Depart the U.S and arrive in Papeete, French Polynesia. Take a short tour of Tahiti before embarking the National Geographic Orion.(Day 2: L,D)
We begin our exploration of the “Dangerous Archipelago” in Pukarua, where traditional dancers will greet us. Navigate reefs and islets during a day at sea, and then explore one of the uninhabited atolls such as Tahanea. After a festive welcome with traditional dancers in Fakarava, one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, learn about the island’s pearl industry, and walk its pristine beaches. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world-famous drift dive.
Arrive at Mangareva, the largest of the Gambier Islands, famous for its black pearls. 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 scanning the horizon with our naturalists, or relaxing on deck with a good book.
Continue to Pitcairn Island, where many of the mutineers of the legendary Bounty made their home in the late 18th century. About 50 of their descendants still live here today. Meet the residents and hear a few words of the unusual Pitkern dialect—a combination of English “sailor speak” and Polynesian phrases. Visit the gravesite of the last surviving Bounty mutineer, John Adams, and see the Bounty’s anchor, which was salvaged in 1957. Continue to 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. Upon arrival to Ducie Island, watch for frigate birds and boobies and snorkel or dive among spectacular reefs. On the two-day journey west to Easter Island, listen to informative talks by our experts.
Disembark on Easter Island and check into our hotel for two nights. Explore volcanic calderas, jagged lava fields, and sweeping grasslands, and discover the island’s colossal moai statues—the astonishing legacy of a long-lost culture. Join archaeologists to examine these statues and discuss their meaning and creation; visit burial sites, quarries, and intricately carved ceremonial altars. Enjoy a final morning of exploring before transferring to the airport for a flight to Santiago, and then an overnight flight home. (Days 16 and 17: B, L, D; Day 18: B)