralph Lee Hopkins (turtle), © Richard Sidey (volcano)

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