Summary : Enjoy exuberant welcomes from dancers in traditional dress and experience warm hospitality as you are invited to join kava rituals and sample local delicacies. Witness the unique cultural heritage of Tonga, the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy. Search for a bevy of rare and endemic birds, including Fiji orange doves, chattering kingfishers, and Cook Island fruit doves. Snorkel or dive nearly every day to discover dazzling coral reefs and healthy populations of tropical fish. Photograph lush, emerald islands rising from turquoise lagoons, and white-sand beaches framed by lanky palms.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling
Groups of 8 or more people save 10% per person off the cost of the expedition.
$14,980 to $23,380
Board your independent overnight flight to Fiji. Cross the International Date Line en route losing a day.
After an early morning arrival, check in to your hotel dayroom to enjoy a morning at leisure before lunch. In the afternoon set out for an island exploration, including a visit to The Garden of the Sleeping Giant, started by the late actor Raymond Burr in 1977, and showcasing more than 2,000 varieties of orchids. Then visit the Vei Sei Sei village, and make a stop for magnificent island views at Vudu Lookout. In the city of Lautoka on the western “sunshine coast” of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, embark the Caledonian Sky.
The Fiji Islands, considered part of Melanesia, cover an area of 386,000 square miles. Of the 325 islands large enough for habitation, only 106 have permanent residents. The third largest, Taveuni, is a dazzling emerald known as “the garden island,” and you have several excursions to choose from here. Hikers enjoy a visit to beautiful waterfalls in Bouma National Park, while birders explore the lush forests, keeping a lookout for collared lories, Fiji orange doves, and blue-crested flycatchers. A cultural tour highlights traditional Fijian village life, a kava ceremony, and demonstrations of cooking, tapa-cloth production, and basket weaving. Snorkelers and divers investigate the submerged wonders of the sea including Fiji’s famed soft corals and an incredible diversity of fish.
Though linked through French colonialism, the language, customs, culture, and artistic traditions of Wallis and Futuna are distinctly different. While Wallis has ancestral ties with Tonga, Futuna traces its roots to Samoa. Be on deck as the ship approaches Futuna, whose verdant slopes ascend into the clouds. Stunning beaches fringe the east coast and Mt. Puke, the island’s largest volcano, soars to nearly 2,500 feet. In a traditional village visit the impressive shrine to the South Pacific’s only saint, Pierre Chanel; the interior is covered in elaborately-decorated tapa cloth. Birders keep an eye out for red-footed boobies, white-collared kingfishers, and blue-crowned lorikeets. Lunch on board is followed by snorkeling or diving in the clear waters to view longnose filefish, anemonefish, and colorful corals.
Tour the regional capital, Mata Utu, to visit its distinctive stone cathedral, then drive to one of the island’s beautiful crater lakes. Stroll through the interesting remains of a 14th-century fort, and browse local handicrafts.
Tonga’s northernmost island, Niuafo’ou, is the tip of an underwater volcano, and recent eruptions have left part of it covered in black lava. Step ashore to visit the island’s interior caldera lake where the Niuafo’ou megapode incubates its eggs in the warm volcanic ash until the chicks emerge fully fledged. Under-water, silvery fish sparkle like diamonds against a dramatic backdrop of extrusive lava that has turned into black basalt.
Today explore on of the many uninhabited islands of Tonga. Go ashore for beach walks with naturalists, and, conditions permitting, spend time snorkeling or diving.
Locals welcome you ashore on Neiafu. Take a stroll through the small community and visit the colorful market. Then, cruise by Zodiac to a cavern hollowed out by wave action and search for black-and-white sea snakes while snorkeling or diving off one of Neiafu’s surrounding islands. This evening, cross the International Date Line and gain a day.
A saucer-shaped uplifted atoll—one of the world’s largest emerged coral atolls—Niue is endowed with some of the most extensive and dramatic limestone cave systems in the South Pacific. It is one of the world’s smallest self-governing states, with approximately 1,500 inhabitants. A hike to the sea caves takes you over a “pathway” of coral for spectacular views, including a huge arch rising from the aquamarine waters. In the afternoon, snorkelers and divers take in underwater wonders among the coral—including the chance to see the endemic sea snake—while birders may choose a rainforest walk to seek out the banded rail, masked lapwing, and blue-crowned lorikeet.
Spend your day relaxing on deck and attending informative lectures.
About 60 people reside on Palmerston, all descendants of the eccentric William Marsters, who managed the island’s coconut plantations in the 1860s. Permission pending, go ashore to meet the friendly islanders and stroll through the village. The translucent waters reveal numerous healthy coral heads and marine life.
Like a miniature Bora Bora, Aitutaki’s central peak rises above a reef-encircled lagoon. Enjoy a welcome by villagers performing intricate dances. Local guides accompany the group on an island tour highlighting the natural and cultural attributes of the island. After lunch on the ship, enjoy snorkeling or diving off a remote motu in the crystal-clear waters dotted with coral heads.
This morning arrive at Atiu, whose shoreline is perforated with wave-sculpted caves. A tour will introduce you to the local culture with a village visit and a stop at a coffee plantation. Birders set out to look for the Raratonga monarch, Cook Island fruit dove, and nesting site of Kuhl’s lorikeet. Or, join a challenging hike to visit several natural caves. This afternoon snorkel or dive in the surrounding pristine waters.
Attend lectures today and join naturalists on deck to search for seabirds and marine life.
Be sure to be on deck early this morning as the ship enters the dazzling sapphire-hued lagoon of Bora Bora surrounded by soaring cloud-wreathed peaks. Tour this lush island, driving along roads lined with fragrant frangipani. Then venture to the large lagoon to snorkel or dive, watching for graceful stingrays and colorful fish such as fairy basslets and teardrop butterflyfish. Birders seek out chattering kingfishers and gray-green fruit doves.
After breakfast disembark the Caledonian Sky and set out to explore this beautiful island. Visit the superb Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, dedicated to the history and culture of the people of Polynesia, and drive along the stunning coast. Continue to your hotel to check in to a dayroom. The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hotel and to rest before your late evening flight (not included) homeward.
Arrive in the USA and connect with any homeward flights you may have.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Diving Program: Limited to 16 Advance Open Water (AOW) certified scuba divers. You must complete two open water dives within the 12 months prior to the trip’s departure.
Accommodations as outlined in the itinerary, meals onboard and group meals ashore per itinerary, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; snorkeling and diving; Wi-Fi; gear certificate; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; group activities and excursions as per itinerary; entrance fees, landing and port charges; gratuities; limited emergency medical and evacuation coverage. Subject to change without notice.
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above), email/fax/telephone charges; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.
Photo Credit: Fish and Snorkel © Goivanna Fasanelli; Child © Rodica Woodbury; Island © GLeBacon