South Pacific Islands Expedition Cruise aboard the Silver Discoverer

Overview

Aboard the 120-guest Silver Discoverer,  gaze in awe as the menfolk of Pentecost Island dive from 30-meter towers in the legendary land diving ceremonies, said to ensure a good yam harvest. Enjoy local cuisine, baked in the heat of the earth on the tiny island of Makura, and see the uninhabited atolls and incredible reef system in the Coral Sea. Ten sensational new destinations make this an adventure to discover together.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1, Jun 7, 2018
Port Vila, Vanuatu

Arrive in Port Vila and embark on the ship in the afternoon, with a departure set for 5:30 pm. Vanuatu is an island nation located in the southern Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is approximately 1,090 miles east of northern Australia, approximately 310 miles northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea. Located on Mélé Bay along the southwest coast of Éfaté, Port Vila is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu, as well as its commercial and economic center. Although Port Vila's British and French influences are apparent, its multinational population includes ni-Vanuatu, British, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese citizens.

Day 2, Jun 8, 2018
Pentecost Island / Ambrym Island

Pentecost Island is a lush, mountainous, tropical island stretching over 37 miles from north to south. It was named after the day on which the first European, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, sighted it on May 22, 1768. There are no towns on Pentecost—most of the islanders live in small villages and grow their own food in small gardens. Local traditions are strong, including the age-old ritual of land diving. This unique ritual was first given international exposure by David Attenborough in the 1950s. Later, in the 1980s, New Zealander AJ Hackett used the idea to invent bungee jumping. Every harvest season, the people of Pentecost construct the tower using saplings and branches held together with forest vines.

Unlike Espiritu Santo with its raised coral reefs and white sand, Ambrym is a volcanically active island with dark sand beaches. Ambrym is known as the island of magic and is the source of five local languages that all evolved on Ambrym. This handful of languages contributes to the well over 100 languages of Vanuatu. Some of Ambrym’s magic takes place in the lush greenery of the local community of Ranon. Here the people perform a very special and traditional “Rom” dance. Participants prepare their masks and costumes in secrecy and the dance is reserved for special occasions.

Day 3, Jun 9, 2018
Makura Island

Conjuring up a tropical island might well bring to mind the island of Makura in the Shepherds Islands of Vanuatu. Makura is small, but it is actually the peak of a primeval volcano. The other existing ramparts of the volcanic rim are believed to be the neighboring islands of Emae and Mataso. Roughly 3,000 people call the Shepherds Islands home and Makura Island is one of these populated islands. The easy-going islanders live in a small village on the northwestern part of the island amid a rugged volcanic backdrop.

Day 4, Jun 10, 2018
Aniwa Island / Tanna

Aniwa is a small uplifted coral platform in the southernmost province of Vanuatu. A vivid coral reef has formed here in recent times and grows now where tongues of lava once overran the volcanic slopes and flowed into the ocean. As the corals, sponges, and anemones overgrow the dark lava rock, schools of vivid reef fish cruise above.

Port Resolution is named after Captain Cook’s famous ship and he was the first known western explorer to describe entering the bay. Located on the southeastern shore of Tanna, Port Resolution has a long black sandy beach with hot springs on its western side. The tiny village at its eastern tip has white-sand beaches on the seaward side. The black sand is of volcanic origin and towering behind the bay is Mount Yasur, one of the most active volcanoes in Vanuatu. When Cook first approached the island, he was guided by “a great fire upon it,” which was likely an eruption from Mount Yasur. Depending on the strength of its activity, it may be possible to visit the volcano’s rim.

Day 5, Jun 11, 2018
Aneghowhat, Aneityum Island / Mystery Island

Vanuatu's southernmost inhabited island, Aneityum, is a little tropical island paradise. The interior of the island is mountainous and covered with forest and exists at a slightly cooler climate than the rest of the island. Aneityum rests upon two coalescing volcanoes, although volcanic activity ceased long ago, during the late-Pleistocene to Holocene era. Along the coast, pine plantations contrast with coconut palms, white-sand beaches, and coral reefs. Aneghowhat is the main settlement on the southwestern side of Aneityum, though it is a small and simple town, as the entire island only has a population of approximately 900 people.

Inyeug Island, better known as Mystery Island, is part of the Tafea Province of Vanatu, the southernmost collection of islands. This is a picturesque island with large rounded cliffs jutting from the water. The cliffs create protected lagoons with some of the lightest, clearest waters in the world. The island is, with the exception of an airstrip used twice weekly, made up entirely of beaches and reefs. This place is ideal for relaxing, swimming, and snorkeling in the tranquil waters, where many diverse tropical fishes hide between the corals.

Day 6, Jun 12, 2018
Noumea Island

With its elegant urban infrastructure in a stunning natural setting, Noumea is a truly unique island and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Noumea started as a penal colony, but has since evolved to a lovely metropolis and today has almost two-thirds of New Caledonia’s population. While much of the archipelago of New Caledonia has a large percentage of Kanak people—the indigenous inhabitants who live in tribal areas across the country—Noumea is predominantly European with a strong French influence. The city’s center and Place de Cocotiers, the main park, are located close to the harbor and several churches date back to the late 19th century.

Day 7, Jun 13, 2018
Île des Pins

Named by Captain Cook in the 18th century for its prominent, spiny pine trees, Île des Pins is a vibrantly beautiful island located in the Pacific Ocean and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Surrounded by some of the world’s brightest aquamarine blue water, the island has also been nicknamed as “the closest island to paradise,” with tropical fish and coral that can be seen through the transparent waters of its lagoon. Île des Pins was used in the 19th century as a prison for political exiles from France and remains can still be seen at Kuto and in the village of Ouro. Today the island’s primary inhabitants of the island are the native Melanesian Kanaks, with 2,000 residents.

Days 8-9, Jun 14-15, 2018
At Sea

While at sea, enjoy wine tastings, designer boutiques, language and dance classes. Take in a matinee movie, check the market or your e-mail in the Internet Point, slip away with a novel from the library to a sunny chaise or with a movie to your suite. Or just take in the sun pool side. The choice is yours.

Day 10, Jun 16, 2018
Bundaberg, Australia

Bundaberg is the provincial hub of a vibrant, unique region, and is centred on the picturesque Burnett River at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The area around Bundaberg was used for logging and milling in the mid-19th century, but eventually sugarcane was planted and raw sugar is still one of the main exports. Molasses, a sugar by-product, has made Bundaberg quite famous for its use in making rum. Rum and the Bundaberg distillery play a significant role in the commerce and culture of Bundaberg.

Day 11, Jun 17, 2018
Fraser Island

Fraser Island is a World Heritage site listed for the diversity and beauty it holds. Despite being a sand island, Fraser has over 100 lakes and the landscape changes constantly as dunes are moved across the island by wind. With over 350 bird species recorded, Fraser Island is also part of an “Important Bird Area” and on the “Australian National Heritage” list. The island can be explored by 4WD coach and kayak. In addition to the natural history, there is a rich Butchulla Aboriginal culture here.

Day 12, Jun 18, 2018
Great Keppel Island

Day 13, Jun 19, 2018
Wistari Reef

Day 14, Jun 20, 2018
Whitsunday Islands

The 74 Whitsunday Islands group was named by Captain Cook, who sailed through this area in July 1770. The archipelago is scattered on both sides of the Whitsunday Passage, with the islands rising out of the sea as the tips of underwater mountains. Many feature a hilly terrain and fringes of coral reefs around them. All but five of the Whitsundays are predominantly or totally national park territory. A few of the islands are inhabited or developed into tourist resorts, such as Hamilton, Daydream, and Hayman. The actual Great Barrier Reef is some 36 miles from Shute Harbour. Cruising the Whitsunday Islands is no doubt one of the prime attractions in this area of the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 15, Jun 21, 2018
Townsville

This coastal city has little in the way of sandy beaches or surf, but it does have shady parks, charming colonial buildings, and a boardwalk-flanked waterfront Esplanade with a terrific man-made beach and picnic facilities. The historic town center has thrived recently, with an influx of lively eateries and bars. There are also some excellent museum and a world-class aquarium. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has an office on Magnetic Island, but Townsville Enterprise's information kiosks in Flinders Square and the Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ), on the mainland, are the best sources of visitor information about the island.

Day 16, Jun 22, 2018
Cairns

Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns (pronounced Caans). The city makes a good base for exploring the wild top half of Queensland, and tens of thousands of international travelers use it as a jumping-off point for activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling trips to the Barrier Reef, as well as boating, fishing, parasailing, scenic flights, and rainforest treks. It's a tough environment, with intense heat and fierce wildlife. Along with wallabies and grey kangaroos in the savanna and tree kangaroos in the rainforest, you'll find stealthy saltwater crocodiles, venomous snakes, and jellyfish so deadly they put the region’s stunning beaches off-limits to swimmers for nearly half the year. Disembark the ship and depart on homeward-bound flights.

Highlights

Highlights

See the legendary land divers on Pentecost Island
Swim in crystal-clear waters and snorkel over incredible coral reefs
Visit islands of the New Caledonian archipelago
End your trip in Cairns, jumping-off point for exploring wild Queensland

Details

Length: 15 days
Cost From: $12,350  
Arrive: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Depart: Cairns, Australia
Lodging: 15 nights aboard a 120-guest vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Snorkeling, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

15-day expedition cruise, cultural explorations, nature walks, walking tours, Zodiac cruises