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Faces of Melanesia

South Pacific Melanesia Cruise

Summary : With over 1,000 islands in the Solomon Sea, discover a hypnotic taste of some of the sights, dances and traditions of lesser-known Melanesia. Explore stunning lagoons and hundreds of uninhabited islands by Zodiac, witness the epic land diving ceremonies, stand on the rim of an active volcano. Warm local hospitality and thought-provoking cultures complete this wonderful trip.

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

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Itinerary
Day 1
Honiara, Solomon Islands

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. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2
Lumalihe Island, Solomon Islands

Marovo Lagoon is one of the world’s largest saltwater lagoons. Described as “one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” Marovo is home to a double barrier reef system, and is one of two sites in the Solomon’s currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Though residents of Marovo Lagoon normally do not dance due to religious beliefs, you may hear some of their songs. The people here are also quite famous for their woodcarvings of intricately carved and adorned artifacts.

Snorkeling in the lagoon will reveal incredibly steep coral reef walls that are colonized by gorgonian fan forests, black coral gardens, giant clams, sea turtles, manta rays, eels, barracuda, octopus, morays, grey reef sharks, lionfish and shoals of pelagic fish. Meanwhile, bird-watchers can look for osprey, Brahminy Kite and kingfisher, in the trees on one of the many surrounding islands.

Day 3
Vona Vona Lagoon, Solomon Islands

Kohingo and Vona Vona Islands lie on the western side of New Georgia. In between them is Vona Vona Lagoon, a veritable maze of coral reefs and little islets. This is an area that was quite feared in the 19th century, as villages left on raids against other islands and settlements. A tidally dependent visit to Skull Island may disclose the shrine of local warrior chiefs from the head hunting past of this area. A trip by Zodiac through the stunning Vona Vona Lagoon, or a ride to one of the nearby tidal rivers that run through lowland rainforest may be on offer. Twisting passages through the lagoon hold mangrove lined shores that are home to rare freshwater fish, exotic tropical birds and saltwater crocodiles. Local knowledge is highly prized for finding places to snorkel in the crystal clear waters.

Day 4
Karamolun / Pavuvu Island, Solomon Islands

The Russel Islands, of which Pavuvu is largest, produce dried coconut meat, also known as copra. Coconut palm plantations carpet the island and small-scale operations are favored by the locals.

Close to Guadalcanal, the Russel Islands were chosen by American Marines during World War II to prepare for battles further east, but little remains of their time here. In addition to workers in the copra plantations who come from different Solomon Islands, Pavuvu permits relocated settlers from Tikopia to find a new home on the island. Therefore local artistic expressions are both Melanesian and Polynesian. Enjoy cultural presentations and use the day to leisurely stroll through the area, relax on the beach, or snorkel in calm waters teeming with all kinds of fish, as well as turtles and perhaps even dolphin.

Day 5
Roderick Bay, Solomon Islands

Your Expedition Leader will likely encourage you to be out on deck in the early morning as you approach the Sandfly Passage to reach Roderick Bay, on the western side of Nggela Sule in the Florida Islands.

In the bay you will see that huge trees give shade to picture-perfect little beaches. Going ashore witness a folkloric presentation and in one shallow bay you will find the resting place of a ‘famous’ shipwreck. It’s fascinating to see how nature is slowly covering the ship’s surface with plants from shore and corals below the water line.

The bay invites swimming and snorkeling around the ship’s hull where corals are teeming with tropical fish. The snorkeling might also reveal feather stars, colorful nudibranches, vase sponges, gorgonian fans, lionfish and octopus – all part of this truly remarkable marine environment.

Day 6
Santa Ana, Solomon Islands

Today Silver Discoverer will enter Port Mary, the bay in front of Ghupuna, Santa Ana’s main village. A short Zodiac ride will take you onto a beautiful white sand beach with huge shade-giving trees. Once ashore, you can’t help but notice the tidy village with its stilt houses built from local materials. After a welcome on the beach, head to the sport grounds and be entertained by traditional songs and dances performed by members of the three different villages on Santa Ana. No doubt islanders will set up stands with souvenirs on offer ranging from traditional shell money to fishing floats, and carvings based on local stories and legends.

In the afternoon Silver Discoverer will continue eastward. Let your lecturers enhance your understanding of the region or introduce you to your next destination.

Day 7
Utupua Island, Solomon Islands

This morning Silver Discoverer will enter the deep bay on Utupua’s western side. Nembao, one of the main villages on the island, will be your host this day. After a short Zodiac ride land on the sandy beach next to the village’s center. Here expect a welcome and attend a presentation of traditional dances and songs.

You may choose to observe how these Solomon Islanders live by walking along the beach to have a look at the houses, fishing canoes and small plantations. If tides and time permit, it may be an option to take the Zodiacs out to explore the mangrove-lined shores deeper in the bay on the lookout for birdlife, schools of fish, young sharks and mudskippers.

Day 8
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

During the morning, Silver Discoverer will approach Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island. The European name goes back to the early 17th century when Pedro de Quiroz believed he had reached the famous “Tierra Australis Incognita,” the unknown southern land, which he called “La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.”

Once officially cleared into Vanuatu, you will have a chance to enjoy one of the finest beaches of her many islands. You can relax under stately Barringtonia trees draped in Alexandrian laurel that offer cool shade, or swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear water. Perhaps you will opt to visit the remnants of the WWII American Base field hospital and meet the locals who can introduce you to some of their customs and culture, while at the same time invoking their amazing understanding of the local environment and history. It may also be possible to take a Zodiac cruise from the beach, up the river through dense jungle, to swim in one of the famed blue holes of Espiritu Santo.

In the afternoon, enjoy an exceptional performance by the Banks Island women, who create ‘water music’ with their hands in the sea. This is surely one of the most unusual musical groups of Vanuatu. Later, find yourself a comfy spot to watch the sunset from an idyllic setting on the beach.

Day 9
Pentecost / Ambrym, Vanuatu

Morning will find the Silver Discoverer in front of Pentecost Island. Zodiacs will shuttle the ship’s company ashore to witness one of the most unusual socio-religious events in Vanuatu and in indeed in all of the South Pacific. The daring of the young men of Pentecost is impressive as they dive headfirst, connected by lengths of natural vine, from a specially constructed 30-meter tower onto the bare earth at its base. This ceremony can only take place from April to June when the vines have just the right moisture content to stretch and absorb the impact of their monumental dive.

Traditionally, the ceremony welcomes the yam harvest. It is a celebration for the whole village and many people turn out in traditional costume to dance and chant, whipping the atmosphere into an excited frenzy of dance, activity and noise. After the event, be invited to tour the local village and meet the children who may sing and show you around their school and village.

During lunch, Silver Discoverer sails south to Ambrym, another very special and highly active volcanic island. Its dark sand beaches speak of ancient lava flows.

Ambrym is known as the island of magic, go ashore near Ranon to visit the local community and see the famed ‘Rom’ dance. Experience this ceremony as the Rom dance is normally only undertaken during significant occasions when the participants prepare their masks and costumes in secrecy. In addition to the mesmerizing Rom dance, be entertained by a local string band and hope to see some of Vanuatu’s sand drawings. The drawings may appear simply as aesthetically pleasing drawings, but UNESCO recognizes them as a local system of writing, and consequently inscribed them on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Day 10
Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu

During the morning, Silver Discoverer will continue to sail south, to reach Port Resolution which was named after Captain Cook’s famous ship. Tanna is largely an agricultural economy, but was decimated in 2015 by Cyclone Pam. The local community welcomes visitors but is still very much connected to their tradition and custom.

Going ashore onto the volcanic black sand beach, be welcomed by the inhabitants of a nearby village. Singers from the ‘John Frum Cargo Cult’ will entertain as local men and women present traditional dances. Following the performance, the people may offer to take you on a tour of their village and demonstrate daily living skills in a subsistence economy.

As evening approaches, climb into 4WD vehicles to reach an area close to the summit of Mount Yasur. This is the most accessible explosive volcano in the world. Locals believe their spirit god dwells in the mountain, and so it is a sacred place to the local tribes. Be amazed by the power beneath your feet and stand in awe of the fireworks display at sunset. Local guides will instruct you on safe viewing areas depending on the wind and levels of activity.

Day 11
Port Vila, Vanuatu

Following breakfast, disembark Silver Discoverer.

Notes

This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Included:
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; snorkeling gear; 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, © Richard Sidey (volcano)

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