Scattered across the tropical seas like gems, the islands of eastern Indonesia are fringed with white-sand beaches, karst pinnacles, and some of the most pristine reefs in the world. Sail south from Palau to the Moluccas archipelago—once known as the Spice Islands—aboard the new National Geographic Orion. Witness some of the world’s richest coral reef biodiversity in Raja Ampat, discover the legacy of the Dutch East India Company in the Banda Islands, and experience island cultures from West Papua to Timor.
Depart for Palau, cross the international date line, and check into our hotel upon arrival. On our first full day on the island, go snorkeling among floating gardens; walk to Jellyfish Lake for a swim with these ethereal, stingless creatures; or tour the island’s World War II sites. We board the ship this afternoon.
Spend today in Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, a recent addition to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Here, hundreds of mushroom-shaped limestone islets form emerald chains in the blue seas. Explore this exquisite area by Zodiac; discover empty, white-sand beaches; and go snorkeling or diving among forests of colorful coral.
As we sail south, enjoy a day at sea to relax and hear talks by our team of experts. Our destination is Raja Ampat, or “Four Kings,” an archipelago off New Guinea’s Bird’s Head Peninsula that has the richest coral reef biodiversity for its size in the world. Located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the reefs are home to roughly 1,000 known coral species as well as more than 1,200 types of reef fish. Spend two days exploring here, gliding in Zodiacs and kayaks around the limestone pinnacles and sandy coves of these lush karst islands. Discover groves of colorful coral fans as you snorkel or dive off Misool Island—one of the four “kings.” Step ashore to a big West Papuan welcome, with cultural events and a visit to the school. Take a birding walk to spot red birds of paradise, sulfur-crested cockatoos, and more.
Use Zodiacs to get up close to ancient rock art near the fishing village of Kokas. Venture into skull-filled caves and see the remains of the underground Japanese bunker built here during World War II. Witness a traditional dance and learn about the myriad of cultures that have passed through this region.
Sail into the Moluccas archipelago, also known as Maluku or the Spice Islands, and stop first at the Kai Islands, where we’ll be met with a traditional welcome ceremony. Taste local dishes and learn about these islands’ ancient cultural ties to Bali. This afternoon, we’ll find a secluded spot to swim, snorkel, and beachcomb.
A kora kora, or traditional war canoe, escorts us to the enchanting isle of Bandanaira, a hub of the Dutch East India Company and a major source of nutmeg and mace. Stroll past centuries-old nutmeg trees and stately Dutch architecture and visit Fort Belgica, built to protect the spice trade. Later, swim or snorkel beneath the conical volcano of Mount Api. Spend the next day on the island of Run, which played an integral role in the spice wars between the British and the Dutch. The British gave up their claim to Run in exchange for the Dutch island of New Amsterdam—later to become Manhattan.
Known as Indonesia’s “Forgotten Islands,” the Southeast Moluccas are a series of archipelagos within the Banda Sea. Covering nearly 200,000 square miles of ocean, and strewn with hundreds of islands, the Banda Sea offers us exceptional opportunities for exploring. As a center of marine biodiversity, the undersea world of the Banda Sea is extraordinary, while the remote islands offer interesting opportunities for encounters with local cultures and endemic flora and fauna. Our schedule is flexible, allowing us to take advantage of the unexpected. We’ll explore by Zodiac and kayak, on land and in the water, using our full arsenal of tools for exploration.
After a final day at sea, disembark in Darwin and relax in dayrooms at our hotel. Late this evening, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home.
Disembark in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory. Relax in dayrooms at our hotel, or explore this multicultural city, before transferring to the airport for a late evening overnight flights home.
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts--from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes and local culture. The expert featured below will be part of the expedition team on the date noted.
Acclaimed underwater photographer David Doubilet has produced more than 70 stories for National Geographic magazine, including the January 1999 cover story "Coral Eden" about the reefs surrounding Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He has photographed stingrays, sponges, and sleeping sharks in the Caribbean as well as shipwrecks in the South Pacific, the Atlantic, and at Pearl Harbor. David will share above- and below-water photography techniques as well as his passion for the Pacific Isles' diverse wildlife and cultures.
David will join the following departure:
Apr 27 - May 13, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin, add $7,260 in Category 1, and $10,150 in Category 3. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from Los Angeles to Palau and return from Darwin is $3,500 (subject to change).