Secrets of Melanesia

Explore the Remote Islands of the South Pacific aboard the Spirit of Enderby

Secrets of Melanesia route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5995  
Length: 11 days
Arrive: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Depart: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Lodging: 10 nights aboard a 50-passenger expedition vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
Activity: Small Ship Cruising, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level: 12-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, snorkeling

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

The far-flung isles of Melanesia, with their smoldering volcanoes, white-sand beaches, and exquisite coral reefs, are the enchanting setting for our discovery of a fascinating kaleidoscope of traditional cultures and the dazzling underwater realm of the famed Coral Triangle, the world’s most biologically diverse marine region.


Day 1
Honiara, Solomon Islands / Embark Spirit of Enderby

Arrive in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Located on the northern coast of Guadalcanal by the Mataniko River, Honiara was founded by the British as a military base during World War II. The city was witness to the naval battle of Guadalcanal, where the Allied forces eventually overcame a Japanese invasion. Today we enjoy the option of touring Honiara, visiting historical sites including Henderson Airfield, war memorials, and the open-air war museum. A second tour heads to the rainforested slopes of Mount Austen in search of some of the Solomon Islands’ most spectacular birds including the Solomon sea eagle. We board the Spirit of Enderby this afternoon. After familiarizing ourselves with our cabins and the ship, we join our captain and expedition team on the bridge as we leave Honiara and look forward to what secrets lie ahead for us to explore.

Day 2
San Jorge Island and Santa Isabel

Despite being one of the largest and highest islands in the Solomon Islands, most of Isabel remains unexplored and undiscovered. We will head for the remote southern shores and Thousand Ships Harbor, nestled between San Jorge Island and the high peaks of southern Santa Isabel. Here the rhythms of life continue little changed, with daily life centered around the village and family. The multitude of inlets, channels, and bays provide numerous opportunities for divers to experience the thrill of a first dive.

Day 3
Malaita Island

Mountainous Malaita is home to one-third of the Solomons' total population, with pristine rivers and unexploited tropical forests. Anchoring in one of the harbors on the western side of the island, we spend the day ashore, including a visit to Langa Langa Lagoon, famous for its artificial islands. An excursion into the hills behind Auki provides good chances of sighting birds endemic to Malaita. The island is culturally rich, with shark worship common on the western side of the island. The traditional currency, Malaitan shell-money, is still made on the island, used as a dowry, and worn as a status symbol. We listen for the sweet sounds of traditional pan-pipe music played by the locals.

Day 4
Makira and Santa Ana (San Cristobal)

Makira is the most easterly of the main islands in the Solomons archipelago, and covers nearly 1,200 square miles. Nearby to the east lies Santa Ana, a small raised coral atoll. Sea caves on the island are believed to be the site of first habitation in the Solomons, dating back to 1280 BC. We spend time with the locals, who share with us their traditional song and dance, which incorporate Polynesian flavors. Santa Ana is renowned for its bone fish hooks and intricately carved wooden bowls and fishing floats. We join our naturalists for a walk across the island, looking out for colorful orchids and the elusive Melanesian megapode.

Day 5
Nendö, Temotu Province

Nendö is the largest of the Santa Cruz Islands, which lie to the southeast of the Solomon Islands. The Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira unsuccessfully tried to establish a colony here in 1595. Biologically, these islands share more in common with Vanuatu. This is the home of red feather money, sourced from the scarlet honeyeater. The islanders will perform the dances of their ancestors with traditional red feather sticks. Be on the lookout for tema—distinctive breastplates made from discs of clam shells with turtle shell overlays—integral to the men’s ceremonial costumes.

Day 6
Duff Islands

Northeast of Nendö are the Duff Islands, a cluster of 11 small isolated islands. Here on the tiny island of Taumako in the Solomon Islands' eastern province of Temotu live some 500 Polynesians who may be the only people in the Pacific still capable of building and sailing traditional voyaging canoes in completely traditional ways. In recent years there has been a resurgence in this dying art, so watch for locals handcrafting their vessels on the shore with adzes. These islanders are renowned for their great navigating abilities and these mighty canoes. We listen closely as we are immersed in this culture; we may notice that Duff Islanders speak a Polynesian language, despite physically resembling Melanesians.

Day 7
Vanikolo Archipelago

Today we explore the archipelago of Vanikolo, with its five islands encapsulated by a dramatic barrier reef that offers superb diving and snorkeling. French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse was stranded here after both his vessels, La Boussole and Astrolabe, struck this reef in 1788. On the shore we visit a monument to Le Perouse, erected by fellow explorer Dumont Durville in 1827. Some 900 people inhabit Vanikolo, with approximately 600 Melanesian islanders and 300 Polynesians originating from nearby Tikopia. Join the naturalists on a forest wander in search of two endemic bird species and float through the crystal clear waters.

Day 8
Vanua Lava, Vanuatu

We arrive in Vanuatu at the northern outpost of Vanua Lava, the largest island in the Banks Islands, crowned by the volcanically active Mt. Séré’ama. Vanua Lava, along with its nearby Motu Lava and Reef Islands, offers diverse landscapes, rich culture, and a bountiful underwater world. Here we begin our discovery of Vanuatu, the happiest country in the world. The surrounding waters are home to the recently discovered Vanuatu petrel, which we will look for upon our departure from the island.

Day 9
Espiritu Santo

We take advantage of a full day ashore to make the most of Vanuatu’s largest Island, Santo, the setting for James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific. Early morning offers a visit to Vatthe Conservation Area in search of many of Vanuatu’s endemic birds, all of which can be found on Santo. Resting in depths of 65-200 feet of tropical water, diving the wreck of SS President Coolidge, a military transport vessel that hit a mine in World War II, provides numerous technical dive options with swims through corridors and stairwells of the ship. Other opportunities include paddling upriver in a dugout canoe to swim in the breathtaking Blue Hole, a snorkel at Million Dollar Point, where the Americans dumped their equipment after the war, and a visit to Luganville Township.

Day 10
Malakula Island

Having crossed the Bougainville Strait, we head for the southern end of Malakula Island, Vanuatu’s second largest island. Visited by Captain Cook in 1774, Malakula and its coastal islands became known as The Cannibal Islands due to the fierce reputation of the Big Namba and Small Namba tribes. With some thirty languages spoken, Malakula is culturally and linguistically the most diverse region of Vanuatu. We explore the southern shoreline, home of the Small Nambas tribal group and the least developed and most traditional part of Malekula. Beautiful and rarely visited, the nearby low-lying Maskelyne Islands offer first-class diving and snorkeling opportunities, with coral gardens surrounding the archipelago. We'll be transported back in time as we witness the famed masked dances of Malakula and watch the men craft intricate sand drawings, their beautiful creations capturing hidden messages and stories.

Day 11
Port Vila, Vanuatu / Depart

We disembark in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital on the island of Efate. Upon disembarking, a transfer to your central hotel or the airport concludea your voyage. To allow time for disembarkation procedures, we do not recommend booking flights from Port Vila before midday.

Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Zodiac landing crafts are used to explore the coastline and transport passengers ashore for walks to wildlife sanctuaries, scenic nature areas, and local towns and tribal villages. There are also ample opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Some agility is required for getting in and out of the Zodiac landing crafts.

Explanation of Trip Levels



Future dates have not been set for this itinerary. Please contact us if you would like to be notified of trip dates once they are available.

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Triple $5,995
Twin Main Deck $6,995
Superior $7,995
Superior Plus $8,600
Mini Suite $9,250
Suite $9,995
Birding Supplement: $450 per person
Discovery Fund: $500 per person (payable on board)
Diving Supplement: $700 per person
Kayaking Supplement: $915 per person
Single supplement: 80% for Main Deck, Superior, and Superior Plus; 100% for Suites

Deck Plan

Cabin details:

  • Heritage Suite: Has a large lounge area, a separate bedroom with double bed, a single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers. There is a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. There are large forward and side facing windows to allow great views.
  • Mini Suites: Have a separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or a sofa in the lounge, wardrobe, drawers, a desk and a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. The Mini Suites have windows.
  • Superior Plus cabins: Have two lower berths, wardrobe, drawers, desk, a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
  • Superior cabins: Have bunks (an upper and lower berth), wardrobe, drawers, a desk, a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
  • Main deck cabins: Have two lower berths, wardrobe, drawers, a desk, washbasin and porthole. The nearby showers and toilets are shared with other Main deck cabins.
  • Main deck triple: Has one bunk (one upper and one lower) and one lower berth, wardrobe, drawers, a desk and wash basin. The nearby showers and toilets are shared with other Main deck cabins.


Trip Cost Includes:

  • Accommodation aboard the ship
  • All meals and 24-hour tea and coffee station aboard the ship
  • All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac, excluding optional specialized birding, diving, and kayaking programs
  • Use of snorkel equipment where available
  • Program of lectures by noted naturalists
  • All onshore tips, service taxes, and port charges
  • Comprehensive pre-departure material
  • Airport transfers at the beginning and end of your voyage

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, gratuities to ship’s crew (at your discretion), extensions, passport, visa, immigration fees, baggage/accident/travel protection plan, items of a personal nature including bar, email, and laundry.

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
100 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $750 per person
90-179 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
89 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Arrival & Departure Information

Arrival & Meeting Place
Date: October 21, 2014
Spirit of Enderby, Honiara, Solomon Islands

Suggested flight arrival time: Morning of October 21

Ship Embarkation: afternoon
Ship Departure: evening

Arrival Airport
Honiara, Solomon Islands (airport code: HIR)

We recommend that you spend at least one additional night in Honiara before the cruise begins, to allow for any unforeseen flight delays. We can help you book your hotel and airport/hotel or airport/ship transfers. Please call our office for more information.

Port Vila, Vanuatu

Date: October 31, 2014
Disembarkation: 9:00am
Suggested flight departure time: no earlier than 1:00pm

Departure Airport
Port Vila, Vanuatu (airport code: VLI)

The ship is expected to disembark at 9:00am in Port Vila.  Please do not book your departure flights before 1:00pm on October 31.  Your transfer from the ship to your hotel or to the airport is included in your trip cost.

Spirit of Enderby

The 50-guest expedition vessel Spirit of Enderby, while offering very basic cabins, some with shared bathrooms, has a warm and intimate atmosphere, a professional staff, and excellent cuisine prepared by New Zealand and Australian chefs. The vessel has a bar, small lecture room, and library. She is fully ice-strengthened and equipped with a fleet of go-anywhere Zodiacs. Designed and built as a research vessel, she still undertakes research expeditions when not focused on passenger cruises. The ship is accompanied by a veteran team of experienced naturalists and guides who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that the ship visits.