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On a voyage to the far-flung archipelagos of French Polynesia, explore the unspoiled atolls of the Tuamotus before setting course for the remote Marquesas Islands. The Marquesas, some of which have been virtually untouched since the era of European exploration, are home to a proud people whose unique dialect links directly to the ancient Polynesian language of Maohi. It is believed locally that the spirits of the ancient Maohi linger among the saw-toothed peaks, lush valleys, and limestone grottos that we’ll explore here. Spend time discovering these beautiful and remote islands that once drew the likes of Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Paul Gauguin.
Traveling aboard the National Geographic Orion, enjoy onboard talks as well as hands-on instruction from a National Geographic photographer.
Hike to a remote waterfall or search for rare birds on the far-flung isle of Fatu Hiva, alongside our naturalists.
Explore the little-known Tuamotu Archipelago by kayak; walk its pristine beaches; and snorkel or dive vibrant reefs.
Witness a traditional Marquesan dance performance at an ancient marae, used for spiritual and community gatherings.
Itinerary - 17 Days
Day 1 — Depart U.S.
Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Tahiti.
Day 2 — Papeete, French Polynesia
Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti, early this morning, check in to dayrooms, and take a brief tour of Tahiti before embarking National Geographic Orion. (L,D)
Days 3, 4, & 5 — At Sea/Tuamotu Archipelago
We begin our exploration of the “Dangerous Archipelago” at Fakarava, one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. After a festive welcome with traditional dancers, learn about the island’s pearl industry and walk its pristine beaches. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world-famous drift dive. Continue to Raroia, one of the easternmost atolls in this chain and the site where Thor Heyerdahl’s famous Kon-Tiki raft made landfall in 1947. (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — At Sea/Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
One of the most remote island groups on Earth, the Marquesas see few visitors, yet offer ample opportunity for exploration. Our visit begins at Hatiheu Bay on the north shore of Nuku Hiva Island—the capital of the archipelago. Gaze at ancient petroglyphs and witness a spectacular dance performance at a Marquesan marae, an open-air space used for spiritual and community gatherins. Or hike up a lush valley with the naturalists in search of rare birds and spectacular views overlooking the isle's towering emerald cliffs. Later, head to the village to sample local foods and peruse unique arts and crafts. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Hiva Oa
Anchor at Hiva Oa and travel into the mountains above Puamau village to see the stunning Me'ae Lipona, home to one of the largest ancient tiki statues in Polynesia. Visit the Calvary Cemetery to see the gravesites for French artist Paul Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel, both of whom spent their final years on the island.
Day 9 — Fatu Hiva
Make your way to the deck this morning to photograph the dramatic volcanic pillars of Hanavave Bay as our ship approaches one of the most storied shorelines in the Pacific. Once ashore, visit a remote village to view Marquesan art displays. Choose to tackle a challenging hike to a remote waterfall, or take Zodiacs to a neighboring bay, where local transport will take you on a birdwatching foray deep into the Omoa Valley. (B,L,D)
Days 10, 11, & 12 — Exploring the Marquesas/At Sea
Our final two days in the Marquesas are open for exploration by sea. Scuba dive with manta rays, search for rare cetaceans with our onboard naturalists, and marvel at the rugged volcanic silhouettes of these legendary islands while exploring coastal waters by kayak and Zodiac. (B,L,D)
Days 13 & 14 — Tuamotu Archipelago
Spend two days exploring some of the more than 80 isles and atolls that make up this seldom-visited French Polynesian archipelago. Snorkel or dive stunning reefs, kayak and stand-up paddleboard on turquoise lagoons, and walk pristine beaches beneath coconut palms. (B,L,D)
Day 15 — Makatea
An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique landforms in the Pacific. Spend the day exploring limestone caves and grottos with your expedition team and local guides, or search for endemic fruit doves and myriad seabirds, then snorkel and dive among clouds of colorful fish on the nearby reef. (B,L,D)
Days 16 & 17 — Papeete/Home
After breakfast, disembark in Papeete and tour Tahiti before transferring to the airport for your overnight flight home. (Day 16: B, L)
Book by July 31, 2017 and receive complimentary
round-trip international airfare between Los Angeles
and Papeete. We will also cover your bar tab on
board and all tips for the crew. Book two or more
South Pacific voyages aboard National Geographic
Orion and save 10% on each expedition.
Offers are for new bookings only, may not be combined with other offers, and are subject to availability. Please call for details.
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. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
Ralph Lee Hopkins
Ralph Lee Hopkins is a popular photo instructor and geologist who also serves as an expedition leader aboard the National Geographic fleet. He served as a photographer on the historic Arctic Expedition for Climate Action in July 2008 and has traveled beyond both the Arctic and the Antarctic Circles many times during the past two decades. His wildlife images have appeared in National Geographic's books, magazines, and online galleries, and are represented in the National Geographic Image Collection.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.