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Pacific Ring of Fire – Palau to Japan

South Pacific Cruise

Summary : With lectures to inform you and Zodiac trips to inspire you, explore the exotic islands of the Pacific Rim. Look for Humpback whale. Marvel at the beauty of Palau’s Rock Islands - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn about volcanism in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Identify a multitude of endemic birds by sight and by song, and circumnavigate Torishima to observe Short-tailed Albatross. Visit the “Galapagos of the Orient” — the Ogasawara Islands. Swim amongst thousands of harmless jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake. Visit historic WWII sites in the Marianas, and venture into Maug’s caldera on this trip of a lifetime!

Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Koror, Palau

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.

Day 2
Ngekerbesang, Palau

Ngekerbesang is just west of the island of Koror and connected to it by a causeway. You can head into town and visit the National Museum of Palau or the private Etpison Museum with its outstanding exhibition on “traditional money”. To have a look at Palau’s underwater creatures you could visit the Aquarium, or take to the water and see close-up for yourself.

Head out to see the famous “Rock Islands” — a must, if you have not been to Palau before. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. The beauty of these islands is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species. The area sustains a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least thirteen shark species. The world’s highest concentration of marine lakes (isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers) is found here. Although scientists can only access most of them, one of them, the so-called Jellyfish Lake, is sure to be a highlight for any snorkeler, as you can swim among thousands of harmless jellyfish.

Around noon Silver Discoverer will lift the anchor and head north. Be on the outer decks as the views towards Babeldaop Island with its mangrove coast and terraced hills compete with the different hues of blue of the lagoon while we cruise to reach the western entrance (to us the exit) of the lagoon.

Day 3
Colonia, Yap

During the morning Silver Discoverer will approach the island of Yap proper and an early lunch will permit you to make the most of the visit to this westernmost state of the Federated States of Micronesia. Colonia is the Capital of Yap and combines modern times (as seen in the infrastructure and education) with tradition (as seen by the set-up of the rural villages and the importance of customs).

Outside of Colonia find three types of traditional buildings: the family houses or ‘tabnuw’ with roofs made of woven thatch (dried palm fronds) and consisting of one open room. The ‘faluw’ is the “men’s house“, where only one woman — usually a young woman from another village as entertainer for the men- was permitted. Even today women are not generally allowed into men’s houses — permission must be obtained beforehand. Largest of the three types is the ‘pebay’, a place for the community to come together for school, dances or meetings.

Most every Yapese now lives in a modern structure, but during your excursion visit an area where meetinghouses and men’s houses can be seen. See several sites where the famous stone money ‘rai’ is exhibited. Although the circular-shaped aragonite pieces were/are used on Yap, most of them actually came from Palau. Yapese men went there to obtain permission to quarry them and then had to transport them on rafts or out-rigger canoes over a distance of some 240 nautical miles.

At one of the sites young women and men will perform local stick dances and will show us how they’re colorful dresses and adornments are made.

During the German administration a channel was dug through the main island to speed delivery of produce from the north to the south side and this narrow channel is still used today — especially by divers who want to relocate from one coast to the other. With close to 100 miles of barrier reef, several channels and many blacktip, whitetip and grey sharks, manta rays are Yap’s main underwater attraction. Found in Yapese waters all year round, the State of Yap declared the world’s first manta ray sanctuary in 2008. Our divers will head out to see some of the famous underwater residents.

Day 4
Philippine Sea

Having visited islands where coral is prominent let the on-board Geologist prepare you for our upcoming islands of the Mariana Arch and the Pacific Rim of Fire. Other lectures will let you gain insight into the varied culture and history of the Marianas — be it during the early settlement, European exploration or the times from Spanish to German to Japanese to US American administration.

Day 5
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands are a chain of tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean, about 120 miles (193km) north of Guam. Saipan is the largest of the Mariana Islands and home to more than 48,000 of the Northern Mariana Islands’ 61,000 residents.

During the morning lectures will prepare you for Saipan’s (and the Northern Mariana’s) importance during World War II, as well as the importance of flora and fauna, both above and in the ocean.

Some guests may choose to see World War II sites including the Last Command Post where Japanese troops made their final stand against the invading US forces, Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff with its beautiful view and grim history, where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their deaths rather than surrender.

In walking distance of the harbor is the American Memorial Park. There you will not only be able to learn more about the island’s military history, but the park also offers an excellent opportunity for birding! Endemics like the Bridled and Golden White-eye, White-throated Ground Dove and Mariana Fruit Dove, as well as the endangered Mariana Moorhen, Mariana Swiftlet and Nightingale Reed-warbler have been recorded there.

Guests can also opt to spend the afternoon on their own in “town” or perhaps heading out by local ferry to Mañagaha Island for snorkeling and birding. You can walk around this little island in 15 minutes, but apart from snorkeling in the clear water (much loved by many locals and Asian visitors) you can also see remains of World War II artifacts. White Terns, as well as Cardinal Honeyeaters and Collared Kingfisher can be seen here -and this little island is the only known nesting site for Wedge-tailed Shearwater in all of the Mariana Islands.It is also the burial site of Carolinian Chief Aghurubw who established the first Carolinian settlement on Saipan during the Spanish colonial period, with a statue representing him.

Day 6
Pagan, Northern Mariana Islands

Among the 15 islands of the Northern Marianas, Pagan Island consists of two stratovolcanoes joined by a strip of land that is less than 2,000 feet wide at its narrowest point. The island was completely evacuated in 1981 when a large eruption forced the small Micronesian community to relocate to Saipan.

Be out on deck as Silver Discoverer cruises past the western side of the southern volcano and approach anchorage close to South Bay. Recently a few residents have returned and the only settlement will be seen very close to the landing site.

Pagan, the northern volcano, is still active, and today plan to observe one of the more recent lava-flows. To get there, follow an old runway used by the Japanese during the 1940s, where the remains of several bunkers, pillboxes and planes can still be seen. Walk through the forest to the edge of the most recent lava flow, while another hike up the ridge will reveal a scenic view of two lakes. Be on the lookout for the rare animal species found on Pagan, such as the Marianas Fruit Bat, the Micronesian Megapode, and the impressive Coconut Crab — this species can weigh up to 9lbs (4kg) with a leg span of more than 3ft (0.91m)!

Day 7
Maug, Northern Mariana Islands

Maug volcano is made up of three small-elongated islands up to 2.3 km long that mark the northern, western, and eastern rims of its largely submerged 2.5-km-wide caldera. The highest point reaches 227m above sea level. The caldera has an average submarine depth of about 200 m and contains a twin-peaked central lava dome that rises to within about 20 m of the sea surface. This set-up makes for a perfect natural harbor.

Be on deck as Silver Discoverer enters the caldera in the early morning. Dolphins are commonly seen near the southern entrance. The truncated inner walls of the caldera on all three islands expose lava flows and pyroclastic deposits that are cut by radial dikes; bedded ash deposits overlie most of the outer flanks of the islands. East Island has been used to grow coconut palms and even the interior has extensive plant growth. This is where different bird species nest. 11 seabirds, 2 shore birds and 3 land birds (the Marianas Megapode, Micronesian Starling and White-collared Kingfisher) are known from Maug.

A Japanese weather station and fish processing plant existed between 1939 and 1945, but today nobody lives on the island(s). No eruptions are known since the discovery of the islands by Espinosa in 1522 and the presence of coral reefs and coral on the central lava dome suggests a long period of general quiescence. Pending permission we might snorkel inside the caldera next to West Island and will explore the caldera by Zodiac.

In the afternoon leave Maug behind and head for the Ogasawara Islands.

Day 8
At Sea

Binoculars and camera in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds. Attend informative lectures that will prepare you for Japan and the upcoming ports-of-call -and the adventures that lie ahead. The Expedition Staff will use the time to talk about the “Galapagos of the Orient”, the Ogasawara Islands.

Peruse an array of titles and topics of the Silver Discoverer’s library, or enjoy any of the other special amenities offered aboard ship.

Day 9
Chichijima, Japan

The remote Bonin Islands are known in Japan as the Ogasawara Islands. This archipelago has earned the nickname “Galapagos of the Orient” for the unique plant and animal species that have evolved here, and for this reason was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2011. On the approach to the island, keep your eye on the sea, as bottlenose and spinner dolphins are commonly seen during this time of year.

Explore the “father island” — the largest in the Ogasawara family of islands and yet another fantastic avian destination. Birding enthusiasts will hope to spot as many species as possible, and the possibilities are many! They include: Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Lesser Frigatebird, Bulwer’s and Bonin Petrels, Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel, and possibly the White-necked Petrel, Laysan Albatross, Black-footed Albatross and perhaps even the rare Short-tailed Albatross. Shearwaters may include Streaked, Short-tailed, Wedge-tailed, Sooty, and the endemic Bannerman’s Shearwater.

Weather permitting; there will also be opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing on one of the island’s pristine beaches. If possible, visit Minamijima to see its much photographed natural stone arch reflected in the small turquoise blue lagoon and, of course, to capture your own images of this beautiful scene.

Next to the harbor is a humpback whale monument –although these mammals leave by April, we will be on the lookout for sperm whales that come here between May and November. Green turtles, spinner dolphins, and dogtooth tuna are some of the other major marine creatures seen in June.

Shima sushi (served with mustard instead of wasabi), Akaba miso soup, and turtle are some of the island’s special dishes, and the Ogasawaras also produce passion fruit liqueur.

Day 10
Torishima, Japan

During your cruise north arrive at Torishima in the early afternoon. The name Torishima translates into “bird island” (Tori=bird, shima=island)— a fitting name for this uninhabited volcanic island that Japan has declared a Bird Sanctuary, Natural Monument and National Wildlife Protection Area.

Located in the Izu Islands chain about 370 miles due south of Tokyo, Torishima is home to about 1,500 mature Short-tailed Albatrosses. This rare species is known to breed on only four islands in the North Pacific, with close to 80% nesting on the volcanic ash slopes of Torishima. As the island is an active volcano (last eruption in 2002) a landing will not be made here. In fact, only scientists are granted permission to land on Torishima, and only by helicopter.

Instead, circumnavigate the island’s entire coastline while listening to the expert Ornithologist describe all about the endangered Short-tailed Albatross and the story of their successful conservation. Although successful breeders will leave in May and June, you still should be able to see some of these rare albatrosses. Birders will surely spend every moment out on deck trying to photograph this beautiful species with its lovely yellow head and neck. The on-board Geologist might describe current threats to the Short-tailed Albatross including soil instability and the potential impact of another volcanic eruption.

Day 11
Hachijojima, Japan

In the southern part of the Izu Island Chain, Hachijojima is a volcanic island with two mountains: Mt. Mihara (700m high) and Mt. Hachijo-Fuji (854m high). The plan for today is a visit to Hachijo Botanical Garden with some 140 different species of tropical plants, located in the natural forests of a lava field, to see a dance and drum performance, and Nambara-Senjoiwa Beach. In the botanical garden we will be immersed in a colorful world of tropical foliage and surrounded by the sounds of birdsong as we stroll through each unique “zone”. At the beach, black lava created by eruptions of Mt. Hachijo-Fuji stretches along the seashore. The excursion concludes with a walk at the legendary tama-ishigaki cobblestone wall.

For guests ready to take on a more challenging activity, join members of the Expedition Team and the Japan Specialists for a nature trek at Mt. Hachijo-Fuji. To reach the top one has to climb 1,280 steps.

During the afternoon Silver Discoverer will head north along Japan’s East coast, permitting the lecturers to give you more insight into Japan’s culture and natural history.

In the evening the Captain would like to invite you to the Captain’s Farewell cocktail party. The Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager will have prepared another gastronomic highlight with the Farewell Dinner in The Restaurant.

Day 12
At Sea

Today, after perhaps sleeping in, you will have the opportunity to go through all your photos, editing them, attend one of the lectures that round up this voyage along the Mariana Arch and the Japanese volcanic islands, or get prepared for Hakodate and its role as one of the first Japanese ports to be opened for foreign trade in 1859.

The on-board Photographer/Videographer will present his/her voyage-DVD — a good time to remember all those special moments and encounters on this voyage.

Day 13
Hakodate, Japan

After breakfast, disembark the Silver Discoverer and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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.

Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Ray Stranagan (crab)

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