Summary : Scattered across the tropical seas like gems, the islands of eastern Indonesia are the popular notion of paradise—jungle islands with white-sand beaches, karst pinnacles, and some of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world. Explore the region in depth on an expedition though the coral triangle, a stretch of sea home to the world’s richest marine biodiversity. Along the way, meet friendly locals who live close to their ancestral traditions, and learn about the region’s tumultuous history, including exploration by the Dutch East India Company and World War II.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling
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Depart for Palau, crossing the International Dateline (lose a day). Transfer to your hotel in Palau for overnight.
Of the thousands of idyllic islands that dot the vast Pacific Ocean, Micronesia’s westernmost island chain, known as the Palau Archipelago, is a best kept secret rich in natural beauty, steeped in ancient culture. Relax at your hotel or choose to set off for a day exploring the islands before embarking National Geographic Orion in the afternoon. Divers and snorkelers may head out into the lagoon to get a first taste of the vibrant coral reefs, and those who wish may visit famous Jellyfish Lake for an extraordinary snorkeling experience. After centuries of biological isolation, the huge jellyfish here have lost their ability to sting. Those preferring to stay dry explore ashore, taking in the rich WWII history and beautiful island scenery. Regroup in the afternoon to transfer to National Geographic Orion.
Spend today in the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where hundreds of mushroom-shaped limestone islets form emerald chains in the blue seas. Explore this exquisite area by Zodiac, discover rich flora and fauna ashore, relax on the whitest beaches you will ever see, and snorkel or dive among gardens of coral.
Sail south towards the Raja Ampat archipelago. A day at sea allows time to settle in to life aboard, visit the bridge, and hear presentations from your expedition team preparing you for the days ahead in Indonesia.
The Raja Ampat Archipelago encompasses more than nine million acres of land and sea in the Coral Triangle, which has been found to have the richest coral reef biodiversity for its size in the world—with 75% of all known coral species and more than 1,220 types of reef fish. Above sea level, the experiences are just as amazing, with lush islands, towering limestone pinnacles jutting out of the water, and hidden white-sand coves to discover by Zodiac or kayak. Zodiacs take you ashore to receive a big Papuan welcome, with cultural events such as a mock wedding ceremony, cooking displays, and a visit to the school. Birders may join a nature walk to hopefully catch a glimpse of the ethereal red bird of paradise, sulphur-crested cockatoos, beach kingfishers, and varied honeyeaters. The Misool Islands, one of the famed ‘Four Kings’ of the Raja Ampat region, are a mecca for snorkelers and divers, and there will be plenty of time for water activities.
Soaring mountains, pristine rain forest, and dozens of the most ancient, primal tribes on the planet can be found on this amazing section of Indonesia. Use Zodiacs to get up close to 20,000-year-old rock art near the fishing village of Kokas. Explore the fascinating skull caves and rock art of the Macassan culture. See the remains of the secret underground Japanese bunkers built here during World War II. Witness the traditional gabagaba, or stick dance, and learn about the myriad cultures that have passed through this region.
Sail into the Molucca archipelago, also known as Maluku or the Spice Islands. In the heart of the Moluccas lay the Banda Islands, where a kora kora, or traditional war canoe, escorts you to the enchanted isle of Banda Naira, once the center of the Spice Island trade and a hub of the Dutch East India Company. Stroll past Dutch architecture, and visit Fort Belgica, built to protect the spice trade. Next to Bandanaira, the near perfect conical volcano of Banda Api will be visible, quietly steaming away. And the crystal-clear waters provide great swimming and snorkeling.
The island of Run should be one of the best known islands in the world given its history—as the island exchanged for Manhattan! In the 17th century, British-occupied Run was at the heart of the lucrative spice wars between the Dutch and British, until the Dutch agreed to give up their possession of New Amsterdam (renamed New York) in exchange for Run. There are still 400-year-old nutmeg trees growing on Run today—stroll among them as you explore this fascinating history.
Visit the village of Sangliat Dol on Yamdena Island in the Tanimbar group of islands—the center of the ancient “boat” culture of Maluku. A stone boat dominates the center of the village, symbolizing the arrival from the sea of the original inhabitants of the Moluccas. Witness a unique ceremony surrounding the stone boat—accessed via a giant ancient stone staircase leading from the beach up to the village, and visit with villagers in their homes as they share their lives with you. The region is well known for its unique wood carvings, of which many examples will be offered for souvenirs. The remainder of the day will be an expedition stop with a view towards swimming and snorkeling.
Your last stop in the Moluccas is the tiny island of Kisar—a little-known spot despite its 400 years of European history. A welcome ceremony is held in town at the former Dutch colonial residence. You’ll be invited to explore the island in small groups with local guides in cars (the long procession of cars through the town, often escorted by police motorcycles or an ambulance, is an experience in itself!) See the remnant architecture from the Dutch period, including a stone church and stone fort both over 400 years old.
The small uninhabited island of Jaco is considered by the traditional Timorese to be a holy place or "lulic" in the Tetum language. Today it is part of the Nino Konis Santana National Park. Discover the island’s sparkling beaches, or go birding to search for some of Timor’s endemic bird species: the dusky cuckoo-dove and the fawn breasted whistler. With the whitest of white-sand beaches and blue waters, swim, snorkel and explore, and cap off the day with a beach barbecue.
Your last day at sea gives you time to relax, hear a few last lectures, and reflect on all that you have seen and done.
Disembark in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory. Relax in dayrooms at your hotel, or explore this multicultural city, before transferring to the airport for a late evening overnight flight home.
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.
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.