Summary : Explore the lesser-known island gems of the eastern Caribbean on an itinerary exclusively designed to take you far from the standard cruise ship routes. Discover several of the idyllic islands that comprise the little-explored Grenadines, an idyllic island chain in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. Seek out a variety of endemic bird species including the St. Vincent parrot, Montserrat oriole, and purple-throated Carib. Snorkel or dive to discover dazzling coral reefs and healthy populations of tropical fish. Learn from local experts and onboard lecturers about the fascinating history of the islands visited and their struggle for independence from Europe.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Diving, Snorkeling
Groups of 8 or more people save 10% per person off the cost of the expedition.
$12,980 to $14,980
Board your independent flight to Martinique. Upon arrival, transfer to Le Cap Est Lagoon for dinner and overnight.
Martinique is home to a fascinating and dynamic mélange of French traditions and Caribbean Creole culture. Birders depart early for Presquile Caravelle National Park to search for such island endemics as the Martinique oriole and white-breasted thrasher. Or, choose to visit Balata Church, a miniature version of the Basilica Montmartre in Paris, then continue to Domine d’Emeraude, a botanical garden and interpretive center devoted to the island’s natural history. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Fort-de-France for a city tour. Board Le Ponant this afternoon.
These five small, uninhabited islands are part of Tobago Cays Marine Park. With pristine coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and deserted white-sand beaches, this area is renowned for some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean with vertical and gently sloping walls, and multiple wrecks.
St. George, the quaint, bustling capital of Grenada, sits on a supremely scenic horseshoe-shaped bay. Wander through the maze of narrow streets to admire colorful colonial buildings, forts, and churches. Enjoy a hike along densely forested trails to view an idyllic waterfall.
Be on deck as the ship approaches St. Lucia for stunning views of the Pitons, two volcanic peaks rising more than 2,400 feet from the turquoise sea. Birders seek the St. Lucia parrot, St. Lucia oriole, and St. Lucia pewee. Take a hike through Edmund Forest Reserve, or choose a tour that visits the Diamond Falls botanical garden, a mineral bath, and a cocoa plantation.
Birders depart early for a hike to Syndicate Falls to search for Dominica’s two endemic and endangered birds—imperial and red-necked parrots. Or, choose a cultural tour of Carib Territory, a reserve where approximately 3,000 native Kalinago reside. Learn about their customs, history, and culture, with the chance to view exquisite handicrafts, including baskets, wood carvings, and canoes. Both groups return to the ship for lunch, with an afternoon of snorkeling or diving in a marine protected area. Or, choose to explore Fort Shirley, built by the British between 1770 and 1815.
Eight small islands makes up Les Saintes, endowed with superb beaches, gorgeous bays, fascinating historical sites, and exceptional snorkeling and diving. Spend the morning strolling through one of the tiny French-influenced villages. In the afternoon, snorkel and dive to enjoy the underwater delights.
Towering 3,000 feet above sea level, Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills Volcano slumbered uneasily for at least a century before erupting violently in 1995. Covering the capital city of Plymouth with pyroclastic flows, the southern two-thirds of the island are still off limits. Learn more about this devastating event at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and enjoy grand views of the volcano and surrounding areas. Take a hike in the Runaway Ghaut, a steep ravine that carries rainwater to the sea from high in the mountains. Learn about the luxuriant vegetation as you explore the rainforest-like environment.
Popular with the yachting set, Barbuda boasts pretty pink beaches and an easygoing attitude. It is also home to a large magnificent frigatebird colony. Other species you are likely to find here include tropical mockingbirds, pelicans, ibis, oystercatchers, herons, a variety of ducks, and the endemic Barbuda warbler. After lunch on board, step ashore on Antigua for a scenic drive along the coast to Dow’s Hill to learn about the island’s history and enjoy splendid views over the island. Continue to Shirley’s Heights, a restored military lookout with fantastic views over English Harbor. Your tour ends at Nelson’s Dockyard where you have free time to browse the shops, tour the small museum, and perhaps dine on your own at one of the many seaside restaurants.
Take a stroll around the sole town and capital, Oranjestad, with its collection of Caribbean-style cottages and elegant colonial buildings in various states of disrepair. Soak up history and sweeping views from the extensively restored Fort Oranje, a mighty citadel complete with cannons, triple bastions, and cobblestone parade grounds. Or, hike to the top of the Quill, a dormant volcano with a lush cloud forest occupying the crater.
Saba’s volcanic peak rises majestically from the water like the tip of an emerald iceberg. In Saba Marine Park, protected since 1987, divers explore volcanic pinnacles encrusted with corals and sponges, which are frequented by nurse sharks, parrotfish, barracuda, sharks, stingrays, and turtles. Land-based explorations include a hike along the Crispeen Trail for fantastic views over the island. In the afternoon, step ashore on St. Barth’s, take a stroll through Gustavia, the relaxed capital, and visit the 17th-century forts, or browse the town’s many duty-free boutiques. View marine life while staying dry during a thrilling ride in the Yellow Submarine. Or, take a hike along the Colmbier Beach Trail, where there is a good chance to see nesting red-billed tropicbirds.
After breakfast, disembark Le Ponant and head to the UNESCO-designated Zapata Wetland region. View some of the local wildlife at the Fiesta Campesina zoo-park before touring the Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) Museum; located at the site of the unsuccessful military invasion by U.S.-backed anti-Castro forces in April 1961. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Playa Larga and check in to the Playa Larga Hotel.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Accommodations as outlined in the itinerary, meals onboard and group meals ashore per itinerary, including soft drinks, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; snorkeling and diving; gear certificate; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; group activities and excursions as per itinerary; entrance fees, landing and port charges; gratuities; limited emergency medical and evacuation coverage. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages other than mentioned as included, e-mail/Internet/fax/telephone charges; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos © Rich Pagen and Jack Grove