The islands at the western end of the Pacific are some of the most idyllic on Earth—lush, tropical Edens with a dazzling diversity of cultural and natural landscapes. In Micronesia, each of its four states offers its own distinctive culture and rich traditions, yet share common cultural bonds including the importance of the clan system and a traditional lifestyle centered on gardens, reefs, and ocean ancestors. On our fascinating voyage, an arc across the Pacific from Rabaul in Papua New Guinea to Koror in Micronesia, we have plenty of opportunities to discover these astonishing cultures, while we experience Oceania’s astonishing biodiversity both above and beneath the warm tropical seas.
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.
Days 1-2, Feb 23-24, 2018
Board your independent flight to Australia. Lose a day crossing the International Date Line.
Day 3, Feb 25, 2018
Arrive in Cairns and transfer to our hotel for lunch and an afternoon at leisure. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.
Day 4, Feb 26, 2018
Cairns / Rabaul, Papua New Guinea / Embark Caledonian Sky
Transfer to the airport after breakfast for your flight to Rabaul. Six cone-shaped volcanoes, some of which are still active, ring Rabaul’s dramatic flooded-caldera harbor. Visit the bubbling hot springs and take in magnificent views from Observatory Ridge. And, learn about the island’s WWII history—Rabaul was a Japanese stronghold under Admiral Yamamoto. Embark the Caledonian Sky, settle in to you suiter, and enjoy dinner on board. Tonight attend an astonishing performance of the Baining tribe’s fire dance. Tribe members in huge, magnificently crafted masks, leap and dance over crackling, red-hot coals in a centuries-old ritual to honor the local deity-spirits.
Day 5, Feb 27, 2018
Completely encircled by an oblong reef, few passenger vessels are able to visit this small group of islands. Land on a sandy beach and meet the 350 inhabitants of charming Tingwon—a picture-perfect village—and enjoy their hospitality, local delicacies, and dances. After your visit, snorkel or dive along the islets’ surrounding reef.
Day 6, Feb 28, 2018
This morning, villagers warmly welcome you to the Tsoi Islands with a cultural performance and dances accompanied by a superb local choir. Sample traditional foods, then take a walk around the island’s perimeter to find orchids, butterflies, skinks, and birds along the way. On Tsoi Lik search for megapodes nesting along the sandy beach.
Day 7, Mar 1, 2018
Kapingamarangi, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
During a morning at sea, lecturers introduce the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), formerly the Caroline Islands, whose long colonial history includes administration by the US after WWII. Many islands are so remote that the traditional villages are nearly untouched by tourism.
In the afternoon, Zodiacs bring you ashore for a tour of the small community of remote Kapingamarangi, where fishing and cultivating taro are the main industries. In the afternoon, snorkel in the lagoon over stunning coral gardens full of colorful reef fish including lionfish, pipefish, and moray eels. Divers venture via Zodiac to the edges of the reef, keeping an eye out for black-tipped reef sharks and other pelagics.
Day 8, Mar 2, 2018
A chain of tiny islets circling a sparkling, emerald lagoon, Nukuoro is one of the most stunning atolls in Micronesia. Meet with the friendly locals and wander through lush vegetation and gardens of taro, banana, and breadfruit. Swim or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters before returning to the ship for an afternoon at sea.
Day 9, Mar 3, 2018
Pohnpei is a high volcanic island, with dense rainforests filled with towering trees, elegant ferns, tumbling waterfalls, and luxuriant moss. Choose to visit the extensive WWII ruins on Lenger Island with our historian, with time to snorkel along rich reefs or to spot the Pacific golden-plover and Pacific reef heron. Or, hike along an upland nature trail to search for the Pohnpei lory, Micronesian pigeon, and Pohnpei flycatcher. Another option is a full-day tour to Pohnpei’s famed archaeological site, Nan Madol, a National Historic Landmark. Explore the 92 megalithic man-made islands, once the residence of royalty and priests of the Saudeleurs from about the 12th to 15th centuries.
Day 10, Mar 4, 2018
This classic atoll’s ring of coral has only a few islets around its perimeter, and is inhabited by a family of eight who will show you their gardens of hibiscus, banana, and sweet potato. A short forest walk takes you past taro to a copra processing area. Beachcomb along the lovely shoreline, keeping an eye out for hawksbill and Pacific green sea turtle nests, while birders look for ruddy turnstones, black noddies, white-tailed tropicbirds, and Micronesian starlings. Snorkeling and diving are superb, with the chance to spot black-tipped reef sharks and coral trout.
Day 11, Mar 5, 2018
Chuuk (Truk) Island
This spectacular and enormous coral-fringed lagoon shelters 15 high islands of volcanic origin. The dramatic scenery ranges from lush rainforests and waterfalls, to deserted beaches and small villages. Chuuk’s lagoon is a world-renowned paradise for wreck divers. In 1944, American bombers sunk 60 Japanese Imperial Navy vessels and aircraft which sheltered here; the armada is visible today in an intriguing and vast museum-like underwater environment of unparalleled mystery. Nature has transformed these wrecks into a wonderland, colonized by a mosaic of corals, sponges, anemones, and sea fans, which are the playground of fish by the thousands and can be explored by both divers and snorkelers. In this lagoon of astonishing variety and extravagant natural beauty, Zodiacs take you to idyllic white-sand shores and dazzling coral reefs teeming with life, while birders search the islets for seabirds.
Day 12, Mar 6, 2018
The villages of Pulap and Tamatam are known for their skilled navigators, whose expertise also shines in the construction of long canoes made of breadfruit wood. Older canoes are hand-sewn with traditional sennit, and may feature the silhouette of a black frigatebird on the bow. With the chief’s permission, wander at leisure through this traditional village. Snorkel, dive, beachcomb, or sit under a palm tree to enjoy the afternoon on a perfect islet with a shallow aquamarine lagoon to your right and the deep indigo Pacific to your left.
Day 13, Mar 7, 2018
Step ashore as the women of the village—adorned in lava-lava skirts, their skin tinted by turmeric—present welcoming dances. Meet the exuberant young boys of the island, whose skills in tropical waters are so fine-tuned that they seem “half-fish.” The men of Satawal, famed for their mastery of ocean navigation without the use of instruments, still voyage between the islands of Micronesia in outrigger canoes, steering by the sun, stars, and swells.
Day 14, Mar 8, 2018
Keep a lookout for common bottlenose dolphins playing in the ship’s wake as you approach Ifalik. This classic tiny circular atoll, with only three islets, represents the most authentic aspects of Micronesia’s traditional state, Yap. The chiefs are intent upon maintaining cultural integrity—motor-powered boats are banned within the lagoon, as are televisions in the village. Ashore, the islanders present their thatched-roofed houses set under shady trees. After lyrical dances by grass-skirted women, you are free to wander and admire the island handicrafts, including unique fish hooks fashioned from golden-lipped pearl shells. In the afternoon choose to snorkel, dive, sail in one of the handsome outrigger canoes, or go birding with our ornithologist.
Day 15, Mar 9, 2018
This afternoon, watch for green turtles as Zodiacs zigzag through coral reefs and shallow sandbars to land on a white-sand beach. On this tiny uninhabited island, groves of coconut palms adorn the lagoon shore as sooty terns and white-tailed tropicbirds soar overhead. Snorkel over a coral drop-off or enjoy a dive in deeper waters populated by large pelagic fish. Spend the afternoon cruising the Pacific Ocean and enjoying the many amenities the Caledonian Sky has to offer.
Day 16, Mar 10, 2018
Ngulu is a large, stunning atoll, its ring-shaped lagoon bordered by tiny islets with swaying palm trees and beaches that offer a nesting ground to sea turtles. Go ashore to meet with the chief and the small number of villagers living on Ngulu Atoll. Afterwards visit the nearby palm-clad sandy islets for nature walks, birding, snorkeling, and diving.
Days 17-18, Mar 11-12, 2018
Koror, Republic of Palau / Disembark / USA
Disembark this morning. A highlight today is the opportunity to snorkel in Jellyfish Lake; named one of the Seven Biological Wonders of the World, this unique lake system is a prime example of biological isolation. Enjoy an otherworldly experience as you snorkel among hundreds of amazing melon-sized jellyfish that have lost their ability to sting. Check in to the Palau Pacific Resort for dinner and a chance to relax before your late evening flight. Arrive in the USA the next day.
ADD ON A PRE-CRUISE PAPUA NEW GUINEA LAND PROGRAM
Days 1-3, Feb 17-19, 2018
Depart USA / Brisbane, Australia / Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Board your independent flight to Papua New Guinea, crossing the International Date Line en route. Arrive in Brisbane early on February 19 and board your flight to Port Moresby. Transfer to the Airways Hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 4, Feb 20, 2018
Port Moresby / Mount Hagen / Rondon Ridge
Today, fly to Mount Hagen and transfer to the Rondon Ridge Lodge. Each room features a bird’s-eye view of paradise, overlooking the Wahgi Valley. Spend the afternoon exploring the surrounding area.
Day 5, Feb 21, 2018
Rondon Ridge / Karawari
After breakfast, board your flight to the Sepik River area, via Mount Hagen. Transfer to Karawari Lodge, named for the nearby river, and your base for exploring the fascinating culture along the jungle-fringed waterways. The main lodge building, designed after the traditional haus tambaran—ancestral worship house—is decorated with artifacts and boldly carved furniture, and includes a dining room, library, lounge, and a long veranda overlooking the Karawari River.
Days 6-7, Feb 22-23, 2018
Spend two days exploring ‘Arambak’ country, one of the most remote and unspoiled areas of Papua New Guinea. Board small boats to explore along the Karawari River, where crocodiles bask on the banks and you may see locals paddling their dugout canoes with long, curved oars. You have several opportunities to observe village life and customs, participate in daily activities, and see re-enactments of traditional ceremonies. Search for the beautiful Sepik blue orchid, found along the forest trails surrounding the lodge.
Day 8, Feb 24, 2018
Karawari / Mount Hagen / Rondon Ridge
Return to Mount Hagen and transfer back to Rondon Ridge Lodge. Spend the afternoon exploring along the lodge’s vast network of forest trails.
Day 9, Feb 25, 2018
Located at 7,100 feet above sea level, Rondon offers pristine highlands rainforest. Over 180 species of birds have been recorded here, including 10 species of bird of paradise. A highlight of your time here is the chance to meet and interact with the Melpa people. Though first contact with the Melpa was made in 1934, in many ways, their lifestyle remains relatively unchanged. Among the world’s first horticulturists, learn about the important industries of gardening and sweet potato cultivation.
Day 10, Feb 26, 2018
Rondon Ridge / Port Moresby / Rabaul / Emabrk
Today, board your flight to Rabaul via Port Moresby and embark the Caledonian Sky in time for dinner.
$6,980 per person, double occupancy
$8,460 per person, solo occupancy