Summary : Discover why Vanuatu is often referred to as the “happiest country on earth” during your 12-day expedition voyage on board L’Austral. Vanuatu is home to a unique blend of ancient traditional villages, picture perfect beaches, accessible active volcanoes and coral reefs teeming with life. It offers an idyllic setting for anyone seeking adventure or wanting to relax on a tropical beach fringed with palm trees. The largest Island, Espiritu Santo, is the highly fictionalized locale of James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific and the subsequent Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. Join your expert expedition team, selected for their knowledge and experience, along with local guides to explore these unique destinations by foot, Zodiac or local transport.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Diving, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Board your included flight from Brisbane to Honiara. Honiara is the capital city of The Solomon Islands, administered as a provincial town on the north western coast of Guadalcanal Island. Honiara comes from the local Ghari Language “naho-ni-ara” meaning 'facing the ara', the place where the southeast winds meet the land. Embark the vessel in the late afternoon.
The French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse was stranded on Vanikoro after both his vessels, struck the reefs of the island in 1788. The complete disappearance of La Pérouse caught the imagination of the European public. Songs, stories and plays were written about the possible fate of the expedition. It is believed that some of the men were killed by the local inhabitants, while the surviving sailors built a smaller vessel and left the island, but were never seen again. Those that remained on the island died before search parties arrived in 1826. Today guests have the opportunity to head ashore to the infamous location of this historical event. Enjoy a welcome and cultural performance whilst pondering the fate of the expeditioners.
Ureparapara, also known as Parapara for short, is the third largest island in the Banks group of Northern Vanuatu and formed by an extinct volcano cone that has been breached by the sea on its east coast, forming a spectacular 3km long harbor. During your voyage, your ship will sail into the natural harbor, affording guests spectacular views from the outer decks. You will also have the opportunity to go ashore for a welcome and custom dances. An opportunity to witness life in one of the remotest parts of Vanuatu. Very few vessels visit this part of Vanuatu and the local residents are eager to welcome visitors.
The Reef Islands, also called Rowa, are a cluster of uninhabited coral cays between Mota Lave and Ureparapara, in northern Vanuatu, and enclosed by a large, horseshoe-shaped reef that protects an expansive lagoon with sandy shallows. The five small islands, including Sana, are mostly sand and coral cays built up over reefs. During your stop, you will be transferred ashore by Zodiac to a wet landing onto a sand and rubble beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling from the beach.
The Banks and Torres Islands form Vanuatu's northernmost islands where local culture is still very much alive and unblemished by the modern world. Mota Lava is a stunning island of jungle clad craggy peaks plunging to long white sandy beaches lined with coconut palms. The nearby island of Ra is classically beautiful, an ideal place for travelers looking to leave civilization completely behind. You will have the opportunity to experience the ancient culture in this rarely visited group of islands. There will also be an opportunity for swimming and snorkeling from one of the many spectacular beaches.
The majestic beauty of Espiritu Santo is what inspired James A. Michener to write his classic "Tales of the South Pacific." Michener would gaze across the sea and dream of "Bali Hai". Santo, as the island is colloquially known, abounds with natural beauty that remains largely unspoilt. From palm fringed beaches with powdery white sand, freshwater Blue Holes surrounded by natural rain forest, to Idyllic Islands surrounded by azure seas. Today Guests will have the opportunity to take a tour by bus to visit one of the famous blue holes, enjoy a traditional performance and learn about the important role the island played in WWII. There will also be ample time to swim and snorkel in the clear waters of Paradise Lagoon.
Malekula is the second largest island in Vanuatu and the most diverse, culturally and linguistically, with over thirty distinct languages spoken. Some of the best custom dances come from the island. The very friendly villagers will be proud to share with you their cultural heritage. Guests will be transferred ashore for a welcome and cultural performance. Afterwards, you will have an opportunity to witness traditional village life in Malekula, with demonstrations of traditional village practices such as weaving and Kava, and purchase genuine artifacts.
The island of Ambrym in Vanuatu is often referred to as the "black" island due to its volcanic ash and because of its 'black magic' steeped in mystery. In the villages, the ancient customs play a significant part in day to day living. The "Man blong Majik" are treated with the utmost respect and practice sorcery and magic beyond all imaginings. Ambrym prides itself on some unique characteristics, such as the magnificent tam-tams (or slit gongs) sculpted out of tree trunks, sand-drawing, black-fern masks and local dances. The most striking custom dance is the Rom (or masked) dance – where 9 foot covertly cloaked and masked 'spirits' stomp out ancient rhythms to the beat of the tam tam.
The remote and seldom visited Island of Epi has the distinction of having both white and black sand beaches fringed by coral reefs. The beach at Lamen Bay is considered to be Epi's finest and boasts plenty of good quality coral for spectacular snorkeling. The small population of nearby Lamen Island are always delighted to welcome visitors and showcase their culture.
Lopevi is one of Vanuatu's most active and spectacular volcanoes. The volcano has regularly erupted for hundreds of years. You will have the opportunity to discover the culture of the Epi Islands, enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the clear warm tropical waters of Lamen Bay as well as view the active volcano of Lopevi from the comfort of the outside decks.
A visit to Vanuatu cannot be complete without viewing the erupting Mount Yasur Volcano on the Island of Tanna. It is regarded as the world’s most accessible active volcano. Known for its spectacular persistent strombolian activity consisting of regular small to violent explosions, it has been in more-or-less continuous activity since Captain James Cook observed ash eruptions in 1774. Often referred to as “the lighthouse of the Pacific”, the glow of the volcano apparently led Captain Cook to Tanna during the first European journey to the island. Today the volcano is considered a sacred area by members of the John Frum cargo cult, who believe their deity resides in the heart of the volcano.
Lautoka is the second largest city of Fiji. Located on the western side of the island of Viti Levu. Disembark the vessel after breakfast.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Bilingual Departures: All departures are French/English.
One-way flight in economy class from Brisbane to Honiara; transfer from Honiara airport to ship; meals on board the ship; use of snorkeling gear; Captain’s welcome cocktail and gala dinner; coffee, juice, soft drinks and open bar (pouring wines, house champagne, alcohol except premium brands); gratuities; luggage transfer from pier to the ship and vice versa; 24-hour room service (special selection); butler service is included for guests staying on Deck 6. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; any ground services before and/or after the cruise other than the ones included; passport and visa fees; travel and medical insurances; scuba diving; personal expenses such as onboard medical consultations and drug prescriptions, spa, internet, laundry and hair salon; other drinks not included in open bar; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Lorraine Turci, © Lori Gifford