Cultures of the South Pacific: New Zealand to the Solomons

  • 14 days aboard the National Geographic Orion

Expedition Details


Join us for the inaugural voyage of the National Geographic Orion, following in the wake of Captain Cook from New Zealand’s North Island to the Solomon Sea. Delve into a fascinating history of intrepid explorers, convicts, and traders; and learn about the rich cultures of the Maoris and the Melanesians. Examine traditional carved houses and ancient cave art, and meet villagers on the most remote islands of Vanuatu. Along the way, don your snorkel and fins to discover incredible coral reefs and lagoons.

Trip Highlights

  • Encounter an astonishing diversity of cultures from the Maori of the Bay of Islands to the spear-dancers of the Solomons, and delve into their artistic and spiritual traditions.
  • Hike to the rim of Mount Yasur, a glowing, active volcano on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island.
  • Stroll picturesque beaches, kayak in cobalt lagoons, and snorkel and dive the reefs as we hop from island to island.
  • Venture to the former penal colony of Norfolk Island, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and visit World War II sites, including the wreck of the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.
  • New! A rare opportunity to witness land-diving, a rite of passage and agricultural fertility ceremony in Vanuatu in which young men leap headfirst from high platforms with vines tied to their ankles. Click here for a preview.

Itinerary - 14 Days

Days 1, 2, & 3 — U.S./Auckland, New Zealand

Depart for Auckland, crossing the international date line, and embark the National Geographic Orion on arrival. After a champagne christening, take part in the ship’s inaugural festivities as we glide into the Hauraki Gulf at sunset.

Day 4 — Bay of Islands

Our first stop is the Bay of Islands, an area rich in Maori culture set on the northernmost peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island. Take Zodiacs ashore to the town of Russell and visit the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds, home to one of the world’s largest Maori ceremonial war canoes. See the canoe and a carved Maori meeting house and witness a Maori performance.

Days 5 & 6 — At Sea/Norfolk Island, Australia

Spend a day sailing north to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Norfolk Island, where British navigator and explorer James Cook ventured ashore during his second Pacific voyage in 1774. Explore the ruins of this former British penal colony, now a World Heritage site, and go swimming or hiking.

Days 7 through 12 — At Sea/Vanuatu

A day at sea brings us across the Tropic of Capricorn to the Vanuatu archipelago, where the erupting Mount Yasur guided Captain Cook to Tanna Island in 1774. Anchor at Port Resolution, named after the legendary navigator’s ship, and witness an exuberant dance ceremony before ascending to the volcano’s rim for views of its molten interior. Visit the sleepy capital of Port-Vila, and take Zodiacs to Lelepa to explore Fels Cave, a huge grotto adorned with ancient petroglyphs. On Pentecost Island, see a land-diving ceremony. This rite of passage is an amazing spectacle to witness. The land-divers jump to thank the gods and assure a fruitful yam harvest. Watch in awe as young men leap headfirst from a high platform with nothing but two vines tied to their ankles to arrest their fall. The ritual is usually held between April and June, but the Pentecost Islanders will begin their season early with a special presentation for us. On Malakula, dancers in elaborate spirit masks share their ancient traditions. Continue to Espiritu Santo to swim, snorkel, and kayak at Paradise Lagoon. See the remnants of World War II battles near Luganville, and snorkel Million Dollar Point, where hundreds of tons of U.S. military equipment were dumped after the war. Divers may descend to the troop carrier S.S. Calvin Coolidge—one of the world’s best wreck dives. Then spend a day exploring the northernmost group of islands in Vanuatu, remote and seldom visited.

Day 13 — Santa Ana, Solomon Islands

Arrive in the Solomons, an archipelago of nearly 1,000 islands that gained independence from Great Britain in 1978. Here, calm turquoise waters stretch endlessly and peaks rise high above World War II battlegrounds. Less visited than other islands in the South Pacific, the Solomons are home to some of the region’s top snorkeling and diving sites. Land on Santa Ana, where villagers welcome us with a traditional spear dance.

Day 14 — Honiara/U.S.

Set on the island of Guadalcanal, where some of the fiercest battles of World War II unfolded, Honiara is the economic and political capital of the Solomons. After breakfast, disembark here and transfer to the airport for flights home.

Lindblad/National Geographic Logo

This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Activity Level

Click here for a description of all activity levels.