South Pacific Islands Expedition Cruise aboard the Silver Discoverer

Overview

With more than a thousand islands in the Solomon Sea, you'll discover a hypnotic taste of some of the sights, dances, and traditions of lesser-known Melanesia. Explore stunning lagoons and hundreds of uninhabited islands by Zodiac®, witness the epic land diving ceremonies, and stand on the rim of an active volcano. Warm local hospitality and thought-provoking cultures complete this wonderful trip aboard the 120-guest Silver Discoverer.

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, May 28, 2018
Honiara / Guadalcanal

Arrive in Honiara and embark on the ship in the afternoon, with a departure set for 5:30 pm. Known as the “Happy Isles,” the Solomons are one of the best-kept secrets in the Pacific. These are islands of great natural beauty, from jungle-clad peaks and active volcanoes to dashing waterfalls, misty rainforests, turquoise lagoons, and brilliant coral reefs. The islands’ variety of cultures and customs is also striking; there are blue-black Papuans and chocolate-colored Melanesians, bronze-skinned Micronesians, and even Polynesians with fair complexions and light hair.

Day 2, May 29, 2018
Lumalihe Island, Morovo Lagoon

Marovo Lagoon is one of the world’s largest saltwater lagoons. Described by American author James A. Michener as, “one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” Marovo is home to a double barrier reef system, and is one of two sites in the Solomons currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Residents of Marovo Lagoon make elegant woodcarvings that are often for sale on the shoreline. Marovo is also renowned as one of the best diving and snorkeling spots on the planet.

Day 3, May 30, 2018
Vona Vona Lagoon

Experience crystal blue waters and a veritable maze of coral reefs in Vona Vona Lagoon, which lies between Kohingo and Vona Vona Islands on the western side of New Georgia. Comprised of little islets with rainforest vegetation and grass-roofed homes on stilts, this is an area that was quite feared in the 19th century, as villagers left on raids against other islands and settlements. Within the lagoon is Skull Island, where there is a shrine of local warrior chiefs from this region’s head-hunting era. Twisting passages through the lagoon hold mangrove-lined shores that are home to rare freshwater fish, exotic tropical birds and saltwater crocodiles.

Day 4, May 31, 2018
Karumolun Island / Pavuvu Island

Close to Guadalcanal, the Russel Islands (including Karumolun and Pavuvu Islands) were chosen by American Marines during World War II to prepare for battles further east, but little evidence remains of their time here. The islands are used to produce copra (the dried meat of coconuts) and extensive coconut palm plantations can be seen carpeting the islands in shades of green. The groves do not appear to be frequently tended and small-scale operations are favored by the locals. Both islands are a local melting pot of copra plantation workers from various different Solomon Islands and relocated settlers from Tikopia. The diversity of cultures results in local artistic expressions both Melanesian and Polynesian. Visitors to this island should bring a camera to take in the shining faces of the local population, and an underwater camera if possible to capture the wild underwater beauty found in the surrounding coral reefs.

Day 5, Jun 1, 2018
Roderick Bay

Roderick Bay is a hidden cove on the northwestern side of Ngela Sule, a small verdant green island, and would be just like hundreds of similar coves in the Solomon Islands were it not for a shipwreck in the shallows of the bay. A small native village is located just around the corner from the ship and the locals offer a friendly welcome. Lianas from shore are beginning to encase the boat’s hull and seem to drag her back toward the forest. Snorkeling around the wreck provides a view of how the hull is now becoming a thriving artificial reef.

Day 6, Jun 2, 2018
Santa Ana

Port Mary is the name of the bay adjacent to Ghupuna, the main village in Santa Ana. A bright white-sand beach with huge shade-giving trees runs along the shoreline in front of the tidy village. The houses here are made with local materials and most are built on stilts. Islanders generally welcome visitors with traditional songs and dances performed by members of the three different villages on Santa Ana. Some local people will also set up stands offering souvenirs for purchase. The Solomons are best known for strings of traditional shell money and elegant carvings based on local stories and legends.

Day 7, Jun 3, 2018
Utupua Island

A deep bay runs along Utupua Island’s western side. From here it is possible to reach Nembao, one of the main villages on the shores of the island. Still very connected to their culture, the residents of Nembao are likely to welcome visitors with a presentation of traditional dances and songs. The beaches are lined with the houses, fishing canoes, and small plantations of these Solomon Islanders. Beyond the village, stretches of mangrove-lined shores extend deep into the bay fostering birdlife, fiddler crabs, and mudskippers.

Day 8, Jun 4, 2018
Champagne Beach

Champagne Beach is found in Hog Harbor on Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu. The island got its European name in the early 17th century when Pedro de Quiroz believed he had reached the famous unknown southern land or the “Tierra Australis Incognita.” He called Vanuatu’s largest island, “La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.” Huge fish poison trees and Alexandrian laurel give cooling shade to the picture-perfect beach and crystal-clear water. The name “Champagne Beach” comes from effervescent bubbles of volcanic origin that are occasionally found in the waters of this stunning spot.

Day 9, Jun 5, 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 10, Jun 6, 2018
Tanna

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 11, Jun 7, 2018
Port Vila

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. Disembark the ship and depart on homeward-bound flights.

Highlights

Highlights

Explore the Solomon Islands—the “Happy Isles”—one of the best-kept secrets of the Pacific
Swim in crystal-clear waters and snorkel over incredible coral reefs
Enjoy a friendly welcome from local villagers, witness legendary land diving ceremonies

Details

Length: 10 days
Cost From: $8150  
Arrive: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Depart: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Lodging: 10 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:

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