Set sail from Bali aboard the new National Geographic Orion, and discover Indonesia’s rich tapestry of cultures and lush tropical islands. Experience the thrill of spotting rare Komodo dragons in the wild, snorkel and dive at pristine coral reefs from the Moluccas to West Papua, and take part in exuberant welcome ceremonies at the secluded villages we’ll explore along the way. Explore the fascinating riverine world of the Asmat region, and cap off your journey amid the underwater splendors of the Great Barrier Reef.
Encounter Indonesia’s vibrant cultures during traditional welcome ceremonies and visits to remote island villages and markets.
Explore Komodo National Park, home of the Komodo dragon, and learn about the conservation of these remarkable creatures.
Discover the timeless traditions and exquisite art of the Asmat region while exploring its stilt villages by Zodiac.
Swim, snorkel, and dive at spectacular reefs, isolated atolls, and ivory beaches from eastern Indonesia to the Great Barrier Reef.
Itinerary - 20 Days
Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Depart for Bali, crossing the international date line, and embark the National Geographic Orion. (D)
Day 4 — Sumbawa, Lesser Sunda Islands
Our first stop is the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, where villagers welcome us with a lively cultural display. Witness a traditional wedding ceremony, a local boxing match, and an exhilarating buffalo race through a rice paddy field. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Komodo
Explore Komodo National Park, home to the world’s largest living lizard—the Komodo dragon. Learn about the conservation of these prehistoric giants from park rangers, who will join us on a hike to spot the lizards in their natural habitat. Then enjoy an afternoon of swimming, snorkeling, or beachcombing at “Pink Beach,” named for the coral fragments that lend their color to the sand. (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — Flores/Alor
Flores was once an important Portuguese trading center for sandalwood. Visit the town of Larantuka, which became a refuge for deserters of the Dutch East India Company, and meet with locals to learn about their history and customs. At the island of Alor, known for the rich biodiversity of its reefs, we’ll venture to the rugged interior to experience the traditions of the indigenous population. Visit a market selling intricate ikat textiles, and marvel at ancient bronze moko drums at a local museum. Conditions permitting, enjoy an afternoon of snorkeling and diving. (B,L,D)
Days 8 & 9 — At Sea/Banda Islands, Moluccas
Amid the glittering Banda Sea lie isolated coral reefs and atolls. Take a day to explore these tropical gems, then sail into the Moluccas archipelago, also known as Maluku or the Spice Islands. Visit the nutmeg-rich island of Run, which played a pivotal role in the 17th century spice wars and was traded by the British in exchange for the Dutch island of New Amsterdam—later renamed New York. Delve into the history of the Dutch East India Company at Bandanaira island, and go swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear waters. (B,L,D)
Days 10 & 11 — Exploring the Banda and Arafura Seas
In true expedition fashion, these two days will remain flexible to take full advantage of the conditions of the moment. Whether exploring on walks ashore, or with mask, fins and snorkel, this region is rich with possibilities.
Days 12, 13, & 14 — At Sea/The Asmat
Arrive in the enchanting Asmat region, which spreads across mud flats and mangrove forests, with raised wooden boardwalks linking one village to the next. Elaborately painted “warriors” escort us to one of the stilt villages on shore, where we’ll attend a fascinating welcome ceremony. Our subsequent exploration will be dictated by the tides, as we venture to neighboring villages by Zodiac and encounter the ancient culture of the Asmat people, who are renowned for their woodcarving. (B,L,D)
Days 15 & 16 — At Sea/Torres Strait and Thursday Island, Australia
After a relaxing day at sea, sail into the Torres Strait and stop at Thursday Island to learn about the pearl industry that once thrived here. Explore Cape York. (B,L,D)
Days 17 & 18 — The Great Barrier Reef and Lizard Island
Spend two days immersed in the wonders of the world's largest reef system. At a remote northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, snorkel or dive amid a profusion of marine life, from starfish and sea anemones to reef sharks and turtles. Cruise south along the Queensland coast to Lizard Island National Park, a secluded group of islands considered sacred by the indigenous Dingaal people. Explore white-sand beaches and coral gardens inhabited by colorful fish and giant clams. Trace the steps of famed explorer Captain James Cook to the island’s peak, “Cook’s Look.” (B,L,D)
Days 19 & 20 — Cairns/U.S.
Disembark in Cairns and spend the night at a seaside hotel before transferring to your flight home. (B)
A National Geographic staff photographer since 1990, Mark Thiessen has published numerous feature stories and covers for National Geographic magazine and other Society publications on subjects ranging from Peruvian mummies to Egyptian archaeologists to Russian smokejumpers. He recently documented film director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron's dive to the ocean's deepest location at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Mark's photographs for the July 2008 National Geographic cover story, “Under Fire: Why the West Is Burning,” earned first-place recognition by Pictures of the Year International. Mark also directs the National Geographic Photo Studio, and was featured in Out There, a series aired on the National Geographic Channel.