Summary : Will it be the friendly people of the Philippines, the delicate scent of cherry blossom, the UNESCO World Heritage cedars of Yakusugi Land or the startling red of the Torii Gate floating in between two mysterious worlds that will be your favorite? Colorful and indescribable, a contrast of modern bustle and ancient tradition, Japan is everything to everyone.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark the Silver Discoverer for this delightful expedition across the South China and Philippine Seas, “Ancient Island Nations of the Western Pacific.” This afternoon, attend a safety briefing before leaving Hong Kong.
At sail away watch Hong Kong’s skyline recede behind the ship’s wake. Later, important members of the crew will be introduced, as well as your Expedition Team. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and in the evening enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
Sail across the South China Sea in a south-easterly direction, as you take this day to settle in and relax. Perhaps enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then join the lecturers for talks about the Philippines. Topics might range from the archipelago’s colonial time to the 20th century, and its modern history, but above all its natural history and the attractions intended to visit.
Land in Salomague, on Luzon’s northwestern shore and be welcomed by a local band before heading south to Vigan and its historical district. We will see the Bantay Church and bell tower, Ilocos’ oldest structures dating back to 1590. A Filipino style “fiesta” lunch will be had in a beautiful garden known as the Hidden Garden. This will also include a demonstration of how to prepare Pinakbet –a popular northern dish of mixed vegetables steamed in fish or shrimp sauce. Later a pottery factory specializing in jars is visited. Ride in horse-drawn carriages to the Syquia Mansion, a museum dedicated to the Philippines’ sixth President. A walk through the Vigan Heritage Village with its mestizo district of old colonial, Spanish-style houses and tasting of local delicacies will end the excursion.
Depart from the pier and drive along Luzon’s northern shore to Santa Ana. There will be several options. You might want to swim at beautiful Anguib Beach, swim and explore at the Boacag Waterfalls or might decide to take a local boat across to Palaui Island for a hike to its northern cape and a lighthouse at Cape Deception. Located south of the lighthouse is Engaño (Deception) Cove, offering the opportunity for swimming.
Returning to Aparri at sunset there will still be some time to peruse the shops if you desire.
Arriving quite early in the Philippines’ northernmost province, make the most of your visit to Sabtang Island. After your Zodiac landing there will be a cultural presentation with traditional songs and dances. At Morong Beach there will be nice photo opportunities of the beach and arc, as well as food demonstrations and tasting. Further photo opportunities will be at Savidug Village and the Chamantad Tinyan View Point. A short nature walk and a guided tour at the “Vakul” weavers, who produce the traditional head gear for women, will conclude with a walking tour of the Chavayan Village with its characteristic Ivatan vernacular houses.
In the afternoon Silver Discoverer sails north across the Philippine Sea. Your lecturers will want to prepare you for your visit to Japan with talks or seminars.
During the morning, while Silver Discoverer approaches the Yaeyama Islands, there will be time for more lectures or a seminar.
At Ishigaki-Jima clear into Japan, and after lunch hope to disembark onto Ishigaki Island. From here board a ferry for the short ride to Taketomi Jima. Taketomi’s specialty is a village occupied by a few hundred people whose way of life has little changed from times gone by. After a short guided walk there is a chance to explore on your own.
For birders the Ijima’s and Japanese Leaf Warblers might be of interest. If you like ice cream, Japan might surprise you. Taketomi offers several flavors that are not common, and mong them is a lavender-colored sweet potato offering.
Roughly 320 km southwest of the main island of Okinawa, Miyako-Jima Island is the largest of the eight islands of the Miyako Island Chain. The island bears many historical relics and beautiful white sandy beaches including Maehama, Painagama, Sunakawa, and Shigira Beach.
A scenic drive across the island will take us to the Iruma Ohashi Bridge, the longest fee toll and sea bridge in Japan. The bridge is a work of art that took nine years to complete and resembles a dragon’s tail from a distance. At your next destination board a small boat bound for a nearby coral reef to look for fish and turtles. Below decks the boat has large windows and seats for underwater viewing of fish cruising past the reef at close quarters. Hundreds of fish from many species can be observed along with possible sightings of green turtles – all viewed from a uniquely different perspective.
Another destination is Hennazaki Cape where there are great views of the ocean and a stately lighthouse. It is mesmerizing to stand and watch the swell while appreciating the power of the ocean.
Okinawa is a typical Japanese subtropical region with a warm climate where cherry blossoms bloom in late January, and the swimming season lasts from April to October. There are more than sixty islands between the main island of Okinawa in the North and Yonaguni Island at the south-western end.
Departing from the pier and traveling towards the southeast corner of Okinawa, the first stop will be at the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters. One can walk down the 101 steps into the narrow tunnels to get a unique insight into the conditions and experiences of the soldiers and officers inside the headquarters.
Shuri Castle, your next stop, is the administrative center and residence of the Ryukyu royal family for over 400 years. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle rests on a hill providing outstanding views of Naha and the sea. Surrounded by tall curved walls, the bright red castle is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese architectural styles. You will see the lavishly decorated Main Hall and the ornate Shurei Gate. Known as the Gate of Courtesy, it typifies Okinawan architecture and serves as a symbol of modern day Okinawa.
The final stop will be Shikina-en Garden, constructed in the end of the 18th century; it features beautiful, relatively simple, wooden palace buildings with Okinawan-style, red tile roofs and a spacious Japanese-style landscape garden. A section of the old stone pavement that ran from the Shuri Palace to Shikina-en still exists. While the garden is designed in a style seen elsewhere in Japan, the architecture and flora of Shikina-en are uniquely Okinawan. Although the original garden was destroyed during World War II, it has been beautifully restored.
Amami Oshima is an unspoilt natural paradise situated in the Amami islands and surrounded by transparent waters with brightly colored coral reefs and tropical fish. Your day will start with a visit to Oshimatsumugi Kimono village where you can watch the process of making tsumugi and kasuri silk-cotton fabrics. This is a craft complex in a beautiful hillside setting among flowers and many of the plants used in the process of dyeing.
In Bashayama Village enjoy lunch including Keihan, one of the specialties in Amami. Keihan consists of chicken, egg and other various ingredients placed on rice and covered in chicken broth. During lunch we will also have a chance to see local people playing the Shamisen. After lunch, relax at the beautiful beach or stroll through Kenmunmura village with its traditional houses.
If you prefer a visit with a little more activity, then choose the canoeing tour in Amami Oshima’s Mangrove Park. Amami Oshima holds Japan’s second-largest mangrove forest and is inhabited by the Amami Rabbit, a national protected species. You will canoe for about one hour amongst the mangroves.
Yakushima, Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, is famous in botanical circles for its great many garden plants, including dwarf plants which have evolved to grow smaller than their mainland cousins. Spend time on nature walks including Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, including the Buddhasugi (a 2500-year-old cedar), Futagosugi and Sennensugi. There are different trails for different levels of activity and while walking, see the very clear stream running through the forest and the unique plant life on the island. There will also be a chance to see Yaku Monkey and Yaku Deer.
After your walk in the forest you will visit the Yakusugi Museum, which tells about the vegetation of Yakusugi, as well as the history of Yakushima.
In the evening attend the Videographer’s presentation of our voyage documentary.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; 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.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; 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 Expeditions, © Ray Stranagan (crab)