The archipelagos of the South Pacific have defined our notion of “island paradise” since Robert Louis Stevenson told his tales and Paul Gauguin captured Polynesia in paint. As we sail from the sparkling white shores of Fiji to Tahiti’s lush volcanic crags, discover a fascinating geology and a stunning wealth of bird species and marine life. Dive or snorkel among underwater canyons and tunnels formed from lava, meet island communities, and explore the far-flung reefs of Kiribati, chosen as part of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.
Depart the U.S., cross the international date line, and arrive in Nadi, Fiji. Transfer to nearby Lautoka to board the National Geographic Orion. More than 300 islands make up the remote volcanic archipelago of Fiji. Take to the warm turquoise seas, sailing past idyllic white-sand beaches edged with jungle as we make our way east.
Our first stop is Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island, known as “The Garden Island” for its rich vegetation—which includes several species found nowhere else in the world. Head inland to discover the waterfalls of Bouma National Heritage Park and admire a panoramic view from 3,920-foot Des Voeux Peak. Go diving or snorkelling, or take a birding walk along a coastal trail to see species such as orange fruit doves, endemic silktails, fantails, and parrots. On Fiji’s outer islands, experience the local culture in remote villages. Then take advantage of a full day at sea to settle into the relaxed pace of life on board. Watch for marine life from the deck, study our route in the Chart Room, and attend talks by our experts.
The ship winds its through a maze of uplifted limestone islets as we arrive in the lesser-known Kingdom of Tonga. In Neiafu, the capital of the stunning Vava’u island group, venture into verdant hills to visit a vanilla plantation and browse the craft and produce markets at the wharf. Spend the afternoon on the water kayaking, snorkeling, diving, or taking a Zodiac into limestone caves along the coast. The following day, anchor off Niuatoputapu and witness daily life on Tonga’s most remote islands. Enjoy an introduction to Tongan music and dance, and attend a kava ceremony. On Tafahi, a volcanic cone rising out of the sea, explore volcanic rocks and submerged canyons and tunnels while snorkeling or diving.
With its spectacular beaches and aqua lagoons, hidden waterfalls and lava-sculpted landscapes, Samoa captures the essence of the South Pacific. During our time on these islands, hike through rain forests vibrant with flowers and birds, take a dip in a swimming hole, go snorkeling or diving on the reef, and soak up the languid rhythms of island life that drew Robert Louis Stevenson to these shores. Then enjoy the ship’s amenities as we spend two days sailing into the heart of Polynesia.
The 15 Cook Islands are scattered across some 750,000 square miles of the Pacific, and we plan to visit the most remote of these, in the very far north of the archipelago. These were the first islands in the group to be sighted by Europeans around 1600, but they were not properly explored until their namesake Captain Cook arrived in the 1770’s. The northern islands are low coral atolls with vast turquoise lagoons where black pearls are farmed. Explore the islands both ashore and at sea, visiting island communities and discovering the vibrant life below the waves.
A day at sea brings us to the Southern Line Islands, some of the most remote and isolated atolls on Earth; uninhabited and rarely visited, they remain largely untouched by man. Marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala researched these islands as part of the Pristine Seas project, and has identified them as one of the last healthy, undisturbed places in the ocean. We’ll experience this rich marine environment firsthand while snorkeling or diving, and explore the deep with our remotely operated vehicle. Go ashore on Caroline Island, renamed Millennium Atoll after becoming one of the first places to see the sun of the new millennium rise. Navigate the intricate channels of its lagoon by Zodiac or kayak, seeing nesting boobies and tropicbirds on the shore, and swim above fields of giant clams. Gain a day crossing the international date line.
The atoll of Rangiroa is a ring of slender islands known for some of the best diving and snorkeling in French Polynesia. The turquoise lagoon at its center is the second-largest in the world. Our ship passes between the islets to anchor inside the lagoon near the village of Tiputa, where local musicians greet us. Visit the village, and kayak, snorkel, and scuba in the rich waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and hammerheads.
Approach the emerald crags of Tahiti’s volcanic peak this morning and disembark in French Polynesia’s capital city, Papeete. Check into day rooms and enjoy the day to explore the city’s museums, markets, and black pearl shops, or venture out to the surrounding beaches. Later this evening, transfer to the airport for your flight home, arriving the following day. Day 19: B,L)
National Geographic photographer and marine biologist Flip Nicklin is one of the world's leading photographers of whales. His majestic photos and amazing audio tracks of humpbacks and killer whales have appeared in numerous National Geographic publications and television specials. The North American Nature Photography Association has named him Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year. Flip migrates with the humpbacks, spending summers in the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Alaska and winters off Maui, Hawaii.
Flip will join the following departure:
Nov 16 - Dec 05, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin, add $9,500 in Category 1, and $12,990 in Category 3. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from Los Angeles to Fiji and return from Tahiti is $2,940 (subject to change).