Exploring Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomons, and the Great Barrier Reef

  • 25 days aboard the National Geographic Orion

Expedition Details


Board the National Geographic Orion in Auckland, New Zealand and embark on an epic voyage in the wake of Captain Cook. Delve into a fascinating history of intrepid explorers, convicts, headhunters, and traders as we explore Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, and the Torres Strait. In Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, don your snorkel and fins to discover incredible coral reefs and lagoons, revisit World War II history, and get to know vibrant island cultures. Cap off the journey snorkeling or diving Australia’s crown jewel: the Great Barrier Reef.

Trip Highlights

  • Trace the history of legendary explorer Captain James Cook on an epic voyage to the remote islands, white-sand beaches, and sapphire lagoons of Melanesia.
  • Experience the rich cultures of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea during ceremonial dance performances and visits to traditional villages.
  • Swim, snorkel, and dive at world-class reefs teeming with marine life and renowned World War II shipwrecks and ruins.
  • Hike the rim of an active volcano in Vanuatu, and photograph its spectacular molten interior.

Itinerary - 25 Days

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

Depart for Auckland, crossing the international date line, and embark National Geographic Orion on arrival.

Day 4 — Bay of Islands

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.

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

Sail 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, and go swimming or hiking.

Days 7 & 8 — At Sea/Tanna, Vanuatu

Cross 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.

Days 9 through 12 — Vanuatu

Cook named these islands the “New Hebrides” because they reminded him of the rugged isles off Scotland’s coast. Visit the capital of Port-Vila, and take Zodiacs to Lelepa to explore a huge cave adorned with ancient petroglyphs. On Malakula, dancers in elaborate spirit masks share their ancient traditions. Continue to Espiritu Santo to dive the wreck of the Word War II troop carrier, S.S. President Coolidge, or snorkel amid military ruins at “Million Dollar Point.” Then explore the remote Torres Islands.

Days 13 through 16 — At Sea/Solomon Islands

The Solomons are home to jungle-clad peaks overlooking vibrant reefs and historic battlefields. Enjoy a traditional island dance at Santa Ana, and explore the haunting war relics at Guadalcanal. Snorkel, dive, or kayak Marovo Lagoon—one of the world’s largest double barrier-enclosed lagoons—and admire the intricate work of local woodcarvers. Discover the bird life of Kennedy Island, named after John F. Kennedy, who swam ashore here after his PT-109 boat was sunk during World War II.

Days 17, 18, & 19 — Papua New Guinea

Spend three days exploring Papua New Guinea’s remote villages and dazzling coral reefs. Upon arrival in the Trobriand Islands, attend a splendid performance by villagers adorned with flowers and feathers. At the former trading post of Samarai, discover the island’s history of colonists, missionaries, and headhunters; and swim and snorkel.

Days 20 & 21 — At Sea/Torres Strait and Thursday Island, Australia

Head through the Coral Sea into the Torres Strait, where Captain Cook sailed aboard the H.M.S. Endeavour during his first Pacific voyage. Step ashore at Thursday Island, once an important pearling center.
(B,L,D; B)

Days 22 & 23 — The Great Barrier Reef and Lizard Island

The Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770, before Cook successfully completed the voyage. At the reef’s northern edge, discover seldom-visited cays and a brilliant profusion of marine life. Enjoy a day of snorkeling or diving among the coral gardens that surround Lizard Island National Park. Learn about the importance of the island to the native Dingaal people, and retrace Cook’s steps to “Cook’s Look.”

Days 24 & 25 — Cairns/U.S.

Following breakfast, disembark in Cairns and transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home.

Lindblad/National Geographic Logo

This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Activity Level

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