Book-ended by the fabled islands Fiji and Tahiti, this South Pacific journey reveals a world of supreme natural beauty and people proud to share their ceremonial traditions of music and dance. Warm cultural encounters, spectacular natural beauty, nature hikes, fantastic snorkeling—it’s no wonder travelers are drawn to the South Sea’s magical shores.
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.
Depart USA / Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji
Depart the USA on your independent overnight flight to Fiji. Cross the International Date Line en route, losing a day.
Nadi / Lautoka / Embark Caledonian Sky
After an early morning arrival, check into your hotel dayroom to enjoy a morning at leisure before lunch. In the afternoon, set out for an island exploration, including a visit to The Garden of the Sleeping Giant, started by the late actor Raymond Burr in 1977 and showcasing more than 2,000 varieties of orchids. Then visit the Vei Sei Sei village, and make a stop for magnificent island views at Vudu Lookout. In the city of Lautoka on the western, or “sunshine coast,” of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, embark the Caledonian Sky.
The Fiji Islands, considered part of Melanesia, cover an area of 386,000 square miles. Of the 325 islands large enough for habitation, only 106 have permanent residents. The third largest, Taveuni, is a dazzling emerald known as “the garden island,” and you have several excursions to choose from here. Hikers enjoy a visit to beautiful waterfalls in Bouma National Park, while birders explore the lush forests, keeping a lookout for collared lories, Fiji orange doves, and blue-crested flycatchers. A cultural tour highlights traditional Fijian village life, a kava ceremony, and demonstrations of cooking, tapa-cloth production, and basket weaving. Snorkelers and divers investigate the submerged wonders of the sea, including Fiji’s famed soft corals and an incredible diversity of fish.
Futuna, Territory of Wallis & Futuna
Though linked through French colonialism, the language, customs, culture, and artistic traditions of Wallis and Futuna are distinctly different. While Wallis has ancestral ties with Tonga, Futuna traces its roots to Samoa. Be on deck as the ship approaches Futuna, whose verdant slopes ascend into the clouds. Stunning beaches fringe the east coast and Mt. Puke, the island’s largest volcano, soars to nearly 2,500 feet. In a traditional village, visit the impressive shrine to the South Pacific’s only saint, Pierre Chanel. The interior is covered in elaborately decorated tapa cloth. Birders keep an eye out for red-footed boobies, white-collared kingfishers, and blue-crowned lorikeets. Lunch on board is followed by snorkeling or diving in the clear waters to view longnose filefish, anemonefish, and colorful corals.
Tour the regional capital, Mata Utu, to visit its distinctive stone cathedral, then drive to one of the island’s beautiful crater lakes. Stroll through the interesting remains of a 14th century fort, and browse local handicrafts.
Niuafo'ou, Kingdom of Tonga
Tonga’s northernmost island, Niuafo’ou, is the tip of an underwater volcano, and recent eruptions have left part of it covered in black lava. Step ashore to visit the island’s interior caldera lake where the Niuafo’ou megapode incubates its eggs in the warm volcanic ash until the chicks emerge fully fledged. Underwater, silvery fish sparkle like diamonds against a dramatic backdrop of extrusive lava that has turned into black basalt.
Today explore on of the many uninhabited islands of Tonga. Go ashore for beach walks with naturalists, and, conditions permitting, spend time snorkeling or diving.
Neiafu, Vava'u Islands
Locals welcome you ashore on Neiafu. Take a stroll through the small community and visit the colorful market. Then, cruise by Zodiac to a cavern hollowed out by wave action and search for black-and-white sea snakes while snorkeling or diving off one of Neiafu’s surrounding islands. This evening, cross the International Date Line and gain a day.
Days 10-11, Oct 30-31, 2017
Niue Island / At Sea
A saucer-shaped uplifted atoll—one of the world’s largest emerged coral atolls—Niue is endowed with some of the most extensive and dramatic limestone cave systems in the South Pacific. It is one of the world’s smallest self-governing states, with approximately 1,500 inhabitants. A hike to the sea caves takes you over a “pathway” of coral for spectacular views, including a huge arch rising from the aquamarine waters. In the afternoon, snorkelers and divers take in underwater wonders among the coral—including the chance to see the endemic sea snake—while birders may choose a rainforest walk to seek out the banded rail, masked lapwing, and blue-crowned lorikeet. Day 11 is at sea, and you can spend your day relaxing on deck and attending informative lectures.
Day 12, Nov 1, 2017
Palmerston, Cook Islands
About 60 people reside on Palmerston, all descendants of the eccentric William Marsters, who managed the island’s coconut plantations in the 1860s. Permission pending, go ashore to meet the friendly islanders and stroll through the village. The translucent waters reveal numerous healthy coral heads and marine life.
Day 13, Nov 2, 2017
Like a miniature Bora Bora, Aitutaki’s central peak rises above a reef-encircled lagoon, and you'll be welcomed by villagers performing intricate dances. Local guides accompany you on an island tour highlighting the natural and cultural attributes of the island. After lunch on the ship, enjoy snorkeling or diving off a remote motu in the crystal-clear waters dotted with coral heads.
Days 14-15, Nov 3-4, 2017
Atiu / At Sea
This morning arrive at Atiu, whose shoreline is perforated with wave-sculpted caves. A tour will introduce you to the local culture with a village visit and a stop at a coffee plantation. Birders set out to look for the Raratonga monarch, Cook Island fruit dove, and nesting site of Kuhl’s lorikeet. Or, join a challenging hike to visit several natural caves. This afternoon snorkel or dive in the surrounding pristine waters. Day 15 is at sea, and you can spend your day attending lectures and joining naturalists on deck to search for seabirds and marine life.
Day 16, Nov 5, 2017
Bora Bora, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Be sure to be on deck early this morning as the ship enters the dazzling sapphire-hued lagoon of Bora Bora, surrounded by soaring cloud-wreathed peaks. Tour this lush island, driving along roads lined with fragrant frangipani. Then venture to the large lagoon to snorkel or dive, watching for graceful stingrays and colorful fish such as fairy basslets and teardrop butterflyfish. Birders seek out chattering kingfishers and gray-green fruit doves. Be sure to be on deck early this morning as the ship enters the dazzling sapphire-hued lagoon of Bora Bora, surrounded by soaring cloud-wreathed peaks. Tour this lush island, driving along roads lined with fragrant frangipani. Then venture to the large lagoon to snorkel or dive, watching for graceful stingrays and colorful fish such as fairy basslets and teardrop butterflyfish. Birders seek out chattering kingfishers and gray-green fruit doves.
Day 17, Nov 6, 2017
Papeete, Tahiti / Disembark / USA
After breakfast disembark the Caledonian Sky and set out to explore this beautiful island. Visit the superb Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, dedicated to the history and culture of the people of Polynesia, and drive along the stunning coast. Continue to our hotel to check into dayrooms. The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hotel and to rest before your late evening flight homeward.
Day 18, Nov 7, 2017
Arrive in the USA and connect with homeward-bound flights.
Note: Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.