The Experience

Exploring the Coral Sea

DAY 1-3: U.S./Cairns, Australia
Depart for Australia, crossing the International Date Line, and embark National Geographic Orion upon arrival. (D)

DAY 4: At Sea
Spend a day crossing the Coral Sea, with reefs and islands rich in birds and aquatic life. Join our naturalists on deck with your binoculars, attend talks by our expedition team, and settle into life on board. (B,L,D)

DAY 5-7: Papua New Guinea
Discover the sights of Milne Bay Province, from the colorful markets of the mainland to the reef-fringed volcanic isles scattered off the coast. Visit islands like Kwato and Samarai, and explore a turbulent history of colonialists, missionaries, headhunters, and world wars. Examine World War II artifacts on land and underwater, and snorkel, dive and kayak the reefs and lagoons of the idyllic Louisiade Archipelago, where the residents of each island are skilled in different crafts, including pottery and building traditional sailing canoes. (B,L,D)

DAY 8-10: At Sea/Solomon Islands
A day at sea brings us to the jungle-clad peaks and vibrant reefs of the Solomon Islands an unlikely backdrop for the fierce battles that took place here during World War II. Today the islands are some of the least visited, most dive-worthy islands in the South Pacific. Explore the haunting war relics at a U.S. supply depot on Guadalcanal Island, and discover the bird life of Kennedy Island, named after John F. Kennedy, who swam ashore here after his PT-109 boat was sunk during the war. Then, on the tiny isle of Owaraha (formerly known as Santa Ana), we’re greeted with a traditional dance performed by villagers in elaborate costumes and masks. (B,L,D) DAY 11: At Sea

DAY 12-13: Vanuatu
Captain James Cook named these islands the New Hebrides, because they reminded him of the rugged isles off Scotland,™s coast. On the main island of Espiritu Santo, snorkel, swim, and kayak in Paradise Lagoon and then set out for the Blue Hole Grotto, a jewel-blue freshwater source surrounded by jungle. Ride Zodiacs to Lelepa to explore Fels Cave, whose walls are decorated with ancient petroglyphs, and visit Vanuatu’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the final residence and burial site of 17th-century Chief Roi Mata. Snorkel Million Dollar Point, where many tons of military equipment were dumped after the war, or experience one of the best wreck dives in the world: the S.S. President Coolidge, a luxury cruise liner used as a troop carrier during World War II. (B,L,D)

DAY 14: At Sea

DAY 15: Beqa, Fiji
In 1789, Captain William Bligh and 18 loyal crew members sailed past the islands of Fiji following the infamous mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty. Numbering more than 300, the islands are known for their pristine coral reefs and sun-drenched villages steeped in a tranquil tropical atmosphere. Our first stop is the island of Beqa (pronounced Mbengga), located just off the southern coast of Viti Levu. Dive or snorkel the surrounding coral reefs, go on walks in the jungle, and paddle sea kayaks along mangrove-lined channels. The island is also the home of the Sawau people, known for their tradition of firewalking. Witness this incredible feat first hand, and learn about the everyday life of the islanders. (B,L,D)

DAY 16: Lautoka, Fiji/U.S
Disembark in Lautoka, and transfer to the airport for your return flight home. (B)

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