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Immerse yourself in some of the most pristine marine habitats on the planet on a voyage aboard the new National Geographic Orion. Experience the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef and snorkel among hundreds of surreal, stingless jellyfish in Palau. Encounter the vestiges of World War II battles in Papua New Guinea and Micronesia and get acquainted with the rich and diverse cultures of the South Pacific.
Snorkel or dive in a dazzling world of corals and multicolored fish in Lizard Island National Park on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Witness a swirl of flowers, feathers, and colorful grasses during a traditional dance performance in Papua New Guinea.
Discover World War II cave systems, torpedoes, and shipwrecks in the tropical paradise of Chuuk, Micronesia.
Experience age-old traditions untainted by time as we explore the intriguing islands of Micronesia’s State of Yap.
Itinerary - 22 Days
Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Cairns, Australia
Depart for Cairns, cross the international date line, and board the National Geographic Orion on arrival. (D)
Days 4 & 5 — Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
Cruise north along the Queensland coast to Lizard Island National Park, a stunning ring of islands on the Great Barrier Reef. Spend a day snorkeling or diving among forests of brilliant corals that encircle the park. Explore exquisite white-sand beaches fringed with forest and hike up to Cooks Look, the highest point on the islands, where Captain Cook once plotted a route through the reefs to the open sea. Go birding to spot some more than 40 species and learn what makes these islands sacred to the indigenous Dingaal people. Then sail to a remote northern section of the reef and discover a thrilling array of marine life, from multicolored fish to reef sharks and turtles. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Thursday Island and Torres Strait
Land on Cape York on the northern tip of Queensland this morning or take a final snorkel or dive on the world’s largest barrier reef. Then head into the Torres Strait, stopping at Thursday Island. Hear harrowing tales of the pearl industry that once burgeoned here on a walk through the pearlers’ cemetery, or take in the view from Lions Lookout. (B,L,D)
Days 7 & 8 — At Sea/Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea
After a day at sea, arrive on Samarai, a tiny island just off the tip of the mainland that was once an important trading post. Explore a turbulent history of colonialists, missionaries, head hunters, and world wars; or land on neighboring islands to beachcomb, swim, and snorkel. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Trobriand Islands
On the island of Kitava, witness an incredible performance by traditional dancers festooned with flowers, feathers, and face-paint. After the festivities, go snorkelling or relax on the beach on nearby Uratu Island. (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Rabaul
A morning at sea brings us to Rabaul, whose smoking volcano can be seen for miles. See the ruins of the former provincial capital, still covered in ash from a 1994 eruption, and visit fortifications from World War II, when Japan used Rabaul as its base in the South Pacific. Tonight, watch the unique fire dancers of the Baining tribe. (B,L,D)
Days 11, 12, & 13 — Exploring New Ireland Province/At Sea
Explore New Ireland and the tiny island groups scattered around it by snorkeling, meeting islanders, and visiting villages. We then set our sights due north, and spend two days sailing to Micronesia, crossing the Equator along the way. (B,L,D)
Days 14 & 15 — State of Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia
Amid the jungles and idyllic beaches of Truk Lagoon in Chuuk lie hundreds of artifacts from World War II, from torpedoes and planes to cave networks. We’ll take two days to explore the islands of Chuuk, Pulap, and Tamatam. Snorkel or dive among Chuuk’s renowned World War II shipwrecks now blooming with corals. Spot wildlife on rain forest walks; watch woodcarvers and weavers at work; and spend time getting acquainted with the everyday traditions of the islands, largely unchanged over the centuries. (B,L,D)
Days 16 through 19 — State of Yap
Due west of the State of Chuuk lie the islands of Yap, some of the most intriguing in the archipelago. On Satawal, village women in colorful lava-lava wrap skirts greet us with a traditional welcome dance. Snorkel the reef or explore the breadfruit forests from which islanders make their outrigger canoes. On Ifalik, where traditions hold strong and a number of modern amenities are banned, we’ll visit by permission of the chief. See the islanders’ unique handicrafts and swim in the blue lagoon. Enjoy a day to snorkel, dive, birdwatch, and beachcomb on Sorol Atoll. Then drop anchor off Yap Island, known for its stone money: large, carved stone disks that were once the island’s legal tender and are still used in ceremonial exchanges. See a wunbey, a stone platform where the elders hold meetings, and snorkel or dive among the majestic manta rays for which the island is famous. (B,L,D)
Days 20, 21, & 22 — Palau/U.S.
Our last landfall is the tropical paradise of Palau. Take a slow hike to legendary Jellyfish Lake for an otherworldly snorkeling experience among hundreds of jellyfish that do not sting. On our final day, disembark and check into day rooms at our hotel before late night flights home. (B,L,D)