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.
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.
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.
On the northwestern edge of the Tuamotu Archipelago, natural forces have uplifted the atoll of Makatea, exposing a raw geology of coral and limestone cliffs, deep caves, and landscapes of riddled rock. Wander through the ruins of early 20th century phosphate mines, take a swim in an underground grotto, or join birders in search of the island’s endemic fruit dove. Then sail to 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.
Continue to Raroia, to meet the local community and hear the tale of the Kon-Tiki, a wooden raft built by a Norwegian explorer that beached on the reef at the end of its epic journey. Navigate jewel-like reefs and islets during a day at sea on our way to Pukarua, where we’ll be greeted by traditional dances. Get to know the friendly people of this remote atoll before we continue our voyage east.
Famous for its black pearls, Mangareva is the largest of the Gambier Islands. Venture underwater to snorkel or dive, meet islanders to learn about their culture and the missionaries who made their home here, and go on a hike with our naturalists. Then spend a day at sea visiting the sauna or the gym, watching footage of the ocean with our undersea specialist, or relaxing on deck.
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)
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.
Chris Rainier specializes in the documentation of indigenous cultures, and is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. A National Geographic Explorer, Chris was a co-founder of the Society’s All Roads Photography Program and is a co-director of the Enduring Voices Project, documenting endangered languages and cultures. He serves as a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine. His life's mission is to document endangered cultures and help empower them to use modern technology to save their ancient traditions through a project he directs called the Last Technology Program. He has conducted expeditions to all seven continents and the North Pole. Chris has won numerous awards for his photography, including the Lowell Thomas Award given by the Explorers Club for his work with endangered cultures. Chris was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in London.
Chris will join the following departure:
Dec 03 - 22, 2014
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For single cabins, add $8,960 to Category 1, and $12,280 to Category 3. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from Los Angeles to Tahiti and return from Chile is $2,600 (subject to change).