Summary : From the black pearls of Manihiki and the secluded Line Islands, to the exceptional opportunity to spot the incredibly rare and beautiful Atiu Swiftlet and Rimatara Lorikeet, this is a voyage of impressiveness. From Aloha to au revoir, the gentle breezes and soft sounds of the South Pacific wait amid paradisiacal atolls, world-class snorkeling and legendary sacred sites.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark your vessel and meet some of your fellow explorers as you become acquainted with the luxurious amenities found on board. During a special sail away party take say good-bye to downtown Honolulu and watch the Aloha Tower disappear in the distance.
Later you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and this evening you can enjoy the delights of a specially prepared menu in The Restaurant.
During your voyage south, unwind after your long flight to Honolulu. Your lecturers will introduce you to the Polynesian and Western exploration of this part of the Pacific, the wildlife to be encountered and the different cultures present today.
Attend workshops and seminars and let your chefs prepare delicious culinary specialties on the Sun Deck or in The Theatre.
Cross the Dateline (for the first time) and you will skip over September 28th.
The Line Islands have been of importance to whaling and guano harvesting in the 19th century, while telecommunication and military installations have been important in the 20th century on Christmas and Malden. Because of population pressure on the main island of the Republic of Kiribati, voluntary resettlement has taken place and you will find that Fanning is now settled by some 2,000 Micronesians.
Silver Explorer will drift in front of English Passage and you can take a Zodiac to go ashore near Weston Point. This is where the administration seat is and you can walk to see the local homes and their seaweed plantations. You will have the opportunity to see a folkloric presentation, acquire local souvenirs and go swimming in the protected bay just southeast of Weston Point.
Christmas Island was named by Captain Cook, and there even is a Cook Island. Used to produce copra, dried coconut meat, and as a military base in the 1940s-60s, this Christmas Island has been declared a Wildlife Refuge in 1975 and has large seabird colonies. Birders will also be interested to see the endemic Christmas Island Reed Warbler known as the Bokikokiko. Some of the 18 seabird species you may see include Christmas and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Phoenix Petrels, Black Noddies and Little White Terns. Pending permission you might visit Cook Island for birding and swimming and Motu Tabu for birding, both are important breeding grounds. On Motu Tabu one has to be very careful where to step as Wedge-tailed Shearwater like to breed in burrows.
One of the attractions to anglers is bonefishing in the lagoon.
Having visited two of the inhabited Line Islands, your lecturers will use the sea day to talk about the uninhabited islands and their importance to wildlife or the early Polynesian seafarers that not only stopped on the islands for a short while, but actually settled them during centuries.
When not attending a lecture or relaxing on the Sun Deck, get help from the onboard photographer during a workshop or look for whales and dolphins.
When Malden was visited in 1825 it was found to be uninhabited. Lt. Malden, after whom the island is named, discovered remains of former (Polynesian) settlements. One reason they could have survived on this island is that they found large seabird colonies of at least 11 species, including Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty and Grey-backed terns, as well as Blue-grey Noddies across the island. The Polynesians could have lived off the birds. The resulting guano was harvested from the mid-19th century until 1927. A railroad system (using sails and the prevailing winds for propulsion) was used to transport the guano to the western point of the island to be loaded onto barges. Land near this point and walk or hike across the island using the old railroad embankments. See some of the remains of the Polynesian structures: 21 archaeological sites with more than 70 structures can be found mostly occurring along the north coast. Remains of the British nuclear testing observation unit dating back to the 1950s are close to the landing site.
Swimming and snorkeling will be offered from anchored Zodiacs.
Seen by Captain Starbuck in 1823, it took more than 45 years before guano-digging took place on this small island. Guano harvesting stopped in the late 19th century, but when overpopulation in Tarawa forced the Kiribati government to look for resettlement areas in the late 20th century, this uninhabited island was considered for a while, even palm trees were planted, but less than 30 were still growing in 2016.
Go ashore and explore the ruins of the former camp, look for the remains of various shipwrecks dating from the 19th century, as well as seabird colonies. The WWF estimated in 2001 that depending on the season up to six million Sooty Terns called Starbuck their home. Starbuck has been declared a Wildlife Sanctuary, to protect the turtles that come to nest, the marine life and the 16 species of seabirds that use the island. Snorkeling off the islands shore very much depends on the sea conditions, but would be offered from our Zodiacs.
Heading in a south-westerly direction Silver Explorer will once again have to pass the dateline! This time you gain a day and have the 4th of October twice.
You can attend lectures about the Cook Island and perhaps the pearl industry, taste some of the culinary specialties prepared by your chefs, or simply relax on the outer decks. Enjoy the wide open space of the South Pacific.
According to many, Manihiki is the most beautiful of the Cook Islands. Known as “The Island of Pearls”, it is a triangular atoll in the Northern Group composed of 40 tiny islets encircling a lagoon four kilometers wide. This completely enclosed body of water is the source of the island’s greatest asset—black pearls.
At the pier you will be welcomed by representatives of the villages with speeches, prayers and dances. During an excursion across the lagoon you can learn first-hand how the pearls are made by taking an informative pearl farm tour, or use the occasion to swim and/or snorkel over and around the pearl lines. The villagers will have prepared a local lunch and will be available to show and sell you some of their finest pearls.
Suwarrow is a coral atoll in the center of the Cook Islands, roughly 1300km south of the equator. Although its name goes back to a Russian visit in the early 19th century the island is considered Crown Land and as such Queen Elizabeth II is the official owner. The island has a rich history and has had a number of solitary ‘caretakers’. One of them was New Zealander Tom Neale who lived here for a total of 16 years. His book became a bestseller, “An Island to Oneself”.
In 1978, the island was declared a National Park of the Cook Islands due to the plentiful marine and bird life it supports. Today the island’s population consists of 2 caretakers (from April to October) and millions of birds. Sooty Terns, Masked Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, and noddies nest on most islets, and the atoll is also an important wintering site for Bristle-thighed Curlews, making this a paradise for our bird-watchers. Humpback whales frequent the waters surrounding Suwarrow and green turtles come into the lagoon using the beaches to deposit their eggs ashore. The atoll’s islets are home to large populations of coconut crabs.
Silver Explorer has received a special permit to visit this outstanding atoll and we intend to make the most of our time ashore and in the water.
Today will be a day to scan the seas for humpback whales, especially since the area northwest of Aitutaki is known as an area where they congregate. Your lecture staff will have time to prepare you for your visit to Aitutaki and Atiu, and talk about the natural history, seabirds, and underwater creatures, as well as the early settlers of the Cook Islands and their interesting stories.
Aitutaki is rightly known as one of the most spectacular destinations in the Cook Islands. Its reef completely encompasses a large turquoise lagoon.
We go ashore using Zodiacs, but before stepping on land, a local warrior appears and challenges all visitors. Once you have each stepped across a special stone at the landing site, you are free to do as you please on the island. Your excursion continues aboard local boats, crossing the lagoon to the small islet of Tapuaetai for a delicious barbecue luncheon in a lush South Pacific setting. Look for Red-tailed Tropicbirds, grab some snorkeling gear to see what is underwater at Honeymoon Islet or let your stroll along the beach continue out onto a sand cay.
Birders will be looking for the Blue Lorikeets among the coconut palm trees in Arutanga.
Atiu is locally referred to as “Enuamanu”, the land of birds, and birders will love the opportunity to look for the Atiu Swiftlet, which not only is endemic to the island, but breeds in only two of Atiu’s caves. Other special birds are the recently introduced Rarotonga Monarch, an endangered species endemic to the Cook Islands, and the Kuhl’s or Rimatara Lori. This bird is only found on a handful of islands.
Be welcomed by representatives of Atiu’s five villages, which incidentally are all located at the center of the island. There will be several options to hike across the island looking for birds, exploring caves and photographing the small secluded beaches of this Makatea-type island. Atiu is also famous for its Arabica coffee and the local bush beer.
Silver Explorer will sail in a northwesterly direction to reach French Polynesia and the Society Islands. Your lecturers might talk about the different explorations and approaches of the British and French and their overseas colonies of the 19th century, or perhaps about some of the famous writers or painters that made the Pacific their home.
Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven”, is not only famous for its stunningly beautiful bays and landscapes, but also its rich culture and history. The Silver Explorer will anchor in Faaroa Bay and guests can travel by Zodiac up the Faaroa River, the only navigable river in the whole of French Polynesia. Raiatea launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand.
Our journey takes us alongside dense tropical rainforests with trees that dip gracefully into the water, to a Botanical Garden where we will go ashore with a local guide to learn more about the island’s plant life.
A scenic driving tour past a vanilla plantation takes us to the dramatic and well maintained Marae Taputapuatea. As Raiatea was considered to be the religious centre of Polynesia, this is a highly significant marae site with many associated legends involving both the sacred and magical. In the afternoon we will make a Zodiac landing on the sandy beaches of tranquil Moto Iriru to swim and snorkel above colourful underwater gardens or drift snorkel through the more challenging Iriru pass.
One cannot adequately describe the spectacular beauty of Bora Bora’s emerald-green hills and tranquil sapphire-blue lagoons. Be on deck while you enter through the only pass into the lagoon and drop anchor in front of Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main village.
Select from a variety of excursions and activities today. Enjoy a leisurely, open-air ‘le truck’ tour of Bora Bora’s highlights: ancient marae stone temples, the Faanui Protestant Church, scenic lookout points with spectacular vistas of the lagoon and distant islands, old WWII remnants and popular Matira Beach. Sample local fruits, watch a pareo demonstration, and stop at Bloody Mary’s before returning to the ship.
Alternatively, use specially designed, open-air, off-road vehicles, to circle the island and visit some of its most dramatic sites that are only accessible by four-wheel drive. Veer inland following a trail that leads up the mountain to an amazing panorama. From this height, you can view Bora Bora’s breathtaking multi-colored lagoon. See canons remaining from the American’s presence during WWII.
Of course, you may choose instead to simply spend the day swimming and snorkeling in this idyllic tropical paradise.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Onboard accommodation; onboard meals; butler service; snorkeling; complimentary beverages served throughout the ship (an assortment of complimentary wines, champagne and spirits); onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises