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Experience the heart and soul of French Polynesian while exploring island cultures as well as natural wonders above and beneath the sea. Take to the waters by kayak or paddleboard, go biking to local villages, and connect with the people and traditions of the islands. On Raiatea, discover the historic ceremonial site, called a marae, where Polynesian seafarers would begin their bold sailing expeditions into the unknown—voyages that would eventually lead to populating Hawaii and New Zealand. Sail among some of the 80 or so atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago, and dive or snorkel the thriving reefs along this string of tiny islands.
Watch the National Geographic Orion navigate the Tiputa Pass into the lagoon at Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world.
Go ashore at the seldom-visited isle of Huahine, former residence of Tahitian royalty, and visit ancient sites with an archaeologist.
Grab one of our ship’s stand-up paddleboards or kayaks and glide across serene turquoise lagoons.
Take in spectacular views over Bora Bora from one of its emerald crags, and then snorkel or dive from a private motu—an islet on the outer reef.
Itinerary - 10 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 into dayrooms, and take a brief tour of the island before embarking the National Geographic Orion. (L,D)
Day 3 — Bora-Bora, Society Islands
Jutting out from an aquamarine lagoon ringed with tiny islets, Bora Bora’s angular volcanic crags are a spectacular sight. Explore the island’s slopes and shores by 4x4 and enjoy unparalleled views of the island’s turquoise lagoon. Then snorkel, dive, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard from one of the motus, or islets on the outer reef. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Raiatea/Taha'a
Encircled by a single fringing reef and sharing a common lagoon, Raiatea and Taha'a offer plenty to explore. One of the most important cultural sites in the Polynesian world, Marae Taputapuatea served as the starting point for Polynesian seafarers heading for Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawaii, and New Zealand. Spend the morning exploring this site on Raiatea, then enjoy a refreshing swim in warm turquoise seas. Watch from on deck as we navigate lagoon channels en route to Taha'a, then go ashore for a visit to a small, family-run vanilla plantation (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Huahine
One of Polynesia’s best-kept secrets and the former home of Tahitian royalty, Huahine maintains the highest density of ancient marae in French Polynesia. Visit these sites with cultural experts and archaeologists who bring them to life. Venture into the lush interior of the island on a bicycle, then explore the verdant shoreline by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or Zodiac. Finish the day with a swim in the island’s crystal-clear lagoon. (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — Tuamotu Archipelago
Spend two days exploring some of the nearly 80 islands and atolls in the “Dangerous Archipelago.” Fakarava is one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world-famous drift dive. An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique landforms in the Pacific. Navigate 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 colorful fish on the nearby reef. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Rangiroa
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 palm-fringed islets to anchor inside the lagoon near the village of Tiputa, where local musicians greet us. Visit the tranquil village and spend time with its friendly residents. Kayak, snorkel, and scuba dive in the waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and hammerheads. (B,L,D)
Days 9 & 10 — Rangiroa/Papeete/U.S.
Disembark this morning and take a short flight back to Papeete, where you’ll connect to your overnight
flight home. (Day 9: B, L)
Book by December 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.
David Doubilet and Jen Hayes
Underwater photographers David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes are married partners who work together as a team to produce National Geographic stories from equatorial coral reefs to beneath the polar ice. David estimates he has spent nearly half his life in the sea since taking his first underwater photograph at the age of 12 with a Brownie Hawkeye camera sealed in a bag. Between them, Jennifer and David have photographed and explored the ocean depths in such places as New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Tasmania, Scotland, and Antarctica. David has photographed stingrays, sponges, and sleeping sharks in the Caribbean, as well as shipwrecks in the South Pacific, the Atlantic, and at Pearl Harbor. He has produced more than 70 stories for National Geographic magazine and several books, and has received the Explorers Club’s prestigious Lowell Thomas Award and the Lennart Nilsson Award in Photography.
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.