Summary : The Y-shaped country of Vanuatu has 82 islands, while the Solomon Islands consist of close to 1,000 islands (one hundred of them inhabited) – and almost all islands have different cultures. The colorfully mesmerising coral reefs and crystal-clear lagoons filled with tropical fish of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are truly a snorkeler's and diver’s paradise. The underwater wonders are only one part of this expedition, as it is also a great cultural voyage. From the capitals of the two countries to the lesser-visited and outer islands we will see a great variety of historical sites, cultures, customs and objects.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
$5,000 to $11,150
Once all guests have embarked Silver Discoverer, your Expedition Leader will introduce some of the heads of department and important crew-members and you will also get to know the members of your Expedition Team.
Marovo Lagoon is one of the world’s largest saltwater lagoons. Described by American author James A. Michener as “one of the seven natural wonders of the world”, Marovo is home to a double barrier reef system, and is one of two sites in the Solomon’s currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Though residents of Marovo Lagoon normally do not dance (the Seventh-day Adventist Church had banned it as they believed dancing to be sinful), but you might see some demonstration of local handicraft, and hear some of their songs.
Diving or snorkeling close to the entrance of the lagoon will expose incredible reef drop-offs that are characterized by gorgonian fan forests, black coral gardens, giant clams, sea turtles, manta rays, eels, barracuda, octopus, morays, grey whaler sharks (also known as grey reef sharks), lionfish and shoals of pelagic fish.
Meanwhile, bird-watchers can look for osprey, Brahminy Kite and kingfisher, in the forests on one of the many surrounding islands.
The Marovo Lagoon residents are quite famous for their woodcarvings and we hope to see some of the intricately carved and adorned artifacts – hoping to be able to buy some as well.
Be out on deck in the early morning as you approach the Sandfly Passage 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 with tropical fish and exceptional dive sites beckon divers as well. The snorkeling might show feather stars and colorful nudibranches, vase sponges and gorgonian fans, lionfish and octopus - all part of this truly remarkable marine environment.
If conditions permit, the Galley Team will want to offer a barbecue ashore.
A Zodiac cruise into nearby Roderick Bay will be offered.
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 to hear traditional songs and see 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.
This morning Silver Discoverer will enter the deep bay on Utupua’s western side. Nembao, one of the main villages on the island, will be your host this day. After a short Zodiac ride, land on the sandy beach next to the village’s center.
Be welcomed and attend a presentation of traditional dances and songs.
A good way to have a look at how these Solomon Islanders live is to walk along the beach and look at the houses, fishing canoes and small plantations. If tide and time permits, take the Zodiacs to explore the mangrove-lined shores further into the bay looking for birdlife and mudskippers.
During the morning Silver Discoverer will approach Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island. The European name goes back to the early 17th century when Pedro de Quiroz believed to have reached the famous “Tierra Australis Incognita”, the unknown southern land, which he called “La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo”.
Pass Big Bay, where the Spaniards tried to settle, to reach Hog Harbor and Champagne Beach. Clear into Vanuatu and enjoy one of its finest beaches. You can relax under huge trees and Alexandrian laurel giving cooling shade or swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear water.
You may get to see and hear one of the most unusual music groups of Vanuatu –the Water Music Women. Standing in a half-circle in the water, they produce their music using the hands, moving them through the water in different ways.
In the early morning Silver Discoverer will be in front of Ambrym’s west coast. Unlike Espiritu Santo with its raised coral reefs and white sand, 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 in 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 we will be entertained by one of 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.
This evening our Captain will invite you to the Captain’s Farewell cocktail, while the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager will expect you for the Captain’s Farewell dinner.
The on-board Photographer/Videographer will present his/her Voyage-DVD, permitting you to re-live the many moments of encounters with the local communities, the excursions taken and the animals and plants seen above and below the water.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
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.
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.
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 Cruises, © Richard Sidey (volcano)