Summary : Discover the wild undersea and picturesque islands along the Great Barrier Reef, famed for the vibrant sea life at its fantastic snorkeling and diving sites. Venture to Papua New Guinea to learn about cultures that continue to live close to their ancestral traditions and search for the famous birds of paradise. And explore the tiny islands in the vast marine reserve of Micronesia with its world class snorkeling, where you’ll meet islanders living in the popular notion of paradise.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling
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$999,999,999 to $0
Depart for Cairns, crossing the International Dateline (lose a day).
Arrive in Cairns in the far north of Queensland and transfer to National Geographic Orion for embarkation.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system. It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. Unspoilt Lizard Island has great cultural importance for the traditional residents—the Dingaal Aboriginal people, who regarded it as a sacred place. Its pristine beaches, with perfect white sand, slope gently away from the shore. Swimmers, snorkelers and divers are rewarded with coral gardens, brightly colored tropical fish and giant clams (one meter in length with spectacular colors). Hike up to “Cook’s Look,” where Captain Cook plotted his route through the reefs; the rewards are 360 degree views.
The reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 4,200 miles. This huge area can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. Sail to a remote section on the outer reef, and discover a thrilling array of marine life—from starfish and anemones to multicolored tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles.
This morning, guided by your reef pilot, you may land on Cape York at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia. Continue on to Thursday Island, recognized as one of the last frontiers in Australia. There are at least 274 islands in the Torres Strait, of which 17 have settlements. Learn about the island’s unique history and culture. Wander through the pearler’s cemetery, where stories of this once dangerous occupation are revealed. Or take in the panoramic vistas from Lion’s Lookout.
Head up to the Bridge to watch the quiet business of navigation, then gather in the lounge as you make our way to Papua New Guinea and hear presentations on your next adventures.
Papua New Guinea is a patchwork of mountains and jungle, home to some 700 Papuan and Melanesia tribes, each with its own language. The island of Samarai was once an important trading post and stopover between Australia and East Asia. Today trading has moved elsewhere and the sleepy island is designated as a national heritage site. Land by Zodiac to discover the island’s fascinating history of colonialism, missionaries and headhunters, or land on neighboring islands for beachcombing, swimming and snorkeling.
On Kitava, experience an incredible and festive cultural exchange: hundreds of villagers gather to watch the great festivities, dancing, singing and chanting—with performers decorated in colorful flowers, feathers, woven palm fibers and even Christmas tree tinsel. Photographers will spend time photographing the many beautiful faces, and shoppers may browse some of the finest quality artisan crafts in the Pacific set against idyllic tropical island scenery. After the festivities, relax on the picturesue beach of neighboring Nuratu Island or snorkel its pristine reef.
After a morning at sea, be on deck for the spectacular approach to Rabaul dominated by its smoking volcano. In 1994 the volcano exploded, burying this “Pacific Pompeii.” Observe firsthand the old city covered in ash with the steaming volcano as a backdrop. See the extensive WWII fortifications that made up the southernmost base of the Japanese advance. Another highlight comes after dark, watching the unique fire dancers of the Baining tribe.
This day is left open for exploration, perhaps stopping on New Ireland and the tiny island groups scattered off its shores.
Set your sights north and sail to Micronesia, crossing the equator along the way. With relaxing days at sea, take some time to browse the library, or crack open a copy of James Michener’s book, Tales of the South Pacific, inspired by his experiences during WWII. Head up to the fitness center, have a sauna, enjoy time on deck or in the hot tub. You lecture series continues as you learn about the history and fascinating cultures of Micronesia.
The vast selection of WWII artifacts still found in the Chuuk State after five decades are testament to the unique history of the Micronesian Islands—visible propellers, torpedoes, cave networks, planes and ships abound. See the waterside monument to those who died in the massive American air attack of 1944. Snorkel or dive among Chuuk’s renowned WWII shipwrecks, now blooming with corals. Spot wildlife on rain forest walks, past waterfalls and deserted beaches, and become acquainted with the everyday traditions of the islands, largely unchanged over the centuries.
A leisurely morning gives insight to the traditional island lifestyle with dances, demonstrations of house-framing and thatching, mat and loom weaving, rope and net-making, and handicrafts. Open hearth fires are still used to cook daily meals. Carvers use beautiful local woods to carve warrior masks and busts. And the Chuukese ‘love stick’ is part of a legendary practice of courtship unique to this island group.
“The land of stone money,” intriguing Yap is notable for the largest and heaviest money in the world. Land at tiny Satawal, measuring just 1.5 miles long and accessible only by a small ship such as National Geographic Orion. Village women present a traditional welcome dance adorned in lava-lava skirts. Satawal men, some of the best traditional navigators in the Pacific, live here steering by the sun, stars, and ocean swells. And you may have the chance to ride in an outrigger sailing canoe made of breadfruit wood. Choose to snorkel on the fringing reef, or explore the thickly wooded interior with coconut and breadfruit trees.
This picture-postcard tropical island is home to a beautiful lagoon and a culture with an emphasis on maintaining traditional ways of life, with some modern tools and conveniences banned by the chief. Once granted permission, freely wander the island and admire the handicrafts, including unique pearl-shell fish hooks. People-watch under a coconut tree, photograph the unusual stone money, or enjoy water activities in the blue lagoon.
Zodiacs navigate the coral reefs as you land on the sugar-sand beach of this small, mostly uninhabited island—perfect for exploration, beachcombing and nature walks. Coconut palms grace the lagoon and you may see sooty terns and elegant white-tailed tropicbirds. Snorkel over a coral drop-off, or enjoy a dive in deeper waters.
Traditional life flourishes in the villages where fishing, sailing and weaving are still important parts of everyday life. Grass skirts for the women and thu'us, a type of loincloth, for the men are the basic garb in the small towns that sit in tranquil settings around the island. Walk ancient stone pathways, visit a community house, and view one of the wunbeys—stone sitting platforms where the elders hold meetings. Yap is world famous for its resident manta rays. In Yap, a manta dive does not mean diving with the hope of a manta encounter—it means diving to actually see the mantas. Over 100 manta rays live all year long in the waters surrounding Yap. When coupled with the abundance of larger species like sharks, and turtles, Yap is a paradise for the underwater photographer.
Last landfall is in Palau—a fitting finale with the whitest beaches you will ever see, gardens of coral just beneath the clear waters, lakes filled to the brim with "stingless" jellyfish, forests, waterfalls and caves for exploring. Take a slow hike to legendary Jellyfish Lake for an extraordinary snorkeling experience. After centuries of biological isolation, the huge jellyfish here have lost their ability to sting.
Disembark and check into day rooms at your hotel. Explore on your own or relax before late night flights home.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.
Accommodations as indicated; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages aboard the ship; all shore excursions and sightseeing; transfers to and from group flights; tips (except to ship's crew), taxes and service charges; services of a ship physician and expedition staff; use of kayaks.
International air transportation; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, email and laundry; gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion; scuba diving surcharge; fuel surcharge may apply.