The Experience

DAY 1-2: U.S./Fly To Cairns, Australia
Depart for Cairns, crossing the international date line (lose a day).

DAY 3: Cairns/Embark Ship
Arrive in Cairns in the far north of Queensland and transfer to National Geographic Orion for embarkation. (D)

DAY 4: Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system. It is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. Unspoilt Lizard Island has great cultural importance for the traditional residents the Dingaal Aboriginal people, who regarded it as a sacred place. Its pristine beaches, with perfect white sand, slope gently away from the shore. Swimmers, snorkelers and divers are rewarded with coral gardens, brightly colored tropical fish and giant clams (one meter in length with spectacular colors). Hike up to Cook’s Look,, where Captain Cook plotted his route through the reefs; the rewards are 360 degree views. (B,L,D)

DAY 5: Exploring The Great Barrier Reef
The reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 4,200 miles. This huge area can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. We sail to a remote section on the outer reef, and discover a thrilling array of marine life from starfish and anemones to multicolored tropical fish, reef sharks and turtles. (B,L,D)

DAY 6: Thursday Island, Torres Strait, Great Barrier Reef
This morning, guided by our reef pilot, we may land on Cape York at the tip of the state of Queensland, Australia. We continue on to Thursday Island, recognized as one of the last frontiers in Australia. There are at least 274 islands in the Torres Strait, of which 17 have settlements, and we learn about the island’s unique history and culture. Wander through the pearler’s cemetery, where stories of this once dangerous occupation are revealed. Or take in the panoramic vistas from Lion’s Lookout. (B,L,D)

DAY 7: At Sea
Head up to the Bridge to watch the quiet business of navigation, then gather in the lounge as we make our way to Papua New Guinea and hear presentations on our next adventures. (B,L,D)

DAY 8: Samarai Island, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a patchwork of mountains and jungle, home to some 700 Papuan and Melanesia tribes, each with its own language. The island of Samarai was once an important trading post and stopover between Australia and East Asia. Today trading has moved elsewhere and the sleepy island is designated as a national heritage site. We land by Zodiac to discover the island’s fascinating history of colonialism, missionaries and headhunters, or land on neighboring islands for beach combing, swimming and snorkeling. (B,L,D)

DAY 9: Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea
On Kitava we experience an incredible and festive cultural exchange: hundreds of villagers gather to watch the great festivities, dancing, singing and chanting with performers decorated in colorful flowers, feathers, woven palm fibers and even Christmas tree tinsel. Photographers will spend time photographing the many beautiful faces, and shoppers may browse some of the finest quality artisan crafts in the Pacific set against idyllic tropical island scenery. After the festivities, relax on the idyllic beach of neighboring Nuratu Island or snorkel its pristine reef. (B,L,D)

DAY 10: At Sea/Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
After a morning at sea, be on deck for the spectacular approach to Rabaul dominated by its smoking volcano. In 1994 the volcano exploded, burying this Pacific Pompeii., We observe firsthand the old city covered in ash with the steaming volcano as a backdrop. We also see the extensive WWII fortifications that made up the southernmost base of the Japanese advance. Another highlight comes after dark, when we watch the unique fire dancers of the Baining tribe. (B,L,D) DAY 11: Exploring The Kavieng Region, Papua New Guinea /At Sea
This day is left open for exploration, perhaps stopping on New Ireland and the tiny island groups scattered off its shores. (B,L,D)

DAY 12-13: At Sea Crossing The Equator
We set our sights north and sail to Micronesia, crossing the equator along the way. With relaxing days at sea, take some time to browse the library, or crack open a copy of James Michener,™s book, Tales of the South Pacific, inspired by his experiences during WWII. Head up to the fitness center, have a sauna, enjoy time on deck or in the hot tub. Our lecture series continues as we learn about the history and fascinating cultures of Micronesia. (B,L,D)

DAY 14: Chuuk Island, Chuuk State, Federated States Of Micronesia
The vast selection of WWII artifacts still found in the Chuuk State after five decades are testament to the unique history of the Micronesian Islands visible propellers, torpedoes, cave networks, planes and ships abound. We see the waterside monument to those who died in the massive American air attack of 1944. Snorkel or dive among Chuuk’s renowned WWII shipwrecks, now blooming with corals. Spot wildlife on rain forest walks, past waterfalls and deserted beaches, and become acquainted with the everyday traditions of the islands, largely unchanged over the centuries. (B,L,D)

DAY 15: Pulap & Tamatam Islands, Chuuk State, Micronesia
A leisurely morning gives insight to the traditional island lifestyle with dances, demonstrations of house-framing and thatching, mat and loom weaving, rope and net-making, and handicrafts. Open hearth fires are still used to cook the daily meals. Carvers use beautiful local woods to carve warrior masks and busts. And the Chuukese ,˜love stick,™ is part of a legendary practice of courtship unique to this island group. (B,L,D)

DAY 16: Satawal, Yap State, Micronesia
The land of stone money,, intriguing Yap is notable for the largest and heaviest money in the world. . We land at tiny Satawal, measuring just 1.5 miles long and accessible only by a small ship such as National Geographic Orion. Village women present a traditional welcome dance adorned in lava-lava skirts. Satawal men, some of the best traditional navigators in the Pacific, live here steering by the sun, stars, and ocean swells. And we may have the chance to ride in an outrigger sailing canoe made of breadfruit wood. Choose to snorkel on the fringing reef, or explore the thickly wooded interior with coconut and breadfruit trees. (B,L,D)

DAY 17: Ifalik, Yap State
This is a picture-postcard tropical island with a beautiful lagoon and an emphasis on maintaining traditional ways of life, with some modern tools and conveniences banned by the chief. Once granted permission, we freely wander the island and admire the handicrafts, including unique pearl-shell fish hooks. People-watch under a coconut tree, photograph the unusual stone money, or enjoy water activities in the blue lagoon. (B,L,D)

DAY 18: Sorol, Yap State
Zodiacs navigate the coral reefs as we land on the sugar-sand beach of this small, mostly uninhabited island perfect for exploration, beachcombing and nature walks. Coconut palms grace the lagoon and we may see sooty terns and elegant white-tailed tropicbirds. Choose to snorkel over a coral drop-off, or enjoy a dive in deeper waters. (B,L,D)

DAY 19: Yap Island, Yap State
Traditional life flourishes in the villages where fishing, sailing and weaving are still important parts of everyday life. Grass skirts for the women and thu’us, a type of loincloth, for the men are the basic garb in the small towns that sit in tranquil settings around the island. Walk ancient stone pathways, visit a community house, and view one of the wunbeys stone sitting platforms where the elders hold meetings. Yap is world famous for its resident manta rays. In Yap, a manta dive does not mean diving, hoping for a manta encounter, it means diving to actually see the mantas. Over 100 manta rays live all year long in the waters surrounding Yap. When coupled with the abundance of larger species like sharks, and turtles, Yap is a paradise for the underwater photographer. (B,L,D)

DAY 20: Palau
Our last landfall is Palau a fitting finale with the whitest beaches you will ever see, gardens of coral just beneath the clear waters, lakes filled to the brim with “stingless” jellyfish, forests, waterfalls and caves for exploring. We take a slow hike to legendary Jellyfish Lake for an extraordinary snorkeling experience. After centuries of biological isolation, the huge jellyfish here have lost their ability to sting. (B,L,D) DAY 21-22: Palau/Disembark/U.S.
Disembark and check into day rooms at our hotel. Explore on your own or relax before late night flights home. (B)

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