Summary : The archipelagos of the South Pacific have defined the notion of “island paradise” since Robert Louis Stevenson told his tales and Paul Gauguin captured Polynesia in paint. Sail from the sparkling white shores of Fiji to Tahiti’s lush volcanic crags, and discover a fascinating geology and a stunning wealth of bird species and marine life. Dive or snorkel among underwater canyons and tunnels formed from lava. Meet island communities. And explore the far-flung reefs of Kiribati, chosen as part of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas exploration, research, and media project.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling
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Depart the U.S., cross the International Date Line, and arrive in Nadi, Fiji. Transfer to nearby Lautoka to board the National Geographic Orion. More than 300 islands make up the remote volcanic archipelago of Fiji. Take to the warm turquoise seas, sailing past idyllic white-sand beaches edged with jungle, making your way east.
You first stop is Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island, known as “The Garden Island” for its rich vegetation—which includes several species found nowhere else in the world. Head inland to discover the waterfalls of Bouma National Heritage Park and admire a panoramic view from 3,920-foot Des Voeux Peak. Go diving or snorkeling, or take a birding walk along a coastal trail to see species such as orange fruit doves, endemic silktails, fantails, and parrots. On Fiji’s outer islands, experience the local culture in remote villages. Then take advantage of a full day at sea to settle into the relaxed pace of life on board. Watch for marine life from the deck, study your route in the Chart Room, and attend talks by experts.
The ship winds its way through a maze of uplifted limestone islets as you arrive in the lesser-known Kingdom of Tonga. In Neiafu, the capital of the stunning Vava’u island group, venture into verdant hills to visit a vanilla plantation and browse the craft and produce markets at the wharf. Spend the afternoon on the water kayaking, snorkeling, diving, or taking a Zodiac into limestone caves along the coast. The following day, anchor off Niuatoputapu and witness daily life on Tonga’s most remote islands. Enjoy an introduction to Tongan music and dance, and attend a kava ceremony. On Tafahi, a volcanic cone rising out of the sea, explore volcanic rocks and submerged canyons and tunnels while snorkeling or diving.
The 15 Cook Islands are scattered across some 750,000 square miles of the Pacific. Plan to visit the most remote of these, in the very far north of the archipelago. These were the first islands in the group to be sighted by Europeans around 1600, but they were not explored until their namesake Captain Cook arrived in the 1770’s. The northern islands are low coral atolls with vast turquoise lagoons where black pearls are farmed. Explore the islands both ashore and at sea, visiting island communities and discovering the vibrant life below the waves.
A day at sea brings you to the southern Line Islands, some of the most remote and isolated atolls on Earth; uninhabited and rarely visited, they remain largely untouched by man. Marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala researched these islands as part of the Pristine Seas project, and has identified them as one of the last healthy, undisturbed places in the ocean. Experience this rich marine environment firsthand while snorkeling or diving, and explore the deep with a remotely operated vehicle. Go ashore on Caroline Island, renamed Millennium Atoll after becoming one of the first places to see the sun of the new millennium rise. Navigate the intricate channels of its lagoon by Zodiac or kayak, seeing nesting boobies and tropicbirds on the shore, and swim above fields of giant clams.
Today gain a day crossing the International Date Line as you arrive in French Polynesia. The atoll of Rangiroa is a ring of slender islands known for some of the best diving and snorkeling in French Polynesia. The turquoise lagoon at its center is the second-largest in the world. Your ship passes between the islets to anchor inside the lagoon near the village of Tiputa, where local musicians greet you. Visit the village, and kayak, snorkel, and scuba in the rich waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and hammerheads.
Approach the emerald crags of Tahiti’s volcanic peak this morning and disembark in French Polynesia’s capital city, Papeete. Check into day rooms and enjoy the day to explore the city’s museums, markets, and black pearl shops, or venture out to the surrounding beaches. Later this evening, transfer to the airport for your flight home, arriving the following day.
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.
Scuba Diving Requirements: Scuba divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks must be shown on board. Divers must have logged 25 dives in total and made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage.
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.