Laced with wispy islands and coral atolls, the tropical seas that stretch from French Polynesia to Easter Island have seen missionaries and mutineers, intrepid explorers and enigmatic cultures pass their way. Traveling aboard the new National Geographic Orion, encounter spectacular volcanic landscapes in Bora Bora and uplifted atolls of Makatea and Henderson Island. Snorkel and dive some of the most remote and pristine reef systems in the world. Hear the tales of the mutiny of the Bounty and the Kon-tiki, and experience the lively culture of the islands. End the voyage among the evocative statues of Easter Island.
Dive or snorkel the stunning reefs of Fakarava, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the Pitcairn Islands, one of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala’s Pristine Seas preservation areas.
Trace the legend of the ill-fated H.M.S. Bounty from Tahiti to Pitcairn Island, where descendants of its mutineers still live today.
Explore the unusual geology and wildlife of Henderson Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and look for some of its endemic bird species.
Delve into the intriguing lost culture of Easter Island, and examine ancient burial sites and towering moai with an archaeologist.
Itinerary - 20 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Depart for Papeete, arriving in the late evening, and transfer to our hotel. The following day, enjoy an introduction to the culture, history, geology, and archaeology of French Polynesia on a guided tour of Papeete. Visit the Musée de Tahiti et des Îles, and the Paul Gaugin Museum. After time to stroll the waterfront, board the National Geographic Orion and take to the Tahitian seas. (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 with naturalists by 4x4 or on foot, or hop on a bicycle to discover Bora Bora on your own. Stroll the beach beneath coconut palms and don your mask and fins to snorkel or dive amid clownfish, sea turtles, harmless sharks, and manta rays on the coral reefs here. If you’re feeling energetic, you may choose to hike to the summit of Mt. Pahia, for unparalleled views. (B,L,D)
Days 4 & 5 — Mo'orea/At Sea
Join us on deck this morning as we approach Mo’orea. Playful dolphins and even humpback whales can be seen off the island’s northern coast, so be sure to bring your binoculars. Entering one of the narrow passes in the island’s fringing reef, we’ll sail into Cook’s Bay, arguably one of the most beautiful bays in the world. We’ll spend our morning touring the island, with a stop at the famous “Belvedere” for a stunning view of Mt. Rotui and both Cook’s and Opunohu Bays. This afternoon, we’ll have the opportunity to snorkel and swim, perhaps even with the resident Tahitian stingrays and blacktip reef sharks. (B,L,D)
Days 6 through 9 — Tuamotu Archipelago/At Sea
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 see its historic sites, including a 19th-century church built out of coral. Snorkel among the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world-famous drift-dive. Navigate jewel-like reefs and islets during a day at sea on our way to Pukarua, where we’ll be greeted by traditional dances. Meet the friendly people of this remote atoll, and learn about their traditional lifestyle. (B,L,D) (B,L,D)
Days 12 through 16 — Pitcairn Islands/At Sea
Many of the mutineers of the legendary Bounty made their home on Pitcairn Island in the late 18th century, and about 50 of their descendants still live here today. Visit this last remnant of the British Empire and learn about its place in 18th-century exploration. Meet the locals and hear a few words of the unusual Pitkern dialect—a combination of English “sailor speak” and Polynesian phrases. Visit the gravesite of mutiny leader Fletcher Christian, and see the Bounty’s anchor, which was salvaged in 1957.
Our next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Henderson Island, an uplifted atoll that is uninhabited and virtually untouched by humans. On hikes and Zodiac excursions, discover the island’s four endemic bird species, rich flora and fauna, and fascinating geology. Then spend a day on Ducie Atoll, watching for frigatebirds and boobies and snorkeling or diving among spectacular reefs. The Pitcairn Islands have been identified as one of the last unspoiled ocean environments on the planet by marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala as part of the Pristine Seas project. Set out on our final voyage east, listening to talks by our experts as we sail two days towards Easter Island.Days 17-18: B,L,D; Day 19: B,L)
Days 17 through 20 — Easter Island/Santiago, Chile/U.S.
Disembark on Easter Island and check into our hotel for two nights, then set out into a landscape of volcanic calderas, jagged lava fields, and sweeping grasslands to discover the colossal moai statues, the astonishing legacy of a long-lost culture. Join archaeologists to examine these statues and discuss their meaning and creation, and visit burial sites, quarries, and intricately carved ceremonial altars. After time to explore on our final morning, fly to Santiago to connect to your overnight flight home. (B,L,D)