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Islands of the Coral Sea

South Pacific Cruise

Summary : Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have a total of more than 1,000 living languages, about as many as there are islands in the Solomon Islands. Colorfully mesmerizing coral reefs, crystal-clear lagoons filled with tropical fish, and shipwrecks of a past world will accompany you on this voyage around the Coral Sea. Some of these Western Pacific islands are truly a snorkeler's and diver’s paradise. Apart from the underwater wonders, this expedition is also a great history lesson at sea. Be it the migration of the Austronesians across the Pacific, or the European exploration and administration of Papua New Guinea, or the trading and voyaging of the Melanesian Kula Ring artifacts, or the active volcanos and their impact on the local population, you will see a great variety of historical sites, cultures, customs and objects.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling

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Itinerary
Day 1
Port Vila, Vanuatu

Embark the ship in the afternoon and meet your Expedition Team and attend a safety briefing. Enjoy time to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet fellow travelers.

Day 2
Aniwa and Tanna, Vanuatu

The first stop of the voyage will be in front of Aniwa. Aniwa is a small uplifted coral platform in the southernmost province of Vanuatu. Swim, snorkel or dive over a reef that formed very recently after a volcanic eruption with tongues of lava flowing into the ocean. As soon as your head is touching the water you can see the beauty of the underwater world.

This reef is really unique because it is growing on top of a lava flow. You will discover a big variety of corals in countless colors. From Moorish idols to whitetip reef sharks you will also find a great variety of fish.

Silver Discoverer will then reposition to Tanna Island, where you can take to the Zodiacs to go ashore in Port Resolution. The first activity in the afternoon will be a visit of the village and their people. Be welcomed with a dancing ceremony by both men and women, before walking to and through their village.

Then the volcano expedition will start. Get onto off-road vehicles and drive through lush forests up to Mount Yasur. Mount Yasur is a very active volcano. Its activity was first recorded by Captain James Cook in 1774.

The last part is walking a trail up to the rim of the volcano’s crater. It much depends on how active the volcano is as to how far you are allowed to go. If able to reach the top, you can look into the volcanic crater and hear the rumbling of the volcanic activity. There are two main craters with volcanic activity in each crater. The first crater on the left side is usually very active; small explosions can normally be observed and fireworks of lava are blown out from below the crater into the sky. The second crater is less active in terms of ejected lava but from time to time pushes out big clouds of fumaroles and ash. As sunset finishes and the darkness progresses the volcanic activity turns into a breathtaking firework. The ejected lava glows in red and orange colors.

You will return quite late to Silver Discoverer.

Day 3
Makura, Vanuatu

During the morning Silver Discoverer will continue heading north to reach Makura. You can take the morning to recover from last night’s late return and sleep in, having a leisurely breakfast.

Makura is quite small, but is the peak of an old volcano whose rim remnants are believed to be neighboring islands Emae and Mataso. There is a small village on the north-western part of the island. This is the only place where there are two sandy beaches. This afternoon look for sites to snorkel and dive, while hikers might want to climb to the top of the island.

Day 4
Ambrym, Vanuatu

In the early morning Silver Discoverer will be in front of Ambrym’s west coast. 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 the village of Ranon to have a look at the local community and see the very special 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, listen to 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 5
Coral Sea

Cruise through the Coral Sea, use the day at sea to learn more about the Solomon Islands. Enjoy lectures that provide insight into the anthropological work done in this area and hear about Oceanic and early European exploration as well as the more modern history.

Take advantage of the luxurious amenities aboard Silver Discoverer and help birders spot some of the seabirds found far away from their nesting grounds or look for dolphins and other cetaceans known to frequent these waters.

Day 6
Port Mary, Santa Ana, Solomon Islands

Today Silver Discoverer will enter Port Mary, the bay in front of Ghupuna, Santa Ana’s main village. Take a short Zodiac ride onto a beautiful white sand beach with huge shade-giving trees. Once ashore you will notice the very tidy village with its houses made of local materials built on stilts.

After a short welcome on the beach head to the sports ground where you will be entertained by traditional songs and dances by members of the three different villages on Santa Ana (Owaraha in the local language).

Islanders will have set up several stands with souvenirs, ranging from traditional shell money to fishing floats and different carvings based on local stories and legends.

For those interested in a hike, the local school, located at the center of the island, can easily be reached. For those interested in a swim, snorkeling or diving, the late morning and early afternoon will give you time to enjoy the waters in front of Ghupuna.

Day 7
Mbike Island / Roderick Bay, Solomon Islands

Be out on deck in the morning on the approach to reach Mbike, a small privately-owned island between Mbokonimbeti Island and Nggela Sule (in the Florida Islands).

Once you reach Mbike you will see that huge trees give shade and a picture-perfect little beach will invite you to swim and snorkel, while the extensive coral reef ecosystems, teeming tropical fish and exceptional dive sites beckon our divers as well. The snorkeling might show feather stars and colorful nudibranches, vase sponges and gorgonian fans, lionfish and octopus.

If you would like to find out what other parts of the Florida Islands have to offer, join a Zodiac snorkel safari into nearby Roderick Bay

During the afternoon Silver Discoverer will continue westward to reach the Solomon Islands’ Western Province.

Day 8
Njari Island, Solomon Islands

Gizo is the hub around which the Western Province revolves and you will head for the area north of Gizo, to be able to enjoy Njari Island and its fascinating underwater world. Njari has one of the highest counts of fish and coral varieties in the Indo-Pacific. Snorkel and dive to make the most of this small hidden gem.

Playful dolphins sometimes accompany the Zodiac on its way between the ship and the snorkeling area.

After your morning exploration of Njari clear out of the Solomon Islands and head for Papua New Guinea.
The lecturers will start with their topics about Papua New Guinea.

Day 9
Coral Sea / Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Crossing the Coral Sea to reach New Britain, lecturers will offer a variety of topics. The Galley Team might want to tempt you with a cooking demonstration. When not attending a lecture or seminar, relax at the pool, make use of the Gym or Spa and enjoy the culinary highlights the Executive Chef has prepared for you.

In the afternoon Silver Discoverer will enter Blanche Bay and will pass the active volcano Tavurvur and several other prominent geological features.

Clear into Papua New Guinea and continue the voyage along the northern coast of New Britain shortly before midnight.

Day 10
Garove Island, Papua New Guinea

Garove is part of the Witu Islands and once had a 5-kilometer-wide caldera. The island was and is used to produce copra and most of the villages are located around the exterior of the volcano. Enter the flooded caldera through its narrow entrance. Steep cliffs explain why there is only one area settled on the inside. Going ashore near a little promontory you will be greeted by singing and lead to the open ground in front of the school and church for some traditional dances. Hikers might want to reach the higher levels of the village. If you want to swim at the small beach close to the landing site you will be outnumbered by the local kids enjoying the water.

Around sunset Silver Discoverer will leave the caldera and continue west-south-westward.

Day 11
Tami Island, Papua New Guinea

The Tami Islands are a small archipelago (just four islands) located South of Finschhafen in the Huon Gulf. Collectively, they are part of today’s Morobe Province. The main island is eponymously named and is one of just two islands in the enclave to be inhabited. The people here are known for their elaborately carved, oblong-shaped “Tami bowls.” The small community of islanders lives simply. Tami has just a single primary school and a small medical aid post. The “sing-sing” here is loud and punctuated by the beating of ‘kundus’, hand-held hollowed wooden drums with monitor lizard skin at one end.

Beaches and reefs should provide a good starting point for swimming, snorkeling and diving.

Day 12
Tufi, Papua New Guinea

Tufi, located on the south-eastern peninsula of Cape Nelson, in Oro Province, is situated on a tropical fjord (the work of ancient volcanic activities) and surrounded by uncharted coral reefs. During traditional ceremonies natives wear tapa cloth, which is made from the bark of mulberry trees found in the local forest. Dance figures predominantly in the culture, with performers using tapa cloth and sporting headdresses decked with bird of paradise plumes and other colorful feathers.

Upon arrival, canoe along the smooth waters of the Kwapurina Fjord. With local villagers as the oarsmen, be guided under canopies of ancient mangrove forests, which are home to Tufi’s wide range of colorful birds and butterflies. Continuing on the journey, return to the entrance of the fjord and the small settlement where the villagers will welcome us with traditional dance and song. There will also be an opportunity to observe the making of tapa cloth and to make souvenir purchases.

During the afternoon enjoy one of the local beaches nearby to relax, swim, snorkel and dive.

Day 13
Fergusson Island / Dobu Island, Papua New Guinea

Fergusson is one of the three biggest and mountainous islands in the Milne Bay Province. The other two are Normanby and Goodenough islands. Together, they form the D’Entrecasteaux Islands, which are famous for the Dei Dei geysers—natural hot springs that periodically “erupt” with vapor steam. The proud villagers will welcome you and accompany you to the hot springs, where they will tell ancestral tales and legends about this natural display of power.

In the afternoon, visit Dobu Island, which is one of the smaller islands of the D’Entrecasteaux archipelago. Although small in size, the island plays an important role in the Kula Ring. Neighboring islands feared the Dobu Islanders because they were believed to be great sorcerers.

Birdwatchers are in for a treat whilst visiting the D’Entrecasteaux Islands. Look out for Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, parrots and eagles and—if lucky—you may even spot a bird of paradise (or two!).

Diving and snorkeling is tide/current dependent, but with crystal clear water and the visibility of some 30 meters or more. The coral gardens are extremely healthy with a huge diversity of both hard and soft corals.

The seabed normally is littered with many different species of echinoderms, including the blue Linckia sea star, feather stars, sea cucumbers, and the odd crown of thorns starfish conspicuously positioned in a crevice of the reef. Myriads of small damsels, chromis and other reef fish swarm over corals, and some larger fish lurk in the deeper water on the edge of the reef, including a whitetip reef shark.

Day 14
Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea

Samarai once was one of the most important towns, ports and trading centers of British New Guinea. Today Port Moresby and Alotau have taken over from this little island. Because of the Japanese advance during World War II the Australian Forces evacuated the island and the Allied Forces then destroyed most of it to prevent the Japanese from using it. In 2006 the island was declared a National Historical Heritage Island, and it is hoped to restore some of the buildings and structures to their former glory.

Coming into the jetty on Samarai by Zodiac might be slightly surreal: it will be one the most modernized community you will come across throughout this voyage. Many people come from neighboring islands for the Saturday market (your visit will be on a Tuesday). It is quite surprising to see how many solidly constructed houses are found on this tiny island and how densely populated Samarai is while the surrounding islands seem to consist just of lush tropical forests.

The final shopping opportunity in the Samarai market will be quite exceptional. The dark, heavy wooden carvings are ornate and inlaid with shells and mother of pearl. Just make sure that what you buy is allowed to enter Australia!

This evening our Captain will want to invite you to the Captain’s Farewell cocktail and the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager will invite you to the Farewell Dinner.

Day 15
Coral Sea

This leisurely day at sea will take you across the aptly named Coral Sea. Begin with a stroll around the outer decks looking for dolphins or other cetaceans, have a late breakfast and attend one of the day’s lectures to hear fascinating tales of Oceanic exploration and to learn more about the connections and differences with life in Australia. Knowledgeable Lecture Staff members will recap the different impressions of our voyage.

Our on-board Photographer/Videographer will present his/her Voyage-DVD, showing all the interesting encounters with Melanesian cultures, customs and events, as well as the wildlife seen above and below the surface of the Coral Sea.

Day 16
Cairns, Australia

Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Discoverer.

Notes

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

Diving Program: 
The program is complimentary; however, space is limited and thus booking early is recommended. Dives are dependent upon the conditions. Divers must have a current Advanced Open Water Dive License or equivalent from an accredited Certification Agency which will need to be provided before embarking the vessel. Certification must be active and logbooks must show evidence that each guest has been diving within 12 months prior to the voyage. Medical Dive Travel Insurance for evacuation, medical treatment and repatriation is required. Guests must bring their own BCD vests and regulators. Weight belts, tanks, masks and fins will be provided free of charge onboard Silver Discoverer.

Included:
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; diving; 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; 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.

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